When the original Razer Phone came out may moons ago, I remember every journalist in the room thinking the same thing: does the world really need a “gaming” phone?
After all, there weren’t many mobile games on Android that really pushed that year’s top-end CPUs, and back then, outside of a few MOBAs, the Play Store didn’t feature enough top-end, hardcore games to justify the genre.
But, many moons on, I’m going to hold my hand in the air and admit, like Social Distortion sang: I was wrong. This was apparent the moment I picked up the first Razer Phone and ROG Phone.
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The Razer Phone won me over by being the first Android phone with a variable refresh rate – a nifty feature that lets a phone intelligently change how many images per second it renders, depending on what it’s doing.
A higher refresh rate can be a key boon for competitive gaming as, by rendering more images per second, the delay between you enacting a command and it appearing on-screen is reduced. As an added perk it also makes the screen feel generally smoother to use.
The ROG Phone, by comparison, showed people how to make mobile gaming peripherals featuring a wealth of awesome attachments that made pew-pewing on Android an almost console-level experience. These included a nifty air cooler, attachable Switch-style dock, controller and Nintendo DS-style attachable second screen. To date I’m yet to see a company do a better job.
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Which is why it’s no surprise that other companies have started trying to break into the space – and 2019 is shaping up to be the year of the gaming phone.
On the software front, this is apparent with the increased number of competitive e-sports titles hitting Android – which include popular desktop games like PUBG and Fortnite.
Finally there’s the hardware. Over the last few months we’ve seen numerous OEMs release spiffy new smartphones marketing themselves as “the ultimate PUBG handset” or “a Nintendo Switch rival”.
Recently we’ve also seen gaming heavyweights – like the Asus ROG Phone 2 and Black Shark 2 – hit the scene. But it’s not just them. Huawei’s been edging into the space with its GPU Turbo tech. Even OnePlus has gotten in on the game, with its latest OnePlus 7 Pro, which features a 90Hz screen that’s tailor made for competitive mobile gaming.
Given these factors there’s no denying it – mobile gaming is a definite growth area for tech.
Yet, despite the influx of great stuff we’ve already seen, for me, the two key players need to enter the fray to make gaming phones a mass market category are Samsung and Sony.
With Samsung, the reason is obvious – the company is currently the king of Android and best positioned to make gaming phones a legitimate mass market category. It made phablets a thing with the original Galaxy Note and it can do the same with gaming phones.
Samsung also already has experience courting developers, having been the first to get Epic’s Fortnite onto mobile. Forget the Galaxy S10‘s e and Plus variants, I want Samsung to bash out gaming versions of its flagship with a variable refresh rate screen and cool S-peripherals, like the ROG Phone.
Sony, again, is a bit of a no brainer. It owns PlayStation: one of the biggest gaming platforms in history. I know Sony’s already tried and failed to release a Xperia Play – which was a PlayStation phone in everything but name – but, for me, its poor sales and critical reception was more due to the technical limitations of the components available at the time and, quite frankly, terrible design choices.
With 5G and the likes of Google Stadia paving the way for streaming triple-A games over the cloud, it would be stupid for Sony not to follow suit with its own mobile gaming platform and a flagship PlayStation Phone to show it off. How cool would it be to be able to play PlayStation exclusives like God of War on your morning commute?
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