Modern smartphone technology is certainly impressive and gaming on mobile devices is becoming more prevalent every day. In fact, the head of EA Mobile, Frank Gibeau, recently told Game Industry that the iPhone 6, with its improved processor, Metal graphics and increased memory was a mobile device on par with next-generation consoles. Here’s a look at how emerging technologies are changing the face of next-generation gaming and how smartphones could become the successors to game consoles:
Modern Technical Comparisons
First, let’s decode the statement that the iPhone 6 is “on par” with next gen consoles by actually comparing them. In terms of raw GPU power, the PS4 is approximately ten times more powerful than the new iPhone. The iPhone’s Cyclone CPUs are probably very similar to the PS4’s in design, according to ExtremeTech, though the PS4 does have eight of them compared to the iPhone 6’s measly two. So what did Frank Gibeau really mean when he said that the new iPhone was on par with next gen consoles?
First, the new iPhone 6 is capable of rendering games in 1080p. While this is an impressive advancement from the days of LCD phone screens, it isn’t enough to simply claim smartphones are on par with home game consoles. It doesn’t matter if you can render a world in 1080p if your phone doesn’t have the raw power to fill it with high-quality textures and high polygon-count models. Apple hopes to supplant this limitation with Metal, which will replace the OGL as the method developers use to access the iPhone’s graphics hardware. In theory, Metal will reduce the processing power used by the OGL and offer developers more powerful graphics and shaders. While this could speed up graphical processing on the iPhone, it is just a baby step toward the power of the XBox One or PS4.
The Real Future
The real advancements that will make smartphones competitors to home consoles won’t be in processing power, because even Apple is beholden to the laws of physics – consoles are big because powerful processors require cooling and access to power supplies. However, smartphones can beat consoles with their ability to create an augmented reality. AR technology allows smartphones to interact with the real world and give an immersive content experience that consoles cannot currently approach. Take the AR game “Ingress” as an example, which pits smartphone users against each other in a complicated game of king-of-the-hill that takes place at real-world locations in real time all across the globe. The next-generation title “Watch Dogs” posits a world where a hacker seeks revenge while using a mobile device to control a city, while “Ingress” allows players to actually experience that world.
Mobility and connectivity of mobile devices is where their strengths lie when compared to consoles and developers must cease thinking of smartphones as comparable to game consoles and start thinking of them as competitive if they ever hope to capitalize on the technologies that make smartphones into interesting gaming devices. HongKiat suggests that built-in smartphone projectors and Kinect-like devices would allow smartphones to replicate console games. By shifting focus away comparing processing power, developers can make a real stand in the console-dominated market and prove that smartphones have a legitimate claim to the future of gaming.