We use our smartphones for so many things and one of them is gaming. Gaming is such an important part of the smartphone experience to the point where they have their own tab on app stores.
It is not uncommon to see people having one or two games installed on their phones. Most of the games you see being installed are arcade games (Temple Run, Candy Crush etc), racing games, puzzles and much more.
However, I’m not a fan of gaming on smartphones. This is particularly evident on certain games that need to be played horizontally and are graphics intensive.
Granted, we have seen smartphone manufacturers release “gaming” focused smartphones. They advertise their high refresh rate displays, accessories that add buttons, fans to cool off the processor and better ergonomics.
However, this still shows that most smartphones are just not geared for gaming and this is why.
One of the biggest reasons I don’t like gaming on smartphones is the ergonomics. Smartphones are just not designed for gaming. They are generally suited for portrait use like browsing the web or taking Instagram Stories.
Gaming devices are usually designed to make the gaming experience as comfortable as possible. The device is angled in a way that the fingers access controls easily and it doesn’t dig to your palms that will cause discomfort after long periods. They also have easy to access physical controls for controlling elements in the game.
Smartphones lack all that. They are mostly slabs of either plastic, glass or metal and are touch based only. They also lack physical controls like joysticks and extra buttons that we see in dedicated gaming devices like the Nintendo Switch. Also some phones are downright huge so it becomes a pain to use when you’re gaming in portrait mode.
These reasons would make phones not ideal to play some games like FIFA or Mortal Kombat since they need complex moves that would be easy to do on joysticks and extra move buttons. Instead, they have been adapted for touchscreens, which does not feel as good as physical buttons.
Heat is usually a big problem while gaming on a smartphone. Smartphones are passively cooled which means they rely on the body of the smartphone or through heat pipes to dissipate heat generated by the processor. They are not actively cooled by fans that would blow the hot air out through vents hence keeping the system cool.
When you are playing intensive games for long periods of time, your phone will start heating up. If you happen to use a smartphone, especially a high-end smartphone with a fast processor, they tend to heat up pretty quickly. That heat is transferred to their metal or glass bodies and it starts to heat up your hand pretty quickly.
This means that you will be forced to game for short periods of time to prevent burning your poor hands. Heat is not good for the smartphone as it degrades the battery and that is not a good thing.
Battery life might be affected
Gaming involves pegging the CPU and the GPU present at the maximum and this means they will use more power. The resulting heat can degrade the battery life and if you do this constantly, you will affect your battery life.
Since gaming takes a toll on the battery, you will be required to charge it again. This means that you’ll end up using several charging cyles a day and your battery health will deteroriate.
Stereo speaker support
Audio is a huge part of gaming and great audio makes gaming so good. Some of these games are designed in a way for you to take advantage of stereo audio and if you use a mono speaker, the effect is not the same. This is clearly evident when you play games like Need For Speed which benefits greatly from stereo audio.
Granted we have a few smartphones out there that have stereo speakers. They include flagships (iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S flagships) have them but we have seen that trickle down to cheaper phones like the Oppo A9 2020. However, they are the minority and only a few get to benefit.
When game developers are making games for smartphones, they have to consider supporting a huge number of phones. Some phones are incredibly powerful, others are not. Some have high resolution screens, others do not. Aspect ratios are different across the board. It is a mess.
In some poorly optimized games, you will find a situation where it doesn’t support your aspect ratio. You are either forced to use the phone’s inbuilt aspect ratio resizer or play using black bars. This became evident when we started moving away from 16:9 displays to the mess that we have right now. This is one example of poor optimization that was caused by the phone industry.
Also, you’ll always find that people with flagship phones will consistently have a better experience than those with cheaper phones. They have the best processors, best screens and the games are better optimized for their phones.
That is usually not the case for the gaming industry. For example if Nintendo designs a game for the Switch, they know its specs and will optimize it better for that device. That consistency is great for consumers.
It is true that smartphone gaming has ballooned the past decade. Our phones are so much powerful than older consoles and these little buggers fit in our pocket.
However, since these devices are meant to be our everyday devices, they cannot be everything. You can still play games on them, for sure, but they are not the best at that.
We have seen the rise of gaming phones like the Razer Phone, Asus ROG phone, the Xiaomi Black Shark and they fix some issues that we have seen above. However they are uglier than normal phones (except the Razer Phone, that one is sleek) and still exhibit issues that we see on regular phones.