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Are gaming smartphones really necessary?




We are now seeing a rapid growth in Mobile Gaming. In fact, it is now the top platform for games, easing out PCs and consoles. With that growth, we saw the birth of a new breed of smartphones, those aimed at gaming. Although the real question is, are gaming smartphones really necessary?

How the trend started

Some would say that Razer started the trend on Android with their introduction of the Razer Phone. Although, most would argue it’s been a long time coming. Mobile gaming has enjoyed a steady growth through the years, both in revenue and fame. As we’ve said earlier, mobile gaming is now the number one platform for games.

That’s because more than half of the total gaming revenue projected this year will come from the segment. According to the Global Games Market Report by Newzoo, the games market will reach a $137.9 billion revenue this year. 51% of that projected market revenue will go to mobile gaming, which is about $70.3 billion. Although more than that, it’s because of the evolution of technology and the steady push of developers.

Steady improvements in performance

It has become a lot easier for devices to run games nowadays thanks to the steady improvements in overall performance. In the olden days, only flagships smartphones are guaranteed to give you a satisfactory experience when playing heavy and even medium games. Now, with the introduction of cheaper more powerful chipsets like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 and 700 series and MediaTek’s Helio P60, gaming is no longer restricted to high-end devices. Add that to the fact that high RAM volumes are now also accessible to low-end and mid-range devices.

So, Razer may have been the first to create a gaming smartphone but the market was already primed and calling for these devices for quite some time now. I guess what we could say is that Razer was the catalyst that catapulted the age of Gaming smartphones.

What are the advantages over high-end flagships?

Gaming smartphones are a brand of their own but what really separates them from high-end flagships? Unlike the console or PC landscape, the mobile market is a little more linear. PCs have different high-end devices, some built for heavy work, some for office convenience while some are targeted at gamers or content creators.

For mobile, there is no high-end device for content creators, or office work, or the like. It only ever has flagships or devices that sport almost the same high-end configurations no matter the manufacturer. There may be some subtle differences here and there like battery life, camera performance, or features but the core components are almost the same — Most powerful processor out in the market, highest RAM you can ever stick in it, and the most storage you can cram.

The extra features they provide

So, what are their advantages over a high-end flagship if both of them will sport just the same internals? The answer to that is the gimmicks manufacturers include in their gaming line. Believe it or not, gaming is not just about cramming the best internals the market has to offer. You also have to take in to account the comfort of your consumers and the added features you can bring to the table.

Take a look at gaming laptops for example, yes they do have the best the market has to offer but manufacturers put in a little bit more. We see laptops with insane cooling solutions, laptops with mechanical keyboards, RGB lighting, high refresh rate displays and metal bodies. All of these features and conveniences add to the overall experience of a consumer.

Not to mention some even have direct effects on performance. This is where manufacturers get the chance to separate their gaming smartphone from mainstream flagships.

Phones like the ROG Phone and Razer phone are the first to sport high refresh rate displays on a mobile device. ASUS’ monster even kicks it up a notch by providing 3D vapor-chamber cooling, side-mounted ports, additional haptic buttons, and a whole set of accessories. Xiaomi’s Black Shark comes with its own dedicated gamepad.

Even Nubia’s Red Magic has its own dedicated gaming button for the system to redirect its resources purely on games. Most of these features aren’t normally found on high-end flagships.

Is there a demand for it?

With the current landscape of mobile gaming, we can say with confidence that there is indeed a demand for gaming smartphones. Especially in the competitive scene as E-sports is now huge and widely recognized. Not only on consoles and PCs but also in mobile gaming. Take a look at Tencent’s Honor of Kings (Arena of Valor in the west), it has 200 million monthly active users in China alone.

Mobile Legends has also climbed up the ladder and has become one of the most played multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), with local and international tournaments. This is also the case with battle royale games like PUBG Mobile, Rules of Survival, and Fortnite. All of these games have a huge competitive scene.

While providing professional players with high-end devices certainly improves their gameplay experience, giving them features like extra buttons and accessories can go a long way. Battle Royale players can benefit from the haptic buttons ASUS added on their ROG Phone by providing a trigger button that replaces on-screen tapping. As well as the dedicated gamepad included with the Xiaomi Black Shark.

