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iPhone 4 & iOS 4 Look

Feature; Jun. 7, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Subtypes: Opinion
What could the new iPhone 4 and iOS 4 mean for video gaming?

Apple has finally revealed the iPhone 4 and talked a bit more about iOS 4 (formerly known as iPhone OS). Now that we have some specifications on the new iPhone, we can couple that with the known new iOS 4 features to get an idea of how these two things may impact mobile gaming.

iPhone 4

iOS 4

Multitasking

Really, there doesn't seem to be much of an impact that multitasking could have in terms of gaming on the iPhone, besides perhaps performance issues. That kind of impact has always been prevalent in PC gaming, so that's nothing new. Although there's the distinct possibility that game developers could utilize the ability to properly background an application in terms of some game mechanic. Or perhaps there's some automated thing you could have your character do in a game while backgrounded?

Wireless Keyboard Support

Think of PC gaming as it is today. Now take that keyboard and move it over to the iPhone. It's entirely possible that we could see games coming down the pike for the iPhone that have enhanced modes for users that have a bluetooth keyboard connected to their iPhones. Honestly though, why would you want to game on a screen that small with a keyboard? Just buy a real computer if that's how you want to game.

iPhone 4

Front-Facing Camera

The front-facing camera could be used by games to provide some sort of in-game video experience. I doubt this would really catch on, but you never know. Microsoft's Project Natal could provide the inspiration for iPhone developers to incorporate some motion-based elements via video. And you could combine that with the newly added...

Gyroscope

This is the feature I anticipate having a big impact on games for the iPhone. Instead of just the three-axis movement detection the prior models of the iPhone sported, adding a gyroscope gives the new iPhone six axes to detect movement. The example Steve Jobs used in his keynote was rotating his phone in place and having a Jenga-like tower rotate along with it. iPhone games have already utilized motion detection to some degree in the past, so adding a gyroscope could impact games already developed as well as impact future game development to use more motion detection.

Retina Display & Resolution

Retina Display on the new iPhone means it has a very deep resolution. A resolution so deep and dense, in fact, that the average human eye cannot detect anything with a higher resolution in terms of dots-per-inch. This means much more detailed and better-looking games than we have today. And we all know gamers don't mind having better and better looking games as the years pass.

Upgraded Hardware

Obviously the upgraded hardware will allow games to become beefier and more CPU-intensive, even at the expense of battery life. But that tradeoff has always been around. However, Apple's also included a better battery than before, so hopefully the impact of games increasingly using more resources will be offset some

Price

Price deserves a mention when we're talking about the new iPhone's impact on gaming. A new 2-year contract can net you a 16GB iPhone 4 for $199, and many current AT&T subscribers have had their upgrade eligibility bumped up by 6 months in an effort by AT&T to drive sales of the new phone. I could see some gamers opting to not upgrade or switch to an iPhone based on price, but at just under $200 for a new iPhone 4 (should you not be locked into an un-upgradeable contract), I can't see price as a limiting factor. But then again, I can't see gamers getting the iPhone 4 simply because they want to game better, I see that as a plus.

What Does This All Mean?

As far as gaming on the iPhone goes, it will continue to get better and increase in quality. We've seen this happen throughout the life of the iPhone brand from the original iPhone to the current (but not for much longer) 3GS. We can expect game developers to continue to get more serious and place more emphasis on putting out quality iPhone games, as we've seen Sega try to do lately.

However, in terms of mobile gaming in general, I think we'll see the iPhone continue to eat into the mobile gaming market that Nintendo and Sony had dominated for years before the original iPhone came out. With the new motion controls, the higher resolutions and the beefier hardware inside the new iPhone, I can see this phone being the bedrock for Apple's eventual dominance of the mobile gaming hardware space. The mobile gaming platforms put out by Nintendo and Sony just can't compete with such a large installed userbase and the multiple other functions (read: phone calls) that the iPhone can do.

It will be some time before we see the full impacts of the iPhone 4 and iOS 4 on the mobile gaming market, but I don't think Apple hit a single sour note with these 2 new items.

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