Is there really a market of these devices?
Mobile gaming may be a big part of the smartphone experience, but it’s only recently that phones aimed at gamers have been making waves. While the concept of a gaming phone was first explored and exploited by Nokia with the N-Gage and N-Gage QD, it took a brand with gaming chops to create a brand-new product line. Razer’s first ever phone is aimed at gamers, and since its debut a few months ago at least two companies have released their own take on the device, with the most recent being ZTE and their Nubia Red Magic. Even ASUS is releasing their own in the next few months.
But the question needs to be asked: is there really a market for gaming phones? Actually, a better question would be are these phones really gaming phones, or are they just souped up phones that’s marketed at gamers?
The biggest problem with the concept of a gaming phone is the use case for it. Let’s take notebooks, for example: there’s regular notebooks and there’s gaming notebooks. There’s only a limited set of games I can play on a regular, non-gaming notebook. Even if I had ASUS’ top-end ultraportable like say, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe, it would still struggle playing titles like PUBG in ultra compared to a notebook that’s specifically made for gaming, like the GTX 1060 version of the Zephyrus M. Both are priced within the 100K mark, but only one is bred for gaming.
That divide doesn’t exist for mobile games. Right now I can play any game that’s available in the Google Play store with any top tier device that’s on offer, whether it’s Galaxy S9+ or the Huawei P20 Pro, in high graphics settings without any problems. That kind of invalidates the whole idea of having a dedicated gaming phone, since almost any high-end flagship nowadays is capable of running all games made for Android without any problems.
Of course, there are gaming-centric features in gaming phones like the overall aesthetic, better looking 120Hz display, detachable controllers and blinking LED lights for days. Strip these devices down to the core though, and you have your typical (high-end) Android smartphone.
But maybe the idea of a dedicated Android gaming phone is just that – a device bred and made for a certain gaming aesthetic and lifestyle. Those same features may feel odd or out of place for a person whose life doesn’t revolve around playing on the go, but for the people who are constantly kicking ass in PUBG Mobile, they’re killer features.
So maybe the idea isn’t about making gaming phones, rather it’s making phones for gamers. There is a difference between the two, though I really lust at the idea of carrying around a true gaming phone that’ll give me an experience that I can’t get with my current Android phone.