Do we really need Gaming smartphones?!

Samir Abdalla
15 min readMay 5, 2022


Asus ROG Phone 5 — Image Source: wifihifi

Have you noticed in the recent years the rise of a new smartphone segment? The gaming phone or the gaming segment smartphone.

For the longest time in the history of the phone we had numerus segments or verities of the phone, starting with the normal entry level phone to the flip phone to the full QWERTY keyboard phone, and after that we were introduced to a new kind of phone which is the smartphone, which what makes it different than the regular phone, is that it was able to do stuff that the normal phone couldn’t do it, stuff that we are so much depended on it now, such as emails, sending it and receiving it, it was a feature that the normal phone couldn’t do it, also the camera the normal phone had a regular or an okay camera, unlike the recent smartphones which has cameras that can rival the DSLR cameras in some ways, not to mention the high speed data transfer and the big bandwidth, with the 3G, LTE and later 5G connection, all makes it the fastest handheld device for surfing the web, streaming videos and music and also regular downloading.

Who would have thought that one day phones would evolve into this point, and I think that Apple was the manufacturer that pushed the smartphone to a more evolutionary point, to a point no other manufacturer have ever thought of reaching.

But before all that we had gaming phones, can you believe it? Nokia was one of the first manufacturers that tried to enter the gaming segment, in fact Nokia entered the gaming segment for almost 5 years before the iPhone even got announced, and I know a lot of the older readers just remembered a phone that was introduced by Nokia as a gaming phone and that was the N-Gage.

Nokia N-Gage — Image Source: Gizmochina

I’m one of the people who witnessed the N-Gage phone with it’s design, I thought it’s one of the coolest devices ever, even the name of the phone was cool, N-Gage, resembles the word Engage but in a cooler way.

Nokia entered the entered the gaming segment, or perhaps we can say that they have created the segment with the release of the N-Gage in 2003, which was a wild move from Nokia, but at the time Nokia was the best smartphone manufacturer in the world, beating Motorola which was the company that created the mobile phone, at that time, Nokia had 35.7% of the mobile market share, which was a huge deal back then (weird how things change right?!). Nokia was doing super great with phones that made it a very good profitable company that can invest in newer and in this case (weird) phones, hence the N-Gage.

The N-Gage was in a way created by Nokia to compete with the Nintendo GameBoy Advance, which was one of the hottest handheld gaming devices at the time (and till this time), so the idea was that to create a phone that has all the features of gaming handheld device but at it’s core is a phone, and in a way that was really good thinking, but even with that Nokia couldn’t take on Nintendo with their new device, but the phone had somewhat basic specs for now, but back then it was great, it didn’t had 3G connection, it had a TFT 2.1 inch display, a 3.4MB internal storage with external storage support, it didn’t had camera, Wi-Fi or GPS and it had an 850mAH battery, which wasn’t all that good for a phone that was intend for gaming, but with all that features, and with the main feature (being a phone) it didn’t give Nokia the edge that it needed to beat the Nintendo Gameboy Advance, and even after the release of the upgraded version, the N-Gage QD, it wasn’t enough and at the end Nokia canceled the series, with transforming the N-Gage brand into software after a while.

Nokia N-Gage QD — Image Source: MobileNet

Oh I forgot to tell you that at that time Sony announced their famous PSP handheld gaming device, and it was way serious competitor for the Nintendo GameBoy Advance than the Nokia N-Gage, although it wasn’t a phone (it was better, a handheld PlayStation) but it was one of the many reasons that the N-Gage flunked out, and with that the first try to a gaming phone ended up with failure.

After that no one else tried to produce a gaming phone, but what happened after that was like Nokia Going down from their (crown) place in the market share for Samsung who raised up with phones that used the new OS from Google, which as you all know that it was the Android, not to mention, the iPhone was going strong at that time, with Windows Phone in the third place behind Android and iOS.

