updated 07:40 am EDT, Wed August 29, 2007
Confirming early reports, Nokia today launched several phones and began with a new entry into its N-series lineup. The N81 is one of Nokia's first devices to explicitly support the N-Gage gaming platform outside of the original N-Gage phone. The new entry includes dedicated keys for gaming as well as for music and is meant to be used on its side like a traditional gaming handheld. Outside of games, the interface also replaces the familiar tabs of many Symbian phones with a pane-based system that Nokia claims will help navigate media more quickly.
The device sports its own 3.5mm headphone jack and includes HSDPA for 3G-speed Internet access, though the device will likely be limited to EDGE for a possible US release. Nokia plans to release two versions of the N81 in the fall: a basic version which relies exclusively on removable cards for storage will sell for 360 Euros ($491) before carrier discounts, while a version with 8GB of built-in flash memory will ship for 430 Euros ($586).
In addition to the launch of the N-Gage-friendly device itself, Nokia today also revealed that several of its existing N-series phones can now buy and download games directly from a dedicated N-Gage Store. The titles include ports of EA games such as FIFA 08 or The Sims 2 Pets as well as certain Capcom and Vivendi games. Each game will cost between 6-10 Euros ($8-14) and should be available when the service goes live worldwide in November. Using the service will initially require a software download and a specifically compatible phone, including all variants of the N95, the N93, and the N73.