I Played Games With An iPhone 5s And Now I Want One. Goddammit.

This isn't a review with. In fact it's not a review at all. You can go to Gizmodo for that. This, for me, is about the answer to one simple question: if I want to play video games on my mobile phone, should I stick with Apple and the iPhone or should I make the move to Android?

For people who like video games, the iPhone/Android question is a complicated one. Most of us don't buy mobile phones to play games specifically, but gaming has become such a massive part of the smart phone experience that it has to play a part in purchasing decisions.

Full disclosure: I've been rocking iPhones since the 3GS. I currently own a 4S. Recently I had my first experience with Android when I picked up a Nexus 7 -- for my money the best small tablet on the market. I was blown away. Until that point the world of widgets, customisation and gosh darn flexibility was completely inaccessible to me. Building and creating my own home pages was a revelation. The ability to easily transfer and watch practically any kind of video content was mind blowing. Reading Manga, reading books, organising my life. Everything felt easier on Android. Far easier than I could have expected.

And yes -- I even played video games.

Mainly Rayman: Jungle Run on my Nexus and a metric buttload of Ski Safari. They both looked incredible on Nexus 7's top notch screen, so I felt happy with the whole situation. Until I had a quick conversation with a developer (who I will not name) regarding the upcoming release of his mobile game.

"I just downloaded your game on my Nexus 7, going to give it a bash."

"Oh, you don't have an iPad?"

"Nah, the Nexus destroys the iPad."

"Well, we don't really like Android that much."


"Yeah, we had to remove a bunch of details from the Android version..."


I'd always just assumed that the prioritising of iOS development was purely an economical decision. Yes there are more Android phones on the market than iPhones, but the App Store and the closed nature of that marketplace makes iPhone development far more commercially viable than Android development. Particularly for bigger studios. But here I was being told that Apple's mobile products were typically better for video games from a technological stand point.

I found this a little bothersome. If I wanted to play mobile games first (and at their optimum) I would have to go with Apple. I'd have to sacrifice my new found freedom, my widgets, my sweet layouts, mX Player, all my Manga Readers. Sure I could jailbreak my iPhone, but I don't want to.

So now it's time for me to upgrade my mobile phone. A couple of weeks back I had all but committed to picking up a HTC One. Now I'm holding an iPhone 5s in my hand and I'm swaying. iOS7 looks great. It seems like the most significant upgrade since... well, forever I'd argue. My fancy customised Nexus 7 home screen looks better, but this is... and improvement. It's the significant improvement I'd been waiting years for. When the iPhone 5 came out I rolled my eyes. No matter how powerful it was under the hood it still looked and felt old fashioned. This new update cranks the experience up a notch.

Willpower fading.

I'd been sensing a momentum shift. Great phones like the Samsung S4, the Nexus 4 and the HTC One were seeping into public consciousness. It seemed like more and more people were making that shift. Part of me hoped that might allow for more game developers to prioritise Android over iOS, but this new 5s? It's nice and shiny. It smashes all its competitors in most benchmarks. I think I'm about to make the wrong decision here.

I think I am about to become part of the problem.


    I'm goin to get a 5s today after work but I've never really considered iphones a piece of tech for gaming.

    Maybe today that mentality will change.
    I have had a smashed screen for the last 3 months so even booting up the one game I had, carmageddon, became annoying and depressing. Also my battery dies in such a tiny amount of time.

    Did you see how the battery goes on these 5s'?

    Last edited 20/09/13 11:09 am

      carmageddon is so great! I played it on my 1st gen galaxy tab the other day. I expected it to not even be compatible based on the games I have seen that aren't, but it runs like a dream! so impressed!

      Good point. 64 bit gaming is going to be short session gaming.

      How about something like a Note 3. Heaps of screen real estate, massive battery, and tons of ram. Seems like a much better choice for gaming.

    I want to upgrade my 5 to a 5s - I'm really liking the new iOs.

      If it is just the OS you are after, just run a software update. The iPhone 5 can run iOS 7.

      I'm running it right now.

        Nah it wasn't just that - but the iOS is great - really like the new look. Apparently the 5s is 2,5x faster or something - but it's all good. I thought my contract was up - but it's not till next year, probably around Iphone 6 release.

      Just download it...?

    I have an Iphone 4s. It's my first and last Iphone. I want to go andriod and I will. I hate Itunes with a passion, hate it even more with my ipod (I got the ipod for free).
    Now don't see me as a fanboy for another company, I gave apple a go and hated it.