Of course at that time with the rise of the two main operating systems, the Android and iOS, we’ve seen a rise on the apps department of the two operating systems, and also that was one of the reasons that Nokia was losing it’s place on the market share and that because the lack of apps. With the rise of the apps, there was also a rise on games on the two main operating systems, with games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds, gaming on the these two OS’s reached a whole new level, these games were fun, they were intuitive and with the rise of the number of the developers in both systems, we’ve seen a big rise on the number of games in both systems, with that in mind, till this point on one thought of making a gaming phone, till Sony thought of doing that in 2011.

Although Sony right now doesn’t have much present as it used to back in the day, they were one of the companies that tried to enter the gaming smartphone segment, and why wouldn’t they, after all they are the biggest manufacture in the world of gaming, their PlayStation 2 holds the title of the most sold gaming console in history, I own 3 consoles from Sony, actually I’m a big phone of the PlayStation console, and I’ planning on buying PlayStation 5 in the near future, so it’s not weird for them at all to enter the gaming smartphone market.

Before all that Sony was in partnership with Ericson and they produced a very good amount of phones, next they went all alone, and they used Android as their main operating system, which before it, they used Symbian S60 from Nokia, but of course we all know what happened to Symbian, so they entered the Android market, and I think they’ve done well for themselves, they couldn’t compete with Samsung but they did well on their own.

At one time Sony were the only company that produced a flagship smartphone every 6 months, but before that in 2011 they’ve released the Sony Ericson Xperia Play (a gaming smartphone).

Sony Ericsson Play — Image Source: Pocket-Lint

When you look at the phone for the first time, you’d think that it’s a regular Sony phone, it has the same appearance of a regular Sony smartphone, but wait until you slid it from the left side, revealing what looks like a gaming dual shock pad mounted inside the phone, everyone who played with a PlayStation and used a DualShock would remember this configuration under the display of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, with the D-Pad, Select and Start buttons, and the (X-Circle-Square-Triangle) buttons, it really is the truly PlayStation gaming experience on a smartphone.

This phone had a respectful specs for it’s time, a 4.0 display which was an LCD with poor viewing angles, a Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 coupled with 512MB of RAM and 400MB of internal storage, and at the back there was a 5MP auto focus camera. Okay it’s not the best specs, even for 2011, it doesn’t seem that it had a huge specs, especially in the storage department, which is considered small for a phone that was made specifically for gaming, and that was the case, as this phone only supported PlayStation 1 games, yeah that’s right, it only supported PS1 games, which wasn’t totally that weird, as with these specs, it’s hard to imagine it running any better games, but it was a start in the right direction, as this phone proved to be a better choice than the Nokia N-Gage years back, but from my personal opinion, I feel that this is the time that Sony should revive the Sony Xperia Play, as with the raising popularity of the games on smartphones it would be a good competitor to other phones, I hope Sony would do that.

One of the weird things in the smartphone industry, is that since the Sony Ericson Xperia launched in 2011, no other company took a shot in making a gaming smartphone, which is kind of strange, especially with the continuous evolution of the Android and iOS systems and the rise of the number games on mobile.

Fast forward to 2017, a new company in the smartphone market, tried to enter the gaming smartphone segment, this company entered this market on the basis that it’s already a well-established manufacturer in the gaming industry, but on the gaming PC side, if you didn’t recognize that company, well this company is Razer.

Razer is company that started in the late 90’s, this company at first focused on making peripherals for gaming PC’s, as they started with mice, and with that they were doing great they expanded their manufacturing to include gaming keyboards, headsets and eventually, they announced their first gaming laptop, Razer Blade in 2011, and from that time Razer, made a name for itself in the gaming community, so I think it’s not that weird that they tried with a gaming phone in 2017, seeing the opportunity here as the gaming segment of the smartphone market, was empty from options to pick from, aside of course from the iPhone which is not considered particularly a gaming phone.

So in 2017 the Razer phone was announced by Razer but with the biggest feature ever, which is the boost in the refresh rate. So in the gaming community, there are some stuff the gamers care about the most, the CPU, the GPU, the bigger RAM, SSD and on the display the Refresh Rate, which translates to the speed of the frames that go through per second, the more refresh rate you have the smoother the experience, and so Razer as a gaming hardware manufacturer company understood that, and in 2017 the introduced the world’s first smartphone with a 120Hz refresh rate, which was one of the most amazing things ever, but other than that it didn’t have any other special features that cemented in the word Gaming Phone.

