Before we get started, note that this is not the
place for game tips - if you bought your N-Gage for playing plug-in (MMC)
games, go try one of the dozens of sites dedicated to gaming.
"Top N-Gage power user tips" is for anyone thinking of
migrating to the N-Gage with a view to using it as their main communicator and
At first glance, the Nokia N-Gage has an awful lot going
- Cheap to buy (£140 SIM-free, or free with
many contracts) and tough as nuts (no delicate touch-screen needed)
- A very good hardware MP3/AAC
(iTunes-compatible) music player
- A FM radio
- Digital sound recording (AAC format) from radio,
microphone or a plugged-in external source, comes with all cables needed
- USB 'Mass storage device' interface with PC.
Read/write to the MMC card directly from Windows, no need for Bluetoothing
stuff over or messing around with a card reader/writer
- Looks good and feels more like a palmtop than a
phone. And the D-pad is really good, as you'd expect from a device partly aimed
- Full Symbian OS multi-tasking, works even better
than UIQ smartphones in this respect, as apps stay put, even when in the
This being a fairly cheap Series 60 unit, there have to be
a few disadvantages as well. Here are the main ones:
- The screen's pretty small, just 176 by 208
pixels, which restricts what can be done
- The built-in applications are cut-down, compared
to equivalents on Symbian UIQ or Palm OS. And there are no Office applications,
and you can't even go third-party because Quickoffice Premier is too large to
install using the temporary space in the 4MB internal flash disk (though see
below for a workaround)
- There's no infrared port, it's Bluetooth all the
- With no touch-screen, input is limited to
traditional phone keypad input, T9 on the same keys or via a Bluetooth wireless
- The hardware MP3 player locks out the rest of the
MMC while actually playing, limiting the applications you can use while
- The stereo music hardware isn't accessible to
third party applications, so OggPlay (for one) is restricted to mono
- Unlike most contemporary phones, there's no
- Extracting the MMC means powering off and
removing the battery first
- By default, you have to hold the N-Gage on its
side when using it as a phone, which looks a bit wierd, should you care about
A pretty even pair of lists, making the N-Gage very much a
personal choice, only you can decide which features are/aren't needed. But,
assuming you decide to go ahead and make the N-Gage your main communicator, the
following power user tips may help:
- Treat Yourself
If you're in any way serious about using an
N-Gage (or any other Symbian smartphone) as a business and productivity tool,
treat yourself to a Bluetooth keyboard. The
ThinkOutside one works a treat and
will see you typing at up to 60 words per minute on your N-Gage. Go on, you
know you want to...
- Think large
Ignore what it says in the manual
about being limited to MMC expansion cards of only 128MB. The N-Gage works
happily with 256MB and 512MB cards as well! Buy the biggest you can afford, as
always, to fit on a reasonable supply of music, apps and video clips. If
possible, format these on the N-Gage itself ('Tools | Memory'), to avoid
problems. In terms of music, don't get too carried away, as Music Player takes
(roughly) one second to start up for every three tracks you add to its
playlist. A good compromise is to stick to 50 or so audio tracks, filling the
rest of the card with video clips, applications and games
- Office on the move
If you simply
want to take Office documents with you for reference, including all original
formatting, use the shareware RepliGo.
- The poor man's word processor
need to enter lots of text, jotting down ideas or perhaps (with the aid of a
plug-in or Bluetooth keyboard)? You can't use Quickoffice Premier because it's
apparently not compatible with Series 60 v1.x smartphones 8-(. Don't despair
though, see my article on using the poor man's word
- Pump up the volume
At first glance, it seems
as though you always have to listen to the FM radio using the headset, which
functions as the aerial. But leave this attached (preferably stretched out for
best reception) and use the option 'Activate loudspeaker' and you'll be able to
listen to the N-Gage as a normal ambient radio.
- Hurrah for mini-USB
Note that the wired link
to your PC is a bog-standard mini-USB cable, so you'll almost certainly be able
to use this with other devices in your home. Note that when connected to
(mounted on) the PC, the MMC is effectively invisible to the N-Gage itself.
Just in case you were wondering where all your files had gone...
The two utilities every computer user needs are a system task
manager (i.e. what's running) and a file manager. The first is easy: just press
and hold the 'Applications' button (for more control, grab
DevMan). For a file manager, run,
don't walk, and download FExplorer.