    “Yeah, we had to remove a bunch of details from the Android version…”


    This is why I own an iPad and not a Galaxy Tab or an Asus Transformer. It's not about the hardware, specs, openness of the OS etc.. it's about the available apps for it. Admittedly there are some great Android apps that kill the iOS or are simply not possible with an unJailbroken iOS device.. but for the things I use are pretty much all better on iOS.

    There's this one particular application, which is a Sleep assistance app (Pzziz Sleep, I think) and on the iOS it has a fully voiced intro with randomly generated music/ambient track that plays etc. On Android (I got it for my phone, thinking it would be the same quality), it's like a totally different app made by a totally different company. There is a lot less randomness, the voice side of things is not as high quality and basically the ambient stuff sucks big time. If I had originally got it on Android, I would have definitely just deleted it and forgot about it... a bit waste of time. However, knowing how good it was on iOS, I reached out to the developers and it was the same basic reply: In order to be compatible with all versions of Android and all types of handset, they had to remove a lot of stuff and so on.

    Really.. until you see the differences first-hand, you really can't understand the differences between the two ecologies. Again.. there are some great apps on Android but a lot of time corners are purposefully cut off to smooth out the edges of apps and in some cases, like above, the guts are completely removed for the sake of compatibility.

      This is a developer laziness problem. Why do the guts have to be completely removed for the sake of compatibility? How about just entering the code that checks the compatibility, and if it's not compatible, don't do it; If it is, go ahead. That's how it's done on iOS as well...

      As an Android owner, it's incredibly frustrating...

        Especially when you see games like Rayman Jungle Run actually ADDING content over the iOS versions...

        It seems it's becoming less likely the Android version gets shafted and more and more titles are more or less identical and sometimes even surpassing the iOS versions now, but it's still occuring and yeah it's frustrating. Developer laziness indeed.

        This whole 2 new iPhones thing is going to start creating these very issues in iOS now if they haven't been already. What if games work with the 5S but not the 5C? Oh dear...

        Oh totally.. it's an issue that the developer has "chosen" to address by removing functionality rather than spending extra time and money to make it work on all relevant platforms.. but at the end of the day, I chose iOS because of this.. whether it's iOS/Android's fault or the fault of the developer.. the result is the same.

    Not so sure you are gonna be part of the problem, but you definitely wont be part of the solution.

    Why dont you tell your devloper friend to pull his head out of his arse and embrace the dominant platform.

      Android Fragmentation. Heard of it? That's the problem.


      Essentially it means that if a developer wants to ensure the same performance and experience on EVERY Android device, they would effectively need to develop for and test every single device. While with iOS.. there's only a handful devices and they all conform to a strict set of hardware and software constraints.

        Yeah, it's really hard to code for different screen sizes.
        The icon has to be 20% of the screen is so hard. It's much easier when you can just make it 100pixels. Unless you have an older phone then it's 80pixels unless you have an ipad then its 300 pixels unless you have an old ipad then its 150 pixels unless you have an ipad mini then its 90 pixels. Don't forget ipods.

    I was an iPhone guy through iPhone 3 & iPhone 4, got a Samsung Galaxy 3 after them and I don't want to turn back ever. I still have an iPad and all I use that for is a media player and comic book reader, everything else is on the Galaxy.

    Stick with Android Mark, do not be fooled with the iOS7 flashy looks.

      Oddly enough, I am same situation, different outcome. Had an ipd touch, then we got an ipad (Not mine specifically, though), then got an iphone, then my own ipad 3, and decided when my phone came up to try an android device so got a Galaxy S3.

      Overall, I just don't like it. I gather that Samsungs interface is a bit crap, but I can't even opt for cyanogenmod, as they use some odd chipset in AU S3's that is not, and now apparently will not, be supported. And I just find it really frustrating to use overall, everything seems way more complex. than it needs to be, and remarkably hard to change things compared to what I've heard people raving about in Android. It felt like 'You CAN change a lot, but you have to work hard for it', and I got over that crap when I gave up figuring X video drivers and such out back in the 90's.

      But in fairness, I also moved most of my usage off-phone to the much bigger screened iPad, so maybe I would have more luck going with a tablet sized thing, where I'd have more impetus to really work for it, but the reality is there's not much I have run into on the ipad that I can't do. The biggest thing would, I guess, being able to handle more media files, but even that isn't a huge deal and easily gotten over with Plex. I don't even bother jailbreaking anymore because it just doesn't do anything I want.

      In short, use what you like. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and neither side is either 'the problem' or 'the solution'. There's only 'what fits my needs' and that is, ultimately, highly personal. So over the phone wars, but at least they buried (mostly) the browser wars, the OS wars, the console wars, the soda wars.. OK, so not really. We will always pair off into sides and start fighting. Because humanity sucks, basically. >

    I agree with you mark, I am depressingly impressed with iOS7 I bricked my android so using a spare 4s till its fixed and they are pretty bloody good! iOS7 feels like all the things which made android different (other than open market and choice) is not in the software

    and I feel so dirty admitting that!

