Mobile hardware has come a long way in just a little over a decade. When it was released in June 2007, the original Apple iPhone had a 32-bit RISC ARM CPU that was manufactured by Samsung. Natively, the processor had a clock speed of just 620 MHz, but Apple underclocked it to 412 MHz. Accompanying this was just 128MB of memory.
There was no official word as to why the CPU was underclocked, but most experts assume that it was to save battery life. The same happened to the processor in the iPhone 3G and 3G S, although they were more powerful overall than the original iPhone.
In comparison, the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and the soon to be release SE all have the Apple A13 Bionic processor. This is a six-core chipset with four “high efficiency” cores for most tasks and two “high performance” cores that will do the heavy lifting. The two high-performance cores operate at a clock speed of 2.65 GHz, more than 6 times faster than the speed available to consumers in the first-generation device.
There is 4GB of RAM in the iPhone 11, 32 times more than its 12-year-old ancestor. While this is on par with many entry-level laptops that are on sale today, it’s around one-third of the amount available in leading Android smartphones like the Samsung S20.
Of course, it isn’t possible to make a direct comparison since the two devices run very different operating systems. It is widely accepted that iOS devices use significantly less memory than equivalent Androids.
This is partly down to the variety of hardware in the Android ecosystem. To make apps compatible with all the different possible configurations, apps run in a Java virtual machine, meaning more RAM is required than the natively run iOS apps.
Regardless of which device you’re using though, all the top of the range smartphones are capable of running the latest games released in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Despite this, many hardcore gamers have decided that dedicated gaming phones are something that they need. These devices come in the same style of gaming PCs and laptops, with carbon fibre effect casing, lights, and coloured stripes.
Inside though, these gaming phones are not much different to the mainstream devices that most consumers opt for. The main advantages come in the screen, with most gaming phones having screens with faster refresh rates of 120 Hz compared to the 60-90 Hz offered elsewhere.
However, the smoothness of your gameplay is bottlenecked by your internet connection, so there’s not much to be gained from a high refresh rate when playing online multiplayer games.
Do You Need a Gaming Phone?
Most smartphone games don’t push the boundaries of the hardware enough to warrant a dedicated gaming phone. For example, turn-based games like Scrabble GO and card games like those offered by PokerStars will run perfectly fine on even entry-level Android devices.
However, for those that enjoy first-person shooters and battle royale-type games with the graphics turned all the way up to high, then you may see some benefits.
Gaming phones tend to have support for more peripherals like controllers and headsets, but you can still use them with most non-gaming phones.
You will likely get better sound quality from a gaming phone. They usually pack them with front-facing speakers and many still have a headphones jack so you can plug in your favourite gaming headset.
You may even get the option of having programmable hotkeys on the sides of the device, which can make it easier to lob a grenade or switch to your knife for some close-quarters combat.
In exchange for this though, you will have to make some pretty big trade-offs. You’ll have a phone that will stand out and scream “look at me, I am a gamer”. Depending on your preferences, that may be a good or bad thing.
Some phones even have fans to keep the hardware cool. While this might sound cool since it’s a sign that your phone operates at the cutting edge, the reality is that it’s incredibly impractical.
Of course, you could buy two phones, one for everyday use, and one for just gaming. But you could also spend less and get a top of the range gaming PC or a games console.
Ultimately, while gaming phones may seem like a cool idea on the surface, they are mostly impractical and unnecessary, with just a few small exceptions.