Since the release of the Nintendo Game Boy in 1989, portable gaming is something that’s gamers have been interested in. Over the years, in addition to portable consoles, cell phones became another way to play games on the go.
The earliest of these games simplistic and were played on monochromatic screens, but some of them were able take a place in the pantheon of games nonetheless. For every Call of Duty, there’s a game like snake, loved by millions despite its simplistic mechanics.
As time went by and cell phone technology improved, many companies decided to try making a phone for gamers. None of these perfectly hit the mark but there were a few standouts with their unique designs and interesting history.
Nokia may have made my favorite of these, the Nokia N-Gage, which had its own unique library of interesting games, including WWE: Aftershock, Splinter Cell, Tomb Raider, and a plethora of others. Despite being games for a cellphone released between 2003 and 2005, they are rather impressive for their time.
With that in mind, I was surprised when I heard that Razer, a company best known for making PC gaming peripherals, was looking to make a gaming smartphone to hopefully hit the market by the end of this year, I was intrigued. I’ve been an iPhone user for most of my life and the prospect of leaving the platform is never something I’ve given truly serious thought to, but if Razer managed to make a killer phone for gamers, that could be the push it takes to get me onto an Android device. I decided that means that now would be as good of a time as any to look at what features I’d like to see in a smartphone for gamers in a marriage of my two favorite subjects: gaming and technology.
Battery is Key
With every smartphone I’ve ever owned, I’ve always had the same complaint: the battery is never good enough. Sure, for regular day to day use such as web browsing, texting, and making the occasional phone call, the battery is fine. When you fire up games, especially long or hardware intensive ones, that story changes quite a bit.
Over the last few years, Square Enix has been hard at work porting over quite a few of their classic RPGs, including a large number of titles from the Final Fantasy series. While I admit I did pick up the first game just to check out the port, I couldn’t see myself seriously playing a 20-40 hour JRPG on a device that I use for so many other things when the battery can barely keep up as it is.
As a member of the Apple ecosystem, I’m used to not having killer battery life, as Apple tends to be conservative with the hardware they put into their devices. Yes, there are Android devices with larger batteries and better battery life, but that doesn’t always work out for the best. Last year, Samsung had to issue a recall on the Galaxy Note 7 due to an issue involving battery combustion. When this year’s Note 8 was released, the battery inside was smaller than last year’s model. Clearly, Samsung didn’t want to take any chances.
This could serve as an area where Razer could potentially step up and do what no other smartphone maker has yet done: create a comfortable to use phone that simultaneously provides amazing battery life under heavy load.
The company has had a chance to practice making slim portable devices with great battery life and according to one review, the battery was one the area the Razer Blade Stealth could improve, coming in about 3 hours and 20 minutes under what is considered the average battery life for an ultrabook. Still, we don’t know what Razer has been treating internally with their hopes of making a smartphone for gamers.
Mobile Graphics Are Already Good Enough
One area where most modern smartphones are already killing it are in the graphics department. As long as you aren’t buying a bottom of the barrel Android phone or one that has some significant age to it, I challenge you to find a game your smartphone can’t play.
Smartphones are capable of some surprisingly impressive graphical capabilities for devices of their size and that’s a fact that runs across the board. From the games you can play on your touchscreen all the way to the emerging Augmented Reality screen (which Apple is arguably dominating right now with its recently released ARkit for iOS 11), there’s little need for improvement in that regard.
To be fair, though, the graphical processing unit of your phone is only half of what makes your content look great. The other half of the equation? An amazing screen.
There’s been speculation that Razer could try and get a 4K display onto their gaming phone but that’s one move I hope they don’t make. Almost two years ago, CNET deemed 4K on smartphones “overkill” and I’m inclined to agree. There’s ongoing debate about what sized screen and at what distance a 4K TV actually makes a difference. In the PC gaming world, you’ll find more people trying to step into the world of 4K gaming although, the dream of 4k60 on ultra Settings across the board is still a dream for many. Finally, you have Sony and Microsoft who are both making steps (in their own ways) to get 4K gaming into the living rooms of gamers around the world. But 4K on a smartphone screen? No thank you.
On a gaming smartphone, I’d be fine with a 1440p Super AMOLED display that rests somewhere in the family of a 5.5” to 6.2” family. On the occasions where I’ve messed around with android phones I’ve found that size range to be comfortable enough for daily use while providing a nice screen size for gaming and movie watching,
Partnerships and Integration
This is one of the areas where some may start to lose me but I stand by it wholeheartedly. While I hate when phones ship with bloatware of any kind, it would be nice to see Razer ship their gaming smartphone with some interesting partnerships and integration. The two biggest that I can think of that I would like to see would be Twitch and Discord. To give the phone that added kick. It would be great to see Twitch allow their app (at least on the Razer phone) to allow gamers to stream their gameplay directly from the phone and potentially tap into the front-facing selfie camera to add an image of themselves to the stream they want.