Razer Phone — Image Source: The Verge

This phone had a boxy design, which I think made it refreshing to see in a world of rounded designed phones, at the front it had the best front dual stereo speakers in a phone ever with a 5.7 QHD display protected with Gorilla Glass 3 and an 8MP selfie camera. Inside you would get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset coupled with 8GB of RAM and only 64GB of internal storage, which at that time this was at the top of the spectrum, and don’t forget this was like 5 years ago, having an 8GB of RAM on a phone is really a blessing. It was also shipped with android 7 Nougat out of the box, and in terms of the cameras on the back, you got a dual 12MP sensors cameras with the support for 4K video shooting.

From my opinion this phone had a special case, and that is when you look at the design of it, you’ll notice although it comes from a famous gaming hardware manufacturer, and it was offered to the gaming segment, it doesn’t has what we can say gaming design elements, not only that but other than the 120Hz refresh rate, it doesn’t has any other perk of the gaming perks that gamers endure so much, so it’s a regular phone that happens to be also a gaming phone, maybe you can say a Sleeper Phone (a term that is used mostly on cars, which depicts the cars that has totally a normal car design, but inside has the potential of a race car or a track focused car).

2018: The Start of the Great Age of Gaming smartphones

Image Source: Tech Advisor

In 2018 the bubble of the gaming smartphone segment just exploded as many companies entered this segment at the same times with different variations of gaming smartphones.

Companies like Xiaomi, ZTE and ASUS that produce’s smartphones for a long time, all introduced a gaming smartphone at this year in particular, it’s really weird how this works, as the year before it, there was only the Razer Phone, which was considered the only gaming smartphone.

But in 2018 we were greeted with a lot of gaming smartphones starting with the Xiaomi Black Shark (yes that’s right you read Xiaomi), which was unexpected the year before it that one of the manufacturers that produces top smartphones in the world would try to enter the gaming smartphone segment, and with a name that I think is cool (in fact I prefer this name over the other names that are used by other manufacturers in this segment).

Xiaomi Black Shark — Image Source: Android Authority

So Xiaomi being a company that is still considered new to the smartphone industry, and the top competitor to the famous Huawei, produced the Black Shark, and unlike Razer, Xiaomi did everything that it could do to prove that this phone is a gaming phone, as when you look at the Razer Phone, with it’s normal design, you wouldn’t know that it’s a phone that was intend for the gaming market, but not here, everything about the Black Shark screams Gaming.

It’s made with a metal back and a metal frame, which suits a well-rounded gaming phone, with a 6 inches IPS LCD display, but the weird that it doesn’t support any higher refresh rate, which is a bummer considering that it’s a gaming phone, it had a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 coupled with 6\8GB of RAM and 64\128GB of internal storage which was at the top of the tier in the past, it also had a dual sensor cameras on the back 12MP and 20MP and it had a 20MP selfie camera. It had dual speakers but it wasn’t at the same level as the Razer Phone, and it had USB Type C which was really good back in the day.

But when the Black Shark lacked the 120Hz refresh rate, it compensated with a gamepad accessory that was optional to get with the phone, which made the experience even better while gaming on the phone, and that wasn’t just it, this phone had a water-cooling system for processor, something that was like super great for a phone that was meant for gaming.

But the next phone that was announced was from a company that wasn’t known very often, heck I don’t even know anyone who used a phone from that brand and that brand is ZTE, if you don’t know this company very well, I don’t blame you, I too don’t know a lot of phones from this company and I’m tech geek. ZTE is better known as a telecommunications company, in fact it’s the top competitor of Huawei as they also produce 5G equipment for carriers, and in a way from them to try and compete even further with Huawei, they’ve established their smartphone department, but till now they haven’t been doing very well and they did launch a gaming phone can you believe that, I introduce to you the ZTE nubia Red Magic.