    Battery might still be a problem, it's great having all those games on the iPhone but it's useless unless you have a reasonable amount of charge.

    Do what I did, buy an iPad for the games (and Game Centre, how I love Game Centre!) and stick with Android for your phone.

    Yeah there's a lot of developers seem to dislike Android because of the complexity in coding for 60 different handsets (compared to the iPhone's 3-4 currently in rotation). Latest example: the iFruit app.

    But if they want to be like that, fine. I just won't play their games.

    EDIT: Actually, no. I'm a lot more pissed off about this than what I wrote. I don't want an apple product. 4/5 people I know HAVE AN ANDROID. Sort your shit out and make a decent game on both OS, or expect no sympathy from me when your studio closes shop!

    I don't care if I'm being self-righteous this shit pisses me off!! RAH!

    Last edited 20/09/13 11:45 am

    I run an iPhone 4 for personal use and my work gave me a Galaxy 3 when they came out. Was considering upgrading my personal phone to HTC one. Spent a bit of time playing with an HTC One at work that one of my co-workers has...quite enjoyed the experience. She is not too keen on it though, pointed out a few issues she has had. Was all set to get an HTC One...downloaded ios7 for my iphone4 yesterday.......loving it.....iPhone5S has swept in and will be my next phone. Dang.

    I use android for my phone because for example being able to download a music file from the net to my phone and then manually editing the metadata and album art all on the phone is amazing.
    But I still have an iPad for all my iOS games. My iPad 2 has lasted me for over 4 years and its been great. Gunna get an iPad mini at the end of the year when the retina ones come out and I'm expecting it to last just as long because you don't have to update a tablet anywhere near as much as your phone.

    And besides, playing everything on a bigger screen is great.

    Last edited 20/09/13 12:16 pm

    I'ce never had high expectations for phones and their os's.

    But ios7 on my smashed up 4s is making me think that in the past, I should have had them. This os is doing everything right.

    Lumia 1020 4 LYYYYYYFFFE!!! *takes awesome photo, runs away*

    nothing beats playing games on a 4" screen!

    But I want those details!!! Whatever they are....

    I love how my DualShock3 works with my Sony Xperia Z (and other Androids) but wish there were more free games that supported DS3.

    I never quite bought this whole Android / iOS exclusivity bit. A good programmer can write an app that is relatively easy to port over.

    Right now I'm making a game in XNA / VB.NET (as a learning exercise), and the code is broken up into rather generalised classes, so at any time, I can substitute XNA for another rendering engine, and all I need to do is change the drawing and input classes (the latter contains one engine-specific function to read the keys, the rest is engine-independent) and my game should work all right.

    Changing language (e.g. Java -> Objective-C) is a more difficult, but doable if your code is easy to read and copy over to the new language.

    And I appreciate that as games more and more complex, they're harder to port (hence no PC version of GTA: V at launch?), but you shouldn't be writing code that excludes yourself from porting to other platforms, or even languages.

    I have a Samsung note 8. I got it specifically for the screen quality, the hardware specs and the S Pen stylus.

    Last week I finished Dune 2 using the stylus as an intuitive and easy control system. I also have Warcraft 2 kicking well on it, and a Joystick emulator and a $6 dongle thingy that lets me use any usb device - so an xBox controller - and was playing Rock'N'Roll racing with my brother over a weekend (Yes - with a second controller).

    It also works very well for ScummVM games, and we haven't even gotten to any native Apps yet.

    I would recommend and buy this thing again in a heart-beat if all you want to do is game on a mobile device


    when i was making the choice between android and ios at the launch of the iphone 4, this was one of the deciding factors.
    then i realised that i actually use my phone for gaming A LOT less than i expected. plus i only like mobliles for the simple quick to play games that really dont require quad core cpu's and console quality gpu's

    for those games i still want to play them at home on my console or pc.

    for that reason i am still using my iphone 4. but i will need to update eventually and it sure as hell wont be for a $1000 phone

    This is why I'm getting the 5s.
    It's not just games either, the iOS version of an app is always released first and has more features, at least that's true for the major developers.
    Also there are no good games exclusive to android, but there are a ton on iOS.

    The HTC One is halfway through its cycle, the S4 around that too. The Nexus 4 is about to get its imminent refresh, I wouldn't purchase any of these right now. The iPhone 5S looks great and as long as you carry the Nexus 7, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. I certainly do, with my iPad + HTC One combo.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now