Gaming Phone Features Better Than Normal Smartphones

Gaming Phone Features Better Than Normal Smartphones

A few years ago, gaming phones were the rage of smartphone town. We were told they were the coolest gadgets in town and almost every major brand was pushing one of its own. Today, the gaming phone party seems to be winding down and brands are nursing hangovers. Black Shark, a gaming phone brand backed by Xiaomi, laid off hundreds of workers at the beginning of the year, Vivo’s sub-brand iQoo went mainstream from being focused on gaming phones a year or so ago, and now Lenovo has officially pulled the plug on its Legion range of gaming phones. 

Not too long ago, most brands were betting heavily on gaming phones, and one could see their rationale. After all, gaming on mobile phones was getting way more popular than gaming on consoles and computers, as it opened the gaming gates for the masses by not restricting the experience to just hardcore gamers.  

Mobile games were also getting more resource-hungry, requiring better displays and speakers, faster processors, more RAM, better cooling and so on. 

Put those two facts together and it seemed like there was a market tailormade for phones that were dedicated to gaming. After all, this had happened in the PC segment too more than a decade ago.

Things, however, have not quite worked out that way. While gaming on mobile phones continues to be popular and received a boost during the pandemic when so many of us were stuck at home, gaming phones have not sold in the numbers that many had predicted they would. So what went wrong?

Betting On Gaming Experience… But Not Really Making It Too Different

Ironically, gaming phones have been tripped up by the very thing they were supposed to be good at: the gaming experience.  

Gaming phones are after all designed to bring a gaming experience that other phones cannot. The problem was that they so far have been unable to do so. And this has a lot to do with the structure of the mobile gaming market. 

Unlike the PC and console gaming markets, where many games are made for specific hardware configurations and require high-end components, mobile games are made to reach as wide an audience as possible. 

As a result, while it is very difficult to have a reasonable Call of Duty experience on a mid-segment PC, a Rs 25,000 (and some phones even below that price point) smartphone will deliver a more than adequate FPS session to the gamer. 

Yes, you would have to put up with slightly inferior graphics and a slower frame rate, but unless you are looking for a pro-gamer-level experience, you can get a good enough gaming experience even without a proper gaming smartphone. 

What’s more, a large number of people play relatively casual titles (like Candy Crush Saga) on their devices, which do not require the sort of heavy-duty hardware that gaming phones sport. 

There are very few games that have been designed to play significantly better on gaming phones as compared to other similarly-specced phones. 

Gaming phones have also not been helped by the inclusion of special gaming modes in many Android devices. 

Even a Rs 20,000 phone these days has a mode that is optimised for gaming — it will be nowhere as good as the experience on a proper gaming phone but it more than suffices for many users. 

There is no concept of “if you want to play this game, you have to get this kind of phone.” 

This is the main difference when it comes to consoles and gaming PCs — most phones beyond a certain level can play most games, irrespective of them being dedicated to gaming or not. 

Gaming phones often come with special features such as larger displays with high refresh rates, better cooling, special LED lights, and even gaming buttons. 

However, these are of use only to a very limited audience which is obsessed with details, and not all games support them. The difference between a phone designed for gaming and a similarly specced routine one is not as great as the difference between a PC designed for gaming and a similarly specced ‘normal’ one. 

Experience is not a major differentiator.

Why Not Just Buy A Flagship? 

Gaming is often just one of the many things people do on phones, unlike on a console or even on a gaming PC, which are designed to focus on one specific task: gaming. 
So whereas those interested in gaming often purchase a computer or console solely for gaming and maybe watching some films, most people who purchase phones are often also looking for a device that can handle routine, non-gaming tasks well — calling, messaging, e-mail, browsing the Web, social media and so on.  

A gaming phone often also has to act as a daily driver for their owners.

This is where sleeker Android flagships with similar hardware and better cameras often steal a march over phones that were made mainly for gaming. Many Android flagships today boast hardware that is capable of handling most games at maxed-out settings. 

You do not have to go for a gaming phone to get a high-quality display, great speakers, a super fast processor and lots of RAM. This is why you often see gaming being showcased as a USP of just about every Android flagship and not just gaming phones. 

Gaming phones often lose out to their non-gaming counterparts in terms of bulk and camera quality. Take some specific gaming features out of the equation, and gaming phones often end up losing to flagships, while still coming with similar price tags.

Not All (Gaming) Hope Is Lost 

It is not all doom and gloom, though. Asus is still going strong with its ROG range of gaming smartphones and Razer, too, shows no sign of holding back its gaming phone range. 

But gaming phones have been unable to fulfil their potential of being mainstream devices, which is leading to a lot of brands pulling out of the segment or reducing their involvement in it. If anything, they are rapidly moving into niche territory, rather like audiophile headphones and DSLR cameras — devices that only those with a deep interest in a certain subject can appreciate. 

Gaming phones are increasingly becoming the tools of professional or hardcore gamers who need every single advantage they can get out of hardware, rather than being everyday tools for those who love to play games and want the ultimate gaming experience on their phones. 

So is this the end for the mainstream gaming phone segment? We do not think so. 

Similar doomsday predictions had been made in the past when Nokia’s N-Gage and Sony’s Xperia Play efforts came a cropper more than a decade ago. It would therefore be premature to write the obituary of the mainstream gaming phone segment. 

However, those making phones for gaming need to build a closer alliance with game developers as well as gamers. 

Gaming phones need killer titles that either work exclusively on them (just like on consoles and PCs) or work significantly better on them. They also need to match flagships in other functions, instead of being one-trick ponies. 

Right now, a gaming phone is like a Formula One car — powerful and brimming with potential but limited only to those who want to drive on a race track, and not offering all that much to those who want something to drive to work.

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