ZTE nubia Red Magic — Image Source: Gadgets Now

I think that the ZTE nubia Red Magic has one of the most streamlined designs on a gaming smartphone, as they struck something between minimal and aggressive design, which is something that the Black Shark doesn’t have. At the back it has a single 24MP camera with a flash and an RGB strip from the fingerprint scanner to the end of the phone downwards, which is something that is considered very enthusiastic in the gaming community, it lights with different colors, something that gives the gaming experience a little touch and it can be used as a notification light.

The phones uses a Qualcomm snapdragon 835 coupled with 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage which was the top of the line. At the front it had a 6 inches FHD+ IPS LCD display and an 8MP selfie shooter. But the downside of this device is that it used a 3800mAH battery which is considered small for a smartphone that was built for gaming.

Next we got the Asus ROG Phone, and I think for all my gaming readers, ROG is a well-known brand in the gaming community. It is the brand that build and produce gaming techs from Asus, it’s considered a top competitor to Razor, Legion from Lenovo, Predator from Acer and Alienwere from Dell etc.

Asus ROG Phone — Image Source: CNET

Being one of the famous gaming manufactures, they thought why not to make a gaming smartphone, and in 2018 they did announce the Asus ROG Phone, coupled with Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 512GB of internal storage. It has a 6 inch AMOLED FHD+ display with 90Hz refresh rate, which is really good, as these specs makes it, one of the best gaming smartphones from 2018. It has a dual sensor camera 12MP and 8MP on the back and 8MP selfie camera on the front. And it has a 4000mAH battery which supports 20 Watt fast charging.

In terms of the design Asus is not shy of showing what a gaming smartphone would like, it looks aggressive with all weird shape of the cameras on the back and the fingerprint scanner, and also with the logo of the ROG brand which lights up with a red color, shouting (I’m a Gaming Smartphone), and the also added front dual speakers which enhances the experience even more.

And now to the last gaming smartphone from that year which was the Razer Phone 2, which was the successor to the Razer Phone from the year before it, the phone supported almost the same design language with a small changes with the back of the phone, as it’s now totally glass with the cameras on the middle, but other than that, it’s still the same device, but not internally, as it comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 coupled with 8GB of RAM again and 64GB of internal storage, they have increased the brightness a little bit which was an improvement from it’s predecessor and they dust/water proofed it, of course the Razer Phone series was famous for their stereo speakers but with the dust/water proofing they went a little bit on the low side, but they still great.

Razer Phone 2 — Image Source: Variety

The phones still boosts the 5.7 inches FHD+ IPS LCD with a 120Hz refresh rate, which is still the considered the highest on any smartphone for the second year, which makes it the smoothest display on a smartphone period. But with the change on the design material, Razer tried to make this phone more oriented to the media fans and the same times for the gaming community, that’s why it’s still has the most un-gaming deign on a gaming smartphone ever, with nothing aggressive on it’s design.

Gaming Smartphones: A Segment on the Rise Exponentially

Image Source: Pinterest

Since 2018 the gaming segment of smartphones really took off, to the point that now almost all famous brands on the smartphone industry now produce gaming smartphones, like Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo and Asus, all these brands produce gaming smartphones every year, and their phones are getting better and better with every year. So the main Question of the article, do we really need gaming oriented smartphones?

Well, Yes and No, actually that depends on you, do you consider yourself a gaming enthusiast who is into gaming on a smartphone then this smartphones are for you.

But if you want my personal opinion, I think that this segment are going to be expanded more and more with new additions from other brands, and the reason for that, is that games on smartphones are getting better and better, with a lot of famous titles getting versions that support Android and iOS, so I think that the Gaming Smartphone Segment are only going to get more smartphones and more famous games titles, which is good thing I think for a lot of people who love gaming on their smartphones and enjoy it very much, and don’t forget that even Apple created a subscription for its users to enjoy all their games, as they have to pay a fee to play all the games and join the gaming community on iOS, which proves that the gaming segment is not going to get only bigger and bigger.



Samir Abdalla

An Engineer, Writer and a Podcaster, with super huge passion for technology aiming to become a huge technology influencer in my home country Sudan