Looking for a gamer-friendly alternative to the iPhone? The competition is certainly hotting up, and here are five powerful possibilities…
Sure, the App Store may have two billion titles (perhaps a slight exaggeration), and the iPhone remains the tech poseur’s handset of choice, but quietly and determinedly, the competition to provide a smartphone with true next-gen gaming potential is hotting up. Google’s Android platform is now attracting some serious attention from both indie developers and major games publishers, and fascinating alternatives like Samsung’s Bada and the Linux-based MeeGo are pulling in plenty of formative interest.
So which of these new devices should you consider if you’re after an iPhone alternative? I put the question to several game makers as well as mobile industry veteran Julian Jones, who now advises iPhone developers on transferring their titles to emerging smartphone platforms. Here’s what we all came up with…
Samsung Wave 8500S
This quirky, leftfield handset, sporting Samsung’s own Bada OS, has proved popular with all the developers I spoke to, thanks to its rich, vibrant ‘super AMOLED’ screen, responsive touch controls and powerful 1GHz processor. Although not as heavily populated as the Google and Apple offerings, the Samsung Apps store has plenty to offer gamers, including a decent version of EA’s Need for Speed: Shift, Gameloft’s Real Football and some interesting exclusives. The ethereal woodland puzzler, Glo, from UK developer Mere Mortals, looks lovely (there’s a video here). “Having spoken to Samsung they are promising more titles and a growing list of publishers supporting the platform,” says Julian Jones. “Playing Need for Speed is a joy – it’s full screen, fast and full of action. The graphics are on par with, if not slightly better than, the iPhone.”
Built by HTC but branded as Google this has been billed as the flagship Android smartphone. It’s another one with a big 480×800 display, as well as good touch screen (now that multi touch is supported), accelerometer and a powerful Qualcomm QSD 8250 1Ghz processor. Despite packing plenty of oomph, it’s extremely svelte at just over 11mm thick. And of course, it provides access to the 30,000 or so apps on the Google Android store, including the engrossing RPG Zenonia, I-Play’s frantic Diner Dash style title, Turbo Subs and the addictive ‘tower defense’-style strategy romp, Robo Defense.
With its harsh, angular design and slide out QWERTY keyboard, Milestone (or Droid as it’s preferably named in the US) is something of a design iconoclast amid a range of super slim, curvaceous contenders. But it’s another strong Android handset with a large screen, ARM Cortex A8 550-Mhz processor and 5-megapixel camera. “Like the Samsung’s Wave, the Motorola Droid features a stunning screen, fast CPU and GPU, along with a GPS, Compass and Accelerometer,” says Jones. “All these have to be present if your going to enjoy the cooler mashed up, 3D and augmented reality apps that make these platforms hum.” You might want to hold off on this one though. Not only has it been arguably outpaced by the Nexus One, but Google has just officially unveiled its successor, the Droid X, which features a 4.3-inch display and 8-megapixel camera. No word on a UK release date though.
SonyEricsson Xperia X10
I took one of these to E3 and it’s a very solid, feature-packed smartphone, with a lovely 480×853 screen, 1Ghz processor and impressive 8-megapixel camera. I downloaded the Twidroid app and found it dead easy to take snaps on the show floor and get them up online, while the Timescape and Mediascape apps, which manage your social networking and audio-visual activities, are an interesting addition. As for games, it’s another strong performer, especially with that enormous four-inch screen. For those who find it a little too cumbersome, though, there’s the smaller, cuter Xperia X10 mini, complete with a teeny slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
Windows Phone 7
Okay, so Microsoft has just ditched its Kin series of phones, but the forthcoming handsets built around the corporation’s new Windows Phone 7 technology should be more interesting. “At a recent Microsoft developer day I got play with the new WinMo 7 and it pleasantly surprised me,” says Jones. “It looks to be a complete reboot in terms of philosophy. Microsoft are driving the user experience hard – this is not ‘Windows on a phone’ in any sense…” Most importantly, the OS features a games hub, which allows users to access their Xbox Live account, checking up on achievements, game invites, downloads, etc. The handsets will also support Microsoft’s XNA development kit, which means many Xbox Live Indie games (and a few commercial Xbox Live Arcade titles) will be easily transferable to the platform. It’s the most interesting interplay between phone and console since Sony’s Aino handset, which offered (very complicated) access to your PS3 content. Could this finally be Microsoft’s victorious entry into the previously troublesome smartphone arena? We’ll find out when the first compatible handsets are released this autumn…
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