Yes, that would be a more limited option than hooking the phone up to a capture device which would allow for custom stream layouts, but it could be a great way for streamers to stream gameplay from anywhere, especially as smartphone games become more and more impressive.
Earlier I mentioned Apple’s ARkit and I don’t doubt that we’ll see some great strides from Android in regards to AR in the future but, one thing I didn’t get into is the gaming application of AR. If you’ve taken the time to look at any of the AR games that have been released on the iOS App Store, you’d see games that build whole worlds on a table in front of you, that you can view from any angle. Even cooler, some of these games feature adaptive sound that gets louder or softer depending on how close or far you are from where the game “is”. Imagine being able to stream something like that being completely untethered from a game capture device. I’d watch that in a heartbeat.
On the side of Discord, my desire for integration is a bit simpler. When using Discord on a PC, the app is able to set your status automatically to whatever game you’re playing. While this isn’t a feature that’s available on the mobile app or consoles, it would be awesome for the Razer phone to allow this. While some mobile games are still as simple as 2048, many classic games (including the bulk of the Sega Genesis library) are making their way to mobile. Being able to automatically share that with all your gamer friends would be next level for sure.
Continuing down that rabbit hole of sharing content, it would also be great to see the device have a screenshot/clipping feature, similar to what’s available on the Xbox One. While screenshotting is available on virtually every smartphone on the market and screen recording is possible, Razer has a chance to refine those features in a way that’s convenient for gamers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to screenshot a game on my iPhone and I’ve accidentally exited the game or locked the screen instead.
While there are quite a few games already available on the Google Play and iOS App Stores, this phone could serve as a chance for Razer to call back to Nokia’s N-Gage: get some exclusive games on the system. When this phone does finally get announced and released, I firmly believe it will be running Android with a custom launcher designed by Razer. I also believe that Razer is going to integrate it closely with its existing products and with its apps baked right in at the system level, but who’s to say that they couldn’t also launch a lineup of games designed to take advantage of the hardware built into the phone?
While in 2017, the “exclusive games” divide should be limited to iOS or Android, selling a smartphone for gamers is going to require that extra kick that some exclusive titles could give them. This is probably the most unlikely thing to happen that I would like to see on the phone, but if it did, it would definitely be another point towards purchasing the phone.
Other Hopes and Dreams
I’ve spent a lot of time on social media knocking the iPhone X lately, with one of my chief complaints being the price point. The phone starts at $999 for a 64GB model and the price only goes up from there. When Razer puts out a smartphone for gamers, I wholly expect it to have a cost of $999 when it hits the market. Part of the reason for that is that Razer is a gaming company and they’re going to pack this phone with things that gamers want.
Traditionally, you can get away with buying an Android device with a smaller amount of internal storage because most Android phones support microSD cards up to 256GB in size, but instead of starting at that size point, I’d much rather see the phone launch with 128GB of internal storage and then have microSD as an option to go from there. If Razer is able to get high quality, device exclusive games, I’d like to see them be on the larger side, if only to offer an overall better mobile gaming experience.
Given this is a Razer product, it’s also safe to say that the back of the phone will feature the Razer logo, it will be illuminated, and it will have RGB capabilities.
The last two points I want to see for this phone aren’t entirely unheard of but could be argued against now that Nintendo has released the Switch. The first of these two would be a docking system for the phone, potentially one that increases the performance of the device and allows it to be played on a TV. We’ve seen at least one Windows phone that had a dock so there is some precedent for doing this with a smartphone, though this is more of an idea than anything else. With this device, I do want a smartphone for gamers and not a dockable gaming PC in my pocket.
The final thing I would love to see would an attachable controller system for the phone. To be clear, this one wasn’t inspired by the Nintendo Switch, but rather the wide variety of Bluetooth enabled controller devices you can already hook up to your phone. If someone is going to make a phone for gamers, it’s only right that they make the attachable controller system as well.
All in all, I think it’s great that Razer is getting into the phone market to finally make a phone for gamers. Whether or not this phone winds up just being a gimmick and if it would be enough to get me to leave my iPhone remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: the idea has a lot of potential and I’m excited to see what Razer comes up with!
What would you like to see in a smartphone for gamers? Let us know in the comments down below!