‘Pokemon GO’ Update: Better Load Times, Wheelchair Accessibility, Possible Hidden Features

A new Pokemon GO update recently dropped and is slowly rolling out to players, and although the update seems feature-light, it actually includes some fairly important improvements. According to an article from Heavy, those changes include some vital optimizations to the game.

First off, Niantic has taken another swing at optimizing connection to the Pokemon GO Plus on Android. Given their track record there, we’ll not hold our breath, but hope for the best. More importantly, the update indicates a fix for the long load times that many Android Pokemon GO players have experienced – some of them for several minutes on older devices.

You're probably getting a little tired of seeing this by now.

And that is certainly welcome; even relatively new devices were struggling to load the game. But more interesting are the reasons for the shorter load time, as discovered by enterprising data miners over at The Silph Road, one of the largest Pokemon GO communities online. Those findings indicate that Pokemon GO has actually had a RAM (Random Access Memory) optimization – that is to say, the update actually tuned up the game’s usage of device memory overall.

That’s something that Pokemon GO has sorely needed. On anything but the highest-end devices, Pokemon GO tends to stutter and lag even on a fresh reboot and can drain a battery in minutes. It’s one of the most technologically ambitious titles ever published for smartphones, and it shows – but it’s also more of a beta edition than a final release, and it does not use device resources nearly as efficiently as it could (especially on Android devices, which may have wildly differing specs even between devices from the same company). The RAM usage update improves both memory usage and garbage collection, and that should result in better gameplay and better power efficiency.

Another change that’s officially detailed should come as good news to trainers with physical disabilities: Pokemon GO for iPhone should now integrate Apple Watch support for players in wheelchairs. Of course, that means that players do need to have an Apple Watch, but the update is intended to count travel in a wheelchair the same way that Pokemon GO currently measures steps for the purposes of egg hatching and buddy-walking.

Being in a wheelchair shouldn't hold anyone back from being a Pokemon master.

That aside, every update Niantic has released has also come with some hidden features which may or may not be currently active, and this one is no exception. The Silph Road data miners dug them out; the most interesting is a reference to something called a “critical catch” in the update code. While all that we have for now is speculation as to what this means, it seems as if a catch triggers a “critical” – possibly on a really good throw? – something will happen. Ok, that’s really vague, but consider the possibilities; a shiny Pokemon? According to The Silph Road, shinies have been in the code for a long time now. It could also mean a guaranteed catch, or additional candies, something very much to be desired in some cases.

They also found references to an entirely new type of item: a “candy award” which dovetails with the idea that players are finding candies to be a major roadblock in Pokemon GO. Speculation is that this item could work like a Lucky Egg, or that it might award additional candies for completing certain achievements.

Finally, something a lot less ambiguous, code has been added for a Unown Badge. That makes sense; Unown is one of the Generation 2 Pokemon which are certain to be coming soon, and there is one for each letter of the alphabet in Gen 2. Presumably, the badge will correspond to collecting all 26 (which activated the Game Boy Printer in the original Gold/Silver games). Also possibly, Niantic will include the two “punctuation” Unown from Ruby/Sapphire.

All told, while it seems a relatively boring update on the surface, the latest changes to Pokemon GO are extremely welcome – and the new bits and pieces hidden in the code are exciting!

[Featured Image by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images]