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Handheld Week: The Smartphone and Tablet Uprising
Here at Leviathyn I am dedicating this week to handheld gaming and all its ups and downs through gaming history. Portable gaming has been through a heavy evolution. Some may argue even moreso than home consoles. When you think about what he played on the dot matrix GameBoy and look at the PS Vita or the 3DS, it is absolutely astounding to see what we can do with technology. This week we’re going to look into some retrospectives from Nintendo, Sony, and what devices like smartphones and tablets have to offer portable gaming.
Monday: The 3 Best Games for Each Handheld
Tuesday: The GameBoy Retrospective
Wednesday: Sony’s Gambit: The PlayStation Portable
Thursday: The Smartphone and Tablet Uprising
Friday: Top Ten Handheld Games Ever
Saturday: The Forgotten Devices: Portable Nobodies
So far we’ve listed some of the must buy games on many different handhelds, detailed the history of Nintendo’s portable bliss, and delved into Sony’s entrance to the market. For today, we hit a controversial subject: smartphones and tablets. Some want to just dismiss these platforms as non-gaming and therefore should not be contemplated. Others think Apple and the other mobile competitors may overtake both Nintendo and Sony in the coming years. It’s time to face facts, gamers. Smartphones and Tablets are here to stay and they are bursting into the market. Games are the most downloaded app type on the iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7. More and more each day bigger, better, and complex games are being released for these devices. Just recently we saw Max Payne come out on Apple’s iOS. Before that we saw Grand Theft Auto III come out on both iOS and Android. Aside from ports, games like Chaos Rings, Infinity Blade, FIFA, Modern Combat, Real Racing, and Sky Gamblers just show you the kind of quality we are seeing on phones and tablets. With every year we see better releases and even the lower quality games are shooting out every day.
Some platforms are better then others. It can be hard to pick a phone and stick with it for two years. Me, personally, I can’t keep the same phone for more than 6 months. I have switched carriers and devices more than anyone I know. I have played with and tested all three major mobile operating systems so we’ll go over them all and talk about the gaming side of things. If you’re looking for a new phone and worried about games, read on.
Best Phones: iPhone 4, iPhone 4S
Best Tablets: iPad 2, iPad 3rd Gen
Apple’s ecosystem here for apps and compatibility is perfect. You won’t find fragmentation unless you’re using an iPhone older than the 3GS. Even with an older phone, most of the games will work. You’ll find the higher quality and bigger games may not work correctly or at all. Still, most people looking for a new phone and thinking of Apple will shoot for the newest phone. I’d wait for right now. The rumors of the upcoming iPhone 5’s release this year and what it may have or do are enough that should stop you from upgrading or buying. If you’re impatient, it’s not like the iPhone 4 or 4S aren’t great phones. You can’t go wrong with picking up an iPhone right now. Unless you’re looking for a focus on customization and open system settings, Apple is top notch here. I won’t say they are the best, though. There are too many differences between the three major platforms that target certain groups of people that you’ll never find the one-stop, end-all be-all phone.
That said, the game selection on Apple devices are far-and-away the best of them all. Every developer wants their mobile games on the iOS. Apple has the biggest App catalog with the best sale numbers. Every day there are hundreds of apps uploaded to the App Store. The best mobile titles, like the ones I mentioned above, are all on iOS. You will find the best games on iOS. You’ll find the fastest releases on iOS. You’ll find the most effort on iOS.
Best Phones: Samsung Galaxy S II, Motorola RAZR Maxx, HTC One X
Best Tablets: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, ASUS Transformer Prime
I started Apple’s section by mentioning fragmentation. Android has it the worst. Google shot for an open sourced mobile platform that device makers could customize and create for. There are very minimal requirements in order to use Android on a phone. This has led to hundreds of different Android phones out on the market, most of them with highly different hardware specs. I’m not getting into skins like HTC Sense or Motoblur, I’m talking about hardware here. The major differences in hardware have made many apps require certain phones for use. Devs even code apps for specific phones now. Head into a high quality game’s app page and you’ll probably see a list of phone names that work correctly and are suggested for use. This is just terrible. It has hurt Android badly over the years.
The game selection on Android is pretty good, however. You’ll find some rare exclusives and multiplatform gems but not as much as iOS. Another problem with Android is that developers don’t seem to put much effort into their ports or multiplatform work. Take apps like Words With Friends or DrawSomething. Play them on Android and then try them on iOS. The Android versions aren’t smooth, feature more glitches, and crash a ton more. On the tablet front, you’ll have access to Honeycomb apps which are made specifically for the larger devices. These apps are normally more stable and you can find a nicer selection.
Overall, you’ll be satisfied with the gaming selection on Android. Not as much as iOS and the iPhone, but you have much more of a phone selection. Don’t like the iPhone’s screen size? You’ll have plenty to choose from on Android which includes the 5.3inch Galaxy Note. Attracted by the new iPad’s quad-core gaming processor? You can find phones that use quad-core Qualcomm, Tegra, and soon Exynos chips. If you’re looking for power and what the best available, stayed tuned to the news as Samsung is getting ready to unveil its Galaxy S III flagship device. That will most likely be the best Android phone for quite some time.
Best Phones: Nokia Lumia 900, HTC Titan 2, HTC HD7
The Windows Phone platform has no tablets, just so you know why I didn’t list any. Look forward to the Windows 8 ARM tablets coming in October if you’re a fan of this operating system and want something bigger then a phone.
So Microsoft re-branded their Windows Mobile phone platform into the Windows Phone. It was a huge transition. Windows Mobile was more of a miniature PC whereas Windows Phone is more of a smartphone. Microsoft took the work they did on the Zune media player and basically advanced the look and feel and added phone radios. The Metro UI, the interface the phone uses, is easy to use and pretty quick. You’ll find some really smooth experiences with Metro but once you leave the comfort of the home screen and enter the app selection and further screens, things can get a little daunting and convoluted. Microsoft went a different route from Android and went with more of an Apple approach with their platform. Windows Phone has a certain set of requirements, much higher and more specific than Android, for the operating system to work. This has been a double edged sword for Windows Phone. There is virtually no fragmentation on the platform but it locked the Windows Phone to a set of specs with nearly no upgrades. The upcoming update, codenamed Apollo, may change all this.
The game selection on Windows Phone is actually pretty good. You won’t find a ton of numbers here but the selection is normally high quality and you have access to Xbox Live. With Live you can gather achievements and interact with your friends on the Xbox 360. This all ties into your normal Live account and can be viewed by any friends. You won’t need a separate mobile Live account to house the achievements. This is a great tool that makes Windows Phone gaming seem more connected and mean something. Sure, iOS has Gamecenter that gifts out achievements but who honestly cares? No one you know will see them unless you hang in a group of gaming-focused iPhone users. With Live, anyone can check your profile out and see that you nabbed 50 bad guys in The Harvest or Sonic 4: Episode 1.
If you want Xbox Live connectivity, Windows Phone is where you’re headed. Just know that the marketplace for apps is slow growing but Microsoft is nearly begging for devs to bring games over or create new titles. I’d wait for Apollo and see what that changes here.
Phones and Tablets are biting their way into the handheld gaming market. No matter your stance on these devices, it is hard to deny their influence on gaming nowadays. Nintendo’s recent monetary loses are being chipped up to companies like Apple and Google. While I may not agree with that, it is certainly a possibility. The Wii U’s controller looks a lot like an iPad with physical controls. Sony has included a 3G modem in the Vita. It is things like this that can make some people look at these smartphones and tablets as threats to the norm of portable gaming. One thing is sure, though. Nintendo and Sony need to be ready for the uprising of these devices.