Nokia has launched a new, curvier and cheaper version of its N-Gage gaming device, hoping to spark interest in the combined mobile phone and game-playing product.

The N-Gage QD has an external MMC (multimedia card) slot, longer battery life, improved controls and a brighter screen, Nokia said.

"They seem to be picking up on the design faults in the previous version," IDC analyst Jason Armitage said. One of the main complaints about the previous N-Gage model, according to Armitage, was the difficulty of getting games (cards) in and out of the device. The external MMC card slot, he said, will help, and the new design is also sleeker.

A new N-Gage Arena launcher application, which comes installed on the new device, gives users access to the online N-Gage Arena Web community. Using a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) connection, they can communicate with other players, download content and look up rankings and statistics, Nokia said. Users of the current N-Gage will be able to download the Arena launcher software from May.

Shipments worldwide of the N-Gage, launched in October 2003, have been disappointing. The new version will allow Nokia to benefit from a "slight relaunch," Armitage said.

The new deck will support existing N-gage games as well as new games including Ashen, Pathway to Glory and Pocket Kingdom: Own the World, plus The Sims: Bustin' Out, Crash Nitro Kart and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004.

The lower price will also help to boost sales, Armitage said. The N-Gage QD will sell at about €99 (around £65) on a contract basis, or €199 (£130) as an unsubsidized, untaxed retail price, Nokia said.

In the UK, the previous version was originally offered at £229 without a contract, although it is currently being sold at a "clearance" price of £139 by The Carphone Warehouse, or free with a contract through retailer Phones 4U.

The lower price is "something you'd expect anyway, in a new version of a mass market product," Armitage said. "But they have to pitch the price against the shipment levels they're reaching and profitability targets. There's a business question there," he said.

A GSM 900/1800 version of the N-Gage QD will be available from May in Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific, and a GSM 850/1900 version in June for the Americas, Nokia said.