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We also make calls

A . VISHNUA . VISHNU
vishnua@hotmail.com

Mobiles are doubling as gaming consoles and music players. What will they think of next?


REMEMBER THE classic advertisement of TISCO: "We also make steel"? The makers of mobile phones should start a similar campaign, with handsets reeling off all the things they do from taking pictures to swapping e-mail, and then adding: "We also make calls."

This month sees Indian customers — particularly the young and the restless — being wooed by two new models, which take cell phones where no phones have gone before: into the arena of fun 'n games, music and song.

Gaming console

Though other players have tried to bundle Java games with their models, it is the first time that a model resembling a gaming console more than a mobile phone has hit the markets. The Nokia N-Gage QD comes with a relatively big screen that supports game graphics. In order to provide an interactive gaming experience, it has introduced something called the MMC, essentially a multimedia slot, where a gaming chip is plugged-in. Besides the gaming capabilities, the model boasts of GPRS and JAVA capabilities. That means you can access the Internet, provided your service provider gives you the added value option.

BlueTooth connectivity allows you to wirelessly "talk" to other devices such as PCs and notebooks. And yes, it makes and takes calls, and when you are in the middle of a game, the phone automatically pauses the game and enables the user to continue from where s/he stopped.

To supplement the launch of the N-Gage QD, Nokia has introduced an array of 120 3-D games in its N-Gage Arena (www. arena.n-gage.com), the popular ones being Racing Fever, Legend of Ninja, and sports games such as soccer and golf. The games have been conveniently classified as Sports, Strategy, Action, and Role-play. Nokia hopes that these games will create a "mobile gaming ecosystem" in the country. As an introductory offer, you can download any 10 games of your choice, free of cost. The phone has an MRP of just under Rs. 12,000. But street prices are a couple of thousands less, which makes this about the same cost wise, as a GPRS phone. So really, you pay very little more for the game-ability.

Two in one

Motorola's new mobile offering, on the other hand, seems to be telling young customers: guys, why carry a phone and a music player, when we can give you both in one machine?

The E 398, is the world's first mobile with the ability to generate 3-D Surround Sound-quality music. And it has a 64 MB memory chip, which means you can store something like two hours of CD-quality tracks. They throw in a pair of stereo earphones — walkman-style, so you can get the real CD-sound, something that is not so apparent if you listen through the speakerphone.

The phone lets you download MP3 tracks from a PC or laptop — or even the Web, using the BlueTooth or GPRS capability.

And since the phone also features a camera and the ability to view videos, the screen is somewhat larger than usual with mobile phones. The price? Officially Rs. 15,995. But you can shop around and beat that down a bit.

So there you have it, phones muscling into the entertainment space occupied by portable music players and games machines. If you want to play games or sing along, while on the move, these gadgets are for you. But just watch out for the traffic!

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