Counerclockwise; Gaming Phones History
Mobile games are often at the bottom of the contempt chain in the gaming circle. After all, the average quality of mobile games is quite different from that of consoles and PCs, which are full of masterpieces. Even so, mobile phone manufacturers have never given up on the idea of “Gaming Phones”.
These gaming phones have a lot in common, such as flashy appearance, strong performance, and heat dissipation. However, history shows that gaming mobile phone is not an easy field to get into, and countless industry predecessors have fallen into this trap. Let’s go back and review past gaming phones, and compare them with now day’s gaming phone.
Gaming was nothing new, but the first truly gaming-oriented phone came in 2003 with Nokia’s N-Gage, a daring device that resembled a handheld, with horizontal buttons and a central screen that was designed for gaming.
Nokia wanted to use the device to counter the equally powerful Nintendo, who released the GBA in 2001. To support the device, Nokia enlisted gaming giants such as Gameloft, Ubisoft, and EA to create exclusive games for the phone. The quality of these exclusive masterpieces is naturally nowhere near as high as that of the usual Java games, and we can easily see famous IPs like Tomb Raider, Call of Duty, FIFA, Splinter Cell and others.
The Nokia N-Gage also has a very special way to install games, you can play them by inserting an MMC card. The machine can also be played online via Bluetooth or the N-Gage Arena platform for multiplayer, which is a very advanced way to play.
So does this machine pose a threat to Nintendo? History has already given its answer, the $299 launch price poses no challenge to the $99 GBA. The machine has also been dubbed a taco because of its illogical design, and most importantly, it doesn’t do a good job on the gaming front either, one being the low number of games, with only 12 games available when it was first released, which didn’t appeal to gamers. Also, the game replacement cassette is cumbersome, requiring you to open the back cover and remove the battery to replace it. Finally, its screen was only 2.1 inches, smaller than the GBA’s 2.9 inches, and it was a step behind in terms of perception.
Although Nokia followed with a cheaper, better-designed N-Gage QD ($199), it failed to redeem the machine, and the N-Gage was eventually converted to a gaming platform for Symbian in 2008 and rolled off the assembly line in 2010.
LG released a flip-top gaming phone in 2005 that closed up like a regular phone, but when you flipped the machine from the side, you could find an extra screen and gaming keyboard hidden underneath. The machine was built specifically for 3D gaming, and also featured an ATI graphics chip to boost performance, and was claimed to be the fastest 3D gaming phone of the year. However, the machine was only available in South Korea and ultimately had a more limited impact.
In addition to LG, Samsung has also made a push into the gaming phone space with the SPH-B5200, released in 2006, which at first glance looks very similar to a regular phone, with a fine brushed metal finish. But when you slide the machine, you will find something special, it has a double sliding cover design, sliding it vertically for the normal mode to deal with daily phone operation, and sliding it horizontally to switch to game mode, with a set of arrow keys and a few function keys to facilitate the operation when playing games.
To optimize gaming performance, the machine also carried a 3.0-inch QVGA screen, which was already a pretty decent configuration at the time. The machine was also only available in South Korea and didn’t make too much of a splash in the market.
Sony Ericsson F305c
This slider phone from Sony brings a lot of refreshing design to the table, and despite not being a high-end configuration, it packs in 61 different games, the highest number of any machine at the time, combined with a motion sensor to give a breakthrough gaming experience. The machine’s navigation key mechanism is borrowed from the joystick’s arrow keys, and there are two additional “O” and “X” buttons on the earpiece to facilitate landscape gaming operations.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
At MWC 2011, Sony Ericsson unveiled the Xperia Play, a slider-designed gaming phone, and Sony took the PSP’s controller directly to the phone and shaped it to look like the previous PSP GO, except that it replaced the rocker area with touch.
Sony’s position in the gaming community speaks for itself, and it has plenty of resources on hand. The machine is PlayStation-certified to run ports of Play Station One games. Along with this, the Xperia Play also joins forces with game developers to publish a series of exclusive games, which means that it can get some of its biggest titles on the shelves earlier than other Android machines, such as Call of Duty, Battlefield and Minecraft, which are all available to play early on the Xperia Play as long as you have the machine.
