I was poking around the internet a few weeks ago and I came across this article. I thought to myself, this is where we are now? Now we have gaming phones? That’s a thing now?
I thought immediately of the N-GAGE.
The image above shows the Nokia N-GAGE. It came out in the early 2000s and was supposed to be a gaming phone. It combined the worst features of a phone — the small screen, slow processor, and limited software — with the worst features of a gaming device. In the age before Bluetooth headsets, it was horrific to hold to your head, and the weird button placement meant it was very hard to use in the dark.
Of course it’s been 20 years and things have changed a lot. Our phones today have more computing power than mid-grade laptops from a few years ago. Screen resolutions are close to 4K in many cases. So why shouldn’t you have a “gaming” phone?
What would a “gaming phone” entail?
Let’s say that we’re willing to believe there is such a thing as a “gaming phone.” What would that mean exactly? I suppose it would be something like a gaming PC. It might have a dedicated graphics processor so it could display motion at higher rates. It might have an ultra-responsive touchscreen so that you could tap faster and more precisely. An app might help shut down other parts of the device while you’re gaming, so you’re not interrupted. And probably, there would need to be a bigger battery to keep it all working.
I would imagine that just like a true gaming PC, a gaming phone would trade portability for performance. It would probably also cost an arm and a leg. At a time when “non-gaming” phones are budging the $1,500 range, who’s to say how expensive a a “gaming” phone would be? Certainly out of my range.
Are we at the point where we need that?
There have been a few apps which have drained my battery quickly. A few games seem to be snappier and sharper with a newer phone than an older one. But perhaps I’m just not playing the kind of games that other people are. Honestly, I’ve never really seen a performance problem from any of the games I play. Long load times, perhaps. Battery drain, certainly. But never a problem with showing the kind of graphics I want to see.
But you have to at least consider the possibility that something like this could be important. There are now some truly attractive games for phones. They look like they’re a generation or two behind what gaming consoles can deliver, because they are. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve seen what these gaming consoles can do now but it’s practically impossible to tell the difference between a real-time gaming environment and a low-end Hollywood movie now.
If you want to have that kind of experience on your phone, then more power to you. I say that because you’ll need more power. I’d like to see this kind of improvement in phone hardware, but I’m not sure how we get there without a quantum improvement in battery technology. You could very easily put the kind of power-hungry processor you find in gaming consoles into a phone, but then it would probably have 15 minute battery life. It would probably also catch fire from all the heat that was generated.
I guess all I can say is I’m glad I’m not the one in charge of designing these so-called gaming phones. All I see are problems ahead.