Nokia's ( NOK) looking like a real gamer with the latest version of its N-Gage phone.After the company's first game-console phone was greeted last year with howls of laughter, the No. 1 handset maker could have easily written off the effort and moved on. But Nokia on Wednesday unveiled a much-improved design ahead of schedule -- at about half the price of the original. To be sure, the success or failure of the new N-Gage will hardly register in the company's finances. But analysts say the tale illustrates Nokia's ability to respond quickly to the fickle tastes of a dynamic market. "I don't think anyone is going to buy the stock because of this product, but it reinforces what we said about Nokia and its fantastic track record of developing new products," says Harris Nesbitt Gerard analyst John Bucher, who has a buy rating on the stock. Harris Nesbitt has no underwriting ties to Nokia. That quality looks especially important in the wake of last week's
Analysts say the original N-Gage was a dud from the get-go. Some estimate only a fraction of the 400,000 units Nokia shipped to the U.S. were actually sold. It didn't help that simple functions like swapping game cartridges involved opening the unit and removing the battery. Answering those criticisms, the new version has an external media card slot. And while the original carried a hefty $300-plus price tag, the new version is expected to sell for half that. "This shows that Nokia is willing to take chances in a global market, not just sitting around while others plow new ground," says InStat analyst Neil Strother. "It shows they are willing to make mistakes, listen to critics and make improvements."