Those same haptic buttons can be used by MOBA players to map the most important skills of their heroes for quicker activation during clashes. High refresh rate displays also help a lot in action-filled scenes, thanks to smoother transitions and visuals.

Why do brands release it?

Did brands release these devices just to answer to Razer’s decision? In part, yes, but it’s much deeper than that. Market trends dictate what brands release, and right now there is a trend for gaming smartphones. Of course, there will always be the threat of rivals getting ahead of the competition.

That’s why we saw a lot of gaming smartphones pop-up right after Razer entered the fray. No matter how half-baked or incomplete some of them were. Although with a deeper understanding of the market, brands have seen that mobile gaming is on the rise.

Gaming smartphones aren’t exactly new. If you recall, most manufacturers have already branded some of their devices as “gaming smartphones”. What really changed is that there is now a need for dedicated hardware and software. Not just a mere improvement in overall performance but an introduction of gaming-centric features.

Plus, if you are a gaming brand, like ROG and Razer, you are bound to be asked by consumers to release gaming gear. Yet the simplest answer to this is that there is a demand for it and a market big enough to introduce it to.

Should you get one?

The biggest question of them all. Yes, while there is a demand for gaming smartphones and they have their advantages over mainstream flagships, should you be lining up for one? The answer to this is once again double-sided. If you are a true hardcore dedicated mobile gamer or gamer in general, then the prospect of finally having features like high refresh rate displays and vapor-chamber cooling on your mobile device is enticing.

It can even become a necessity for professional gamers because of the sheer number of convenient features these devices can bring. If you’re more of a casual gamer or consumer though, then it’s a different story. Do note that gaming smartphones have one goal — to provide the best experience for gamers which means that most of its features will be purely dedicated to gaming. If you’re a consumer that’s looking for a more complete package like a simple UI and amazing cameras, then gaming smartphones may not be an option for you.

For sure you will see top-of-the-line specs on a gaming smartphone like the best display, processor, battery life, and optimizations but for the added price it may not be worth it if you’ll just sit all day and watch videos or post selfies. Remember, with these added features comes bigger costs. So, if you’re looking for what the best the market has to offer but won’t be gaming, then mainstream flagships are your go-to.

Really, the simplest answer to this is — are you the target market of gaming smartphones? If yes then be our guest, enjoy the additional features it will bring. If not, then just stay away from the added costs of things you won’t be taking advantage of.

Are they truly necessary?

With all that, it now begs the question, are they truly necessary? For the brands and its target market, it is. There is big potential in creating gaming smartphones, especially now that it’s only just beginning. The gaming ecosystem is a large and profitable one, which can only serve to benefit brands. Though gamers also stand to benefit as brands will surely compete with one another, and market competition is always a win for consumers.

This will also pave a way for smartphones to take a different more advanced route. After all, gaming demands only the best the market has to offer.



Zen Estacio is a Multimedia Producer for YugaTech. He is the team's laptop guru and one of their resident gamers. He has a monthly column compiling the latest and greatest the Nintendo Switch has to offer. Aside from that, he regularly writes gaming news, reviews, and impressions. You can hit him up at @papanZEN

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4 Responses

  1. cruizer says:

    Gaming smartphones are just like the “porsche edition” or “lamborghini edition” phones done by other brands. They just make it a premium product, in the hopes of raising the average selling price of their phones and making more profit from it.

    • zzee says:

      not definitely. i was once in your logic pov. but since the birth of high demanding games, series of my phones,even 2 flagships 820 and 821, cant keep up with the tasks. i know these two socs are outdated but it goes same with 835 ( co-worker’s phone). we experience overheating, throttling, frame drops and it negates comfort during prolong gaming. and yes, its a necessity for me and me alike. if you just a go for casual game and selfies, then gaming phone will be just a lambo for you

  2. Ren says:

    oh well, i used to have a tegra note for gaming, eventually, some games no longer support the device. i would rather have nintendo switch for full mobile experience. same thing as having a separate camera and not relying too much on smartphones for photography.

  3. Meow says:

    Same concept with the gaming label on pc parts like motherboard or peripherals like headsets, or keyboards with the ‘gaming’ branding. They’re basically the same with their non-gaming counterparts, except with added extra features that mostly have a little effect in performance and maybe ‘gaming color’.

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