- Notes and look-ups
What about reference
material? You can't sync Outlook notes over to any Series 80 or Series 60
device, so what's the best approach? Mobipocket Reader is one good solution,
being free and supporting both compressed hypertext files (which you can build
yourself from Word, text or HTML sources) and plain text. For example, my
Trivopaedia works well in this format.
- Screenshots 'r' us
Unusually for a handheld
computer, there's a built-in screen shot utility, you can find it by default in
the 'Media' folder.
If you do a lot of talking on the
N-Gage and feel very silly 'side-talking', why not use the unit in
'loudspeaker' mode instead? Or use the supplied wired headset, both options
which let you look up stuff on the screen at the same time. Or, if you're not
too worried about increased radiation to your head, you could follow AAS's
drill a few selective holes in the plastic case, to get 'rear-talking'?
- The mobile Web
Don't worry, the browser built
into Series 60, rather misleadingly called 'Services', will handle simple HTML
sites, but you have to restrict yourself to mobile-friendly pages. Start your
browsing journey at the 3-Lib web guide and all
should go well.
- Rock or classical?
Did you know that the
hardware music player has its own graphic equaliser? Go to 'Settings' and
you'll see 'Sound style' with a range of presets, plus 'Extra bass'. Very
- AAC? iPod? - no problem
While on the subject
of digital music, there's really no point in duplicating your hard disk
collection in a new format. If you're an iPod/iTunes fan, all your files will
be in AAC format. No problem, just drag them onto the MMC. The hardware music
player can handle these just as well as MP3. Note that the AAC format is 25%
more efficient than MP3, so if you haven't ripped your CDs with
CDex yet, get hold of the
AAC encoder, which plugs into CDex nicely.
- Steer clear of MP4, OK for DVD
video clips for playback on the N-Gage, make sure to use the standard H.263
codec and not a variant of MPEG-4 (as used in some other parts of the Symbian
world). If you're not sure, simply stick to using the free
Converter 2.0. And if your video source is a DVD rather than a home-brewed
AVI or MPEG, use DVD-to-Mobile, whose
Series 60 version is quite excellent.
- Icons missing?
One common quirk of the N-Gage
is that, after exiting the Music Player, all your applications on card are
suddenly missing from the Menu screen. This is simply a bug in the Menu task
itself and the fastest way to bring everything back is to switch to
DevMan and kill the current Menu task
- a new one automatically gets created when you next press the Menu
- Keep it secret!
For secret stuff, you can use
ZipMan to incorporate an encrypted
document system that's also compatible with your desktop PC. For example, keep
that confidential spreadsheet or Word file of passwords safely hidden from
prying eyes. Simply put your secret file(s) in an encrypted ZIP file
('compressed folder' in Windows XP speak) and then keep this in your Messaging
Inbox on the device. Open it up when needed, to read its contents!
- Speed launching applications
On any Menu
(applications) screen, you can press any of the numeric keys to instantly
launch the application or shortcut in the corresponding position on the 3 by 3
icon grid displayed. For example, pressing '7' actions whatever's in the bottom
left grid slot. (This only works for the first nine icons in any Menu
- Super-speed dialling
On the telephony side,
did you know that you can speed dial up to nine contacts, each with a single
key press? To set this up, go into 'Tools | Settings | Call' and activate Speed
Dialling. Next, assign your nine contacts in 'Tools | Speed Dial'. You're
Press the red Hangup button to get back to standby mode and then you
can press and hold any of the nine keypad buttons to speed dial the appropriate
- The ones you love the most
If you get fed up
scrolling down the Menu screen lookng for your favourite applications
again, why not shuffle things round so that the apps you use the most
are clustered right at the top? Highlight an icon and use 'Move', and you'll
find you can re-insert it anywhere in the list. If you have lots of favourites,
make the most of the folder system (e.g. 'Games') and then put these folders
near the top of the list, for speedy access.
- Faster numbers
Whether it's entering a PIN
number into a security app or entering a phone number, it's right pain to have
to multi-tap each number key to get past the assigned letters and onto the
numbers. Much easier is to hold down a number key for half a second or
so - you'll find the right number is entered directly.
- Oh yes...
and there are of course lots of
pre-packaged and generic games for the N-Gage. The pre-packaged ones require
you to power the N-Gage down in order to swap expansion cards, which is a real
pain. Anyway, there are oodles of good Series 60 games
available for download, just install them to a corner of your expansion
card in the usual Symbian way. Have fun!