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 IPHONE FEATURE

Why the iPhone X will be a big leap for pocket gaming [UPDATE]

The X-factor
Product: iPhone 8 | Publisher: Apple | Format: iPhone
 
Update, September 13: The iPhone X (pronounced 'ten,' not 'ex') was announced last night, as expected. Our predictions proved right on the money, but we've added a few additional thoughts and details at the end of each section.


Later on today, at 6pm UK time (10AM US PT/1PM US ET), Apple will be announcing a new iPhone. Actually, it's probably going to announce three, but we're mainly concerned with the device that will soon be known as the iPhone X.

If numerous leaks are to be believed - which they probably are - then this is going to be Apple's most expensive phone yet. Which is really saying something given that there's never been such a thing as a cheap iPhone.

We'll be rounding up the announcement itself once it happens, but in general we'll be leaving the ins and outs of the phone's various features to the specialist tech websites. What we're interested in is how the iPhone X is going to move things forward for mobile games.

Bigger, sharper, better display

The iPhone X display is set to represent the biggest leap up in quality for the range since Apple introduced the Retina Display with the iPhone 4.

It's rumoured to be a lot bigger than even the iPhone 7 Plus's screen - possibly as big as 5.8-inches. Despite this the phone itself won't by much bigger than the iPhone 7, which only has a 4.7-inch display. A big screen in a small phone should be great for gaming.

The new display will also be sharper at 2436 x 1125 compared to the iPhone 7 Plus's 1920 x 1080. It will also be far richer in colour, with Apple finally moving to the same AMOLED display technology that Samsung has been using for years.



Indeed, there have been smartphones with larger, sharper and just plain better displays for ages. The two-and-a-half year old Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge screen, for example, tops the iPhone 7 Plus in all regards.

But you see, all of those phones run on Android. As we've said time and again, the best gaming smartphone is invariably an iPhone - not because Apple's hardware or software is better than Google's/Samsung's/whoever's, but because there are simply more high quality games available on the App Store.

Update: Nothing needs adding here - the iPhone X display turned out to be precisely as predicted.

A11 Fusion CPU (actually, it's Bionic)

Apple introduces a more powerful processor with each iteration of the iPhone. That's no surprise. But they invariably prove to be the most capable mobile gaming chips on the market when they arrive.

This time reports suggest that the A11 Fusion chip will be a six-core processor with four of those given over to high-performance tasks. That's double the cores of the A10 Fusion in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which should represent a sizeable spike in performance.



In addition, the A11 Fusion looks set to be backed by 3GB of RAM, which is the same as the iPhone 7 Plus and 50 percent more than the iPhone 7. We've long since entered the nebulous realm of 'console-quality' graphics on mobile, but developers will be able to really crank things up a notch with the iPhone X.

Again, other non-Apple phones have powerful quad-core processors too. But iOS is the primary focus for every mobile game developer, so any improvement to the hardware that runs it will invariably dictate the general standard of future games.

Update: Just about the only things that was off here was the name - it's actually called the A11 Bionic - and the precise balance of its cores. There will in fact be two high-performance cores (which are 30 percent faster than the A10 Fusion equivalent) and four high-efficiency cores (which are 70 percent faster).

There are a few interesting additions though, such as Apple's second-generation performance controller, which can employ all six cores simultaneously for a 70 percent boost in multi-threaded tasks. Also, there's the first ever Apple-designed GPU, which will provide a 30 percent graphics boost over the A10.

Oh, and we don't know for sure exactly how much RAM is in the X just yet. But it's probably 3GB.


AR gaming

One of Apple's biggest pushes with iOS 11 - spearheaded by its flagship device, the iPhone X - will be augmented reality. That has massive ramifications for gaming.

At the very least we can expect current AR-enhanced games like Pokemon Go to be improved by Apple's new ARKit framework, which grants greater control over the phone's sensors to convincingly place digital objects in the real world via your iPhone's display.



But there's clearly potential for a lot more. Epic Games took to the stage back at iOS 11's big unveiling in June to show off an AR concept, which took the form of a detailed, cinematic 3D battle literally playing out on a table top.

Update: Sure enough, AR made up a major portion of Apple's iPhone announcement. The cameras in the iPhone X (as well as the iPhone 8) have been optimised for AR content, with a new gyro and accelerometer and improved accurate motion tracking.

Not only that, but the main app Apple chose to demonstrate its new hardware was The Machines, an AR-focused multiplayer strategy game that has you waging war with your friends around the same physical table.

 

Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 13 September 2017
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