Cell Phones Offer Serious Fun
By Grace Aquino
Today's cell phones do more than
just make calls: They entertain you. With everything from built-in MP3 players
to multiplayer games to remixable ringtones, the latest generation of phones
ensure you'll never be bored waiting in line again.
Nokia latest handset is geared toward those users serious about gaming.
Featuring a quirky design and 4K-color screen, the 4.8-ounce N-Gage is more of a
handheld gaming device than a mobile phone.
It sports a horizontal design (much like Nintendo's GameBoy Advance) with the
screen in the center, controls on the left, and additional controls and a number
pad on the right. Having buttons on two sides allow for two-handed operation
that's essential for gameplay, the company says.
The N-Gage is a tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900 phone, and it features a 104-MHz ARM
processor, a MultiMediaCard slot, and USB connection for downloading music or
synching a calendar from a PC. It runs the Symbian operating system and supports
Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME). Games will be sold separately on game cards using
the MMC standard.
Several game publishers, including Eidos, Sega, and THQ, will offer single- or
multiplayer titles for N-Gage. Eidos will release single-player versions of the
popular PC game Tomb Raider as well as Pandemonium. Sega will also launch
single-player titles, including Sonic N, Super Monkey Ball, and others still
under development. Nokia is also developing its own titles, including Bounce and
On the multiplayer side, THQ will offer Major League Baseball and Moto-GP. Both
games will support as many as four N-Gage players, connected wirelessly via
In addition to gaming, the N-Gage is also capable of playing and recording
digital music in MP3 and AAC (advanced audio coding) formats. It's even equipped
with an FM radio.
Despite N-Gage's accoutrements, it still puts voice calls ahead of the game:
When there's an incoming call, games are automatically paused.
Nokia's N-Gage is expected to ship in the fourth quarter of this year, and may
be available through T-Mobile.
Another new Nokia phone is the three-in-one 3300. It combines a digital music
player, dual-band GSM 850/1900 cell phone, and FM radio into one unusually
designed package. It sports a horizontal pad with a color screen in the middle,
separating the small QWERTY keypad.
The 3300 features a MMC slot, USB port and cable, and Nokia's Audio Manager
software. Armed with those tools, users can transfer MP3s from their PC to the
3300, stored in an MMC card. Alternatively, users can tune into FM radio. When a
call comes in, the music player or radio automatically pauses.
Along with music playback, the 3300 is also well-equipped for data
communications. Thanks to an embedded keypad, users can send instant messages,
text messages (SMS), and e-mail. The 3300 is also capable of playing Java-based
games and connecting to the Internet through a GPRS connection.
Nokia has not announced planned availability of the 3300 in the United States.
Sprint Gets In the Game
Sprint has announced a service that lets PCS users wirelessly play Java-based
games with other PCS phone customers. Some games (such as Jamdat Mobile's
popular puzzle game Bejeweled) involve one-on-one competition, while others
(such as Mobliss' word game Jumble) engage a group of players.
Here's how it works: With Bejeweled, for example, a PCS user can compete with
another PCS customer provided they each have a Sprint PCS Vision-capable phone
(such as the Samsung A500 and the Sanyo 5300) and a subscription to Sprint's
data service, which costs around $10 per month. Players will be able to choose
their opponent or have the Sprint Network find one for them.
Each player must also pay for and download each game. Price per game is expected
to be around $2 to $6 per month for unlimited access.
Sprint is working with various game developers--including Jamdat, Mforma, and
Mobliss--to launch the first set of games in April. In addition to Bejeweled,
other titles include Mforma's Alien Fight Club and Mobliss' Jumble and
Kyocera Wireless recently announced plans to release a uniquely designed
dual-band CDMA 800/1900, BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) phone
Kurv, developed by WildSeed, features removable faceplates that give each phone
its own personality. Each faceplate, or Smart Skin, has an embedded chip that
contains files such as video clips, pictures, games, screensavers, polyphonic
ring tones, and Web links to your favorite music artist or another celebrity
Smart Skins will change the user interface of the phone through artist-specific
icons and background images. WildSeed will develop and sell the faceplates.
Kurv features a slightly crescent-shaped design with a number pad on the top
half and a 65,000-color display on the bottom half of the phone. Kurv will
include an integrated camera, MP3 player, and FM radio.
Kyocera and WildSeed plan to release Kurv in the second half of the year.
In addition to Kurv, Kyocera Wireless also introduced several new lines of CDMA
phones geared for teens and gaming fans. This summer, the company will ship its
Blade, Phantom, and Rave series, all featuring phones expected to cost less than
$200. Blade and Rave will include an embedded flashlight.
In the fourth quarter of this year, Kyocera will offer its Slider series, which
will feature a 65,000-color display and an unusual sliding cover design that
opens to reveal the keypad. The Slider is expected to cost around $225.
Pump Up the Volume
Motorola introduced a wide range of cell phones at the recent CTIA Wireless
show, including the multimedia-driven E390 GSM phone.
The E390 offers vibrating effects, disco lights, and surround-sound-like audio
for music, ringers, and games. The surround-sound effect is achieved through a
slight vibration in the speakers.
The E390 also has a built-in, VGA-resolution camera. Depending on the service
plan, you can snap a photo and send it as an attachment via MMS (multimedia
messaging service) or EMS (enhanced messaging service).
Another fun tool: The E390's front and side illumination can be set to light up
in conjunction with ringers and games or to identify incoming calls. You can
also create your own ringers using the Motorola MotoMixer software. You can
download ring tunes and remix them, DJ-style, to create your own personalized
If you want to expand the E390's music capability, Motorola offers an additional
FM Stereo Radio headset and MP3 Player accessories.
The E390 is expected to ship in the second half of 2003 through a GSM carrier at
an as-yet-undetermined price.
On the CDMA network side, Motorola offers the flip-style E310. It features a
4000-color screen, BREW support, and vibration and light effects. The phone is
expected to be available in the second half of this year through a CDMA carrier.