Full details on Nokia's successor to its N-Gage mobile gaming device have been revealed today, ahead of tomorrow's full global press briefing.
As has been widely expected, the key design faults of the original model have been drastically overhauled: the 'deck no longer requires the user to remove the battery to insert games; instead, you insert and remove game cards via a slot at the bottom of the phone, protected with a rubber guard.
The new gamedeck will be sold alongside the existing model; while the new design looks rather more chic than its predeccessor, this revamped version of the N-Gage has sacrificed some of the functionality of the original deck. The MP3 player and radio have been removed from this latest version.
The new N-Gage is smaller but less slender than last year's model, while the rubber casing should make the deck both more comfortable to hold and also more durable.
From a technological standpoint, N-Gage's vertical screen remains, though this screen can display 65,000 colours - the original N-Gage could only manage 4096. All games will be compatible with both versions of the N-Gage, however.
The keyboard layout remains similar to the first unit, though there's now a separate 'select' button to the side of the D-pad.
Crucially, where the original unit required mortified users to clamp the phone to their ear at a side-on angle - a phenomenon dubbed "Sidetalking" and universally derided - the new model handles like a regular mobile.
Whilst it's geniunely incredible certain aspects of the original model made it out of R&D at all, Nokia must be applauded for creating the device N-Gage really should have been like in the first place. And if there were any lingering doubts over the Finnish company's long-term commitment to its phone/games console hybrid, they have been dashed by this important strategic repositioning.
Aside from removing the needless problems stemming from game card swapping and phone utilisation, Nokia's major leap forward with the remodelled N-Gage is to tighten the focus of what the device actually is.
Gone, Nokia hopes, is the confusion over its phone/mp3 player/radio/games console/vacuum cleaner/whatever; the new N-Gage brings with it a sharp focus on gaming, illustrated by the scrapping of mp3 and radio functionality.
What now remains to be seen is how much damage the problems associated with the current model have done to consumer perception and the N-Gage brand as a whole. The new model is a positive, sensible step forward and Nokia has certainly been able to bring big-name franchise onto the unit, but until now sales have been dismal to say the least. With Nokia now insisting it really is all about the games after all, the time has come for N-Gage to deliver with triple-A, exclusive software.
Nokia will make the full announcement about the new N-Gage tomorrow; we'll bring you a full report and first official images then.