Choosing a smartphone in the mobile gaming age

By Rik Snuiverink    06-Mar-2018 07:14 UTC+02:00

An estimated two billion people enjoy gaming on a variety of devices across the globe. Image: International Mobile Gaming Awards.

The smartphone revolution has been felt more strongly in South Africa than most areas in the world. While market penetration stands at around 38 percent, the vast majority of South Africa’s 21 million internet users get online using mobile devices. This only serves as further evidence that a smartphone is far more than just a phone.

Today, our phones are used for a multitude of purposes, and for a growing proportion, making telephone calls falls a long way down the list. Keeping in touch via social media, taking photos, making purchases online and surfing the internet to check everything from the latest news to the cricket scores are all examples. But there is one aspect of smartphone use that is growing like no other, and that is the gaming sector.

A nation of gamers

An estimated two billion people enjoy gaming on a variety of devices across the globe. The mobile gaming market has grown exponentially over the past five years, and given South Africa’s love of its smartphones as the platform of choice for getting online, it has been felt here as strongly as anywhere.

This means that the whole concept of gaming and gamers has changed. No longer the domain of spotty kids in their teens, it is no exaggeration to say that everyone, regardless of age, sex of social background is likely to enjoy gaming as a pastime. Online Casino South Africa has been monitoring the growth of mobile casinos in South Africa and is seeing new entrants every day to what is the archetypal adult gaming environment.

In the brave new world of 2018, where a phone is so much more than a device for simply making telephone calls, what are the aspects to consider when choosing a smartphone for gaming? And which are the most popular on the market?

Aspects to consider

  • Processor

Here, the quality of the cores is the most important thing to consider. If you are choosing an Android phone, you will need at least a quad core for trouble free gaming and a phone that can handle even the top end games without lagging.

2) RAM

Games require plenty of RAM to run smoothly, and it needs to be free. Of course, it depends on the types of games you play, but look to have at least 800MB free. That means a total 2GB of RAM as an absolute minimum.

3) Display resolution

A perfect QHD display sounds ideal for the best gaming experience, but bear in mind that it will put additional strain on the processor, so make sure all the components are aligned. A great display with a weedy processor will just lead to frustration. For a mid-range phone, 720p HD rendering should give you everything you need.

4) Battery

Intensive gaming on your smartphone will drain the battery unlike anything else. Look for 2,500 mAh as a minimum unless you want to be breaking off the action to recharge several times per day.

5) Sound

An aspect that is often overlooked, but the sound quality is an important component of the overall gaming experience. Many users find headphones awkward and uncomfortable, so check both the quality and the location of the speaker. If it is on the back of the handset, you are likely to find that your hands block the sound when you are holding the phone in landscape orientation.

A look at some of the most popular gaming phones

Apple and Samsung lead the way in the Smartphone market, but which represents the best choice for gamers? Or is there another option beside the front runners that make better sense than either of them for devotees of the mobile gaming sector?

iPhone X

The latest offering from the company that basically invented the smartphone was released to enormous fanfare last year. Visually, it is breath taking, but does it live up to the hype? The hexa-core 64 bit CPU has enough power to run the International Space Station and the display is best in class. On the not-so-great side, 3GB of RAM is only so-so by 2018 standards, and the battery could be beefier.

However, the factor that just keeps sending buyers back to Apple again and again is provenance. Devoted gamers know that the best new games will appear on the App Store before they appear anywhere else, and whatever the competitors might say, the games will be optimised first and foremost for iOS.

Samsung S8

In the eyes of most impartial reviewers, the most recent offerings from Samsung have, in most areas, eclipsed Apple. The old masters have certainly created a very special looking phone with the iPhone X, but is the S8 even better? Looking purely at the technical specifications, there is very little between them. Samsung has 4GB of RAM and a marginally better battery life, but these aspects are unlikely to make a significant difference.

Of course, the iPhone has the iOS Factor that is potentially more important to gamers than slightly lesser performance, but for most buyers, it will all come down to price. There is so little to tell the phones apart, and ultimately, the fact that the Samsung is around 15 percent cheaper will be the most telling factor of all.

Razer phone

When Razer entered the market with a phone specifically aimed at gaming, the market leaders laughed in derision and expected the new kid to be gone in an instant. Clearly, however, Razer understood the market dynamics better than most, and the new entrant is gaining a loyal following. If gaming were off-roading, this would be the HumVee to Apple’s Range Rover, and it does what it sets out to do better than the rest.

There might be little in the way of subtlety and style, but the phone has the same processor as the S8, and with 8GB of RAM and a 4,000mAh battery that lasts forever, there is a lot to like. Especially when you consider that it is a fraction of the price of the market leaders.


  1. Jay says:

    Very good and informative article, there are many smartphones which can now handle mobile gaming very efficiently. But the specs and performance of the Razer phone is incredible, this seems like the perfect gaming phone.

  2. Rob says:

    Never heard of Razer. 8GB of RAM?

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