The origins of sidetalking

A lesson in bad marketing

Soon after the launch of the Nokia N-Gage back in 2003, it became apparent that the way the device was intended to be held during phone calls was, well, sideways. Kind of like a taco.

A parody site, was published to poke fun at Nokias new gaming phone, featuring user submitted photos of people holding large electronics up to the side of their head.

Jeff Gerstmann of, seen here demonstrating how to sidetalk with an N-Gage QD. (The QD being the second revision of the device produced a year later, which actually fixed the sidetalking issue, but by that point the damage had been done.

It’s worth mentioning that there was a practical reason for sidetalking. Nokia felt that if you were playing games and wanted to take a phone call, you couldn’t really have the device pressed against your cheek, as it may disturb your game. So they opted for the sideways method. But, there’s more to it than practicality.

Innovation for the sake of it

This clip from the super documentary ‘Nokia – We Were Connecting People’ by Finnish filmmaker Arto Koskinen gives us a little insight into the decision making process at Nokia around that time.

Clip below is 55:30 – 56:44.

“If you saw someone talking [sideways] like that, you knew they had a Nokia”

– executives at Nokia in 2002

An idea which was, ultimately, better executed upon by Apple, with their iPod ‘silhouette’ campaign.

To be fair to Nokia, they quickly followed up and corrected this gaffe with the much improved N-Gage QD model – which ditched sidetalking entirely – and this rather clever piece of TV advertising:

In the end,’s legacy as an internet meme has long since outlasted the N-Gage.

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