So it seems like this Xperia Play has perfect timing, and if it goes that well, we should be seeing a sequel to the Xperia Play 2. The main problem with this device is the hardware. As a gaming phone, it is only equipped with a Qualcomm S2 single-core processor and 512M of RAM, which misses the performance burst brought by the dual-core and makes it difficult to handle large games later on.
Besides, the feel of the controller was widely criticized by gamers for its short key travel, especially that touch-sensitive virtual joystick. These two factors ultimately led to the failure of the machine to stand the test of gamers and the failure of the mobile market.
Acer Predator 6
It’s not just console makers, even traditional PC makers are jumping on the bandwagon. At IFA 2015, Acer announced a new gaming phone called the Predator 6. Acer said that the device would be powered by a MediaTek X20 processor and 4GB of RAM, including four speakers, two vibration motors, and Acer also hinted that the machine could be used as a controller. For some reason, however, the machine didn’t end up going on sale, but you can see its spiritual sequel, the Acer Predator 8 gaming tablet, and the two look almost identical.
Razer, which originally focused on gaming peripherals, also announced its entry into the gaming phone space in 2017. Razer unveiled the Razer Phone that year, and the highlight of the machine was a 120Hz high refresh screen that supported Ultra motion technology to prevent screen tearing. It also featured a 5.7-inch display, a Snapdragon 835 processor and 8GB of RAM, and came with a very thick copper pipe to improve the phone’s cooling performance. By configuration, it was pretty much the top of the line for the time.
A year later, Razer launched its sequel, the Razer Phone 2, with a processor upgrade to the Snapdragon 845 and the addition of a faith light. Just when we were expecting the next generation of Razer phones, Razer announced plans to lay off employees and restructure its mobile division, and the legendary Razer Phone 3 was never to be heard from again.
Asus ROG Phone
Asus’ own ROG has made quite a name for itself in the laptop world, and this time it’s bringing the ROG series to mobile phones. The machine’s most notable feature is undoubtedly the faith lamp “Eyes” on the back, with an air intake port on the right side of the machine that can be used externally with an air-cooled protective case, which Asus claims can reduce the surface temperature by up to 4.7 degrees.
The rest of the hardware configuration, Asus also gives enough sincerity, equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with a 90Hz screen refresh rate, support for 30W fast charging, compatible with QC 4.0, a battery capacity of 4000mAh, and with Air Trigger shoulder keys, in terms of gameplay, the machine does put a lot of effort, but the first generation of the listed price of $USD, the threshold is still relatively high.
Asus also continued to launch the ROG Phone 2 and ROG Phone 3, which remained unchanged from the design point of view. The hardware was updated to the latest configuration, and the RGB faith light was still dazzling, keeping the ROG genes.
Red Magic 3
The reason for mentioning this machine is that Red Magic has broken the tradition of passive cooling of mobile phones by implanting a 14,000 rpm fan that works similarly to a laptop’s turbofan technology, drawing in cool external air while expelling heat from inside the machine. There’s not much else to say about the device, with its flagship configuration, RGB lights, shoulder keys, and large battery, much like gaming phones of the era.
We’ve taken a look at some of the gaming phones that have been around, and it’s clear that the growth in the number of gaming phones, especially in recent years, has accelerated. On the one hand, the popularity of touch screens has reduced the extra design costs for manufacturers, eliminating the need to make major changes to the structure of the entire machine, and the design style of the device is more similar to that of a regular phone, making the threshold for use lower.
On the other hand, the increasingly unified iOS and Android app stores have made game resources more concentrated, so manufacturers only need to focus on game experience and optimization, without excessive distraction from other parts.
Also, it’s not hard to find that manufacturers often test out new hardware in their new gaming devices in advance, which is not only conducive to market promotion but also can be used to test out the stability of the new hardware, which is another sign for manufacturers to develop gaming phones.