September 21, 2012

iPhone 5: The games angle

This is not an iPhone 5 review. In fact, I have yet to hold the phone in my hand, and although I obviously will buy it, I will do so unlocked and without a contract. I’ve read the reviews and that, combined with the fact that I trust Apple knows what they’re doing, is good enough for me.

I wasn’t always so sure about the taller form factor though. In many ways I think the iPhone 4/4S size is perfect, and I really don’t want my phone to be larger than that. Sure, the iPhone 5 is lighter and thinner, but I already think that the smartphones of today are taking up too much room in our pockets. A more elongated design isn’t exactly helping out there, but again, I trust in Apple’s design skills here.

Two things struck me as entirely positive with the taller screen of the iPhone 5 though, besides the obvious “it fits more stuff” and “you can still use it one handed” arguments.

  1. With a wider keyboard I might be able to increase my typing speed even more when in landscape mode. I’m already a fast iPhone typist, writing this on my 4S without feeling held back by the device, but surely I can improve? This will be interesting.
  2. A larger screen will greatly improve two handed gaming.

Let’s talk about that second one a bit.

I’m a bit surprised that none of the reviews I’ve read thus far have taken the gaming angle yet. Apple surely understands how important games are for the App Store ecosystem, so it only makes sense that they have taken this, along with everything else, into account when deciding to go with a taller screen.

A lot of games use two hands simultaneously in landscape mode. Some rely on variants of old school control pads onscreen, a dreaded solution due to the lack of tactile feedback, but common nonetheless. Other games have found their own solution to the control problem when it comes to classic game types, such as platformers, racing and sports, as well as first person shooters. All to varying degrees of success of course, but we’re getting there.

One of the major problems with gaming on the iPhone has been that the controls has to be small, otherwise you’ll end up covering most of the screen with your thumbs. A slightly wider screen will make more room for your thumbs when needed, but more importantly you’ll have more screen area that is not covered by your fingers. This should help make the games easier to play. Compare the iPhone to the iPad if you will, and see how much easier games are played on the latter. It is not a fair comparison, and the iPhone 5 won’t be on par with the iPad when it comes to room for onscreen controls, but it proves the point.

One more thing. Apple holds the iPod touch in high regard, and it is no surprise that the device got the same tall screen as the iPhone 5. This is Apple’s entry level gaming device, among other things, and I’d bet the iPod touch and its uses weighed heavily on the decision to go with a tall screen. I’d also wager that there are a lot of games being played on iPod touches… The only surprise there is that they didn’t give the iPod touch the A6 chip, but that is probably a cost issue, and since the device is fairly expensive already it might be the right way to go. They’ll sell a shitload of those colored beauties, no doubt.

The gamer in me hopes that all this means that Apple is finally starting to “get” games. I’m not betting heavily on that one just yet though, this company has a questionable past when it comes to games after all. But here’s hoping, at least.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.