Last year, some notable "gaming phones" hit the mobile market. But any phone can play games, right? So, what's up?
We see an interesting shift here. Smartphones have become a popular platform for games because it's easy to play games on them. In the 80s and most 90s, PCs were more akin to "game machines" than the game consoles. PC gamers were so excited that special parts ̵
Mobile games have crossed this threshold, perhaps even faster, because today's smartphone is the main focus of most people's digital interaction. But what makes a "gaming phone" different from a more conventional model, especially as top-of-the-line iPhones and Android phones already use the most powerful hardware? The answer is a series of small but sometimes decisive design decisions.
Bigger, Faster Monitors
Since the touchscreen is almost the only interaction point for mobile games, it makes sense that gamers want to have that screen as big as possible. In fact, most new gaming phones have screens more than 15 cm in diagonal, making them one of the largest on the market. ASUS has its ROG (Republic of Gamers) phone, Xiaomi has a black shark measuring just six inches, and Huawei Honor Play measures 6.3 inches. In this area, Razers self-titled Phone and Phone 2 are almost small at just 5.7 inches.
The display has another element that makes a gaming phone stand out from the competition: the refresh rate. Most phone screens use a refresh rate of 60 Hz, the same standard used on most monitors and televisions. But just like the larger screens, a faster refresh rate means you can see more pictures per second. Razer's signature feature is a 120Hz LCD screen. The Asus ROG Phone works at 90 Hz, as does the lesser known Nubia (ZTE) Red Magic 3. To be fair, this feature occurs on more conventional high-end phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro.
Most current mobile games expect a standard performance of 60 frames per second, so the difference may not be noticeable. However, Razer and Huawei are working with mobile game developers to improve the compatibility of games with these fast screens.
Of course, sound is almost as important for video games as it is for video games. As established phone manufacturers continue to reduce mono speakers to make their products even slimmer and dimmer, gaming phone manufacturers want them to be big, clear and loud. Most of the models currently on the market are equipped with two stereo speakers – the Razer Phone has particularly highlighted front blasters.
Fast processors, lots of RAM
To increase performance, gaming phones are equipped with latest generation processors of memory. Again, this is not much different from flagship phones, and many of them use the same Qualcomm processors. Gaming phones, however, often tune them differently, sacrificing battery life and efficiency for sheer speed. In this way, they can also provide custom cooling solutions for the extra heat, including liquid / vapor chambers or external coolers.
Of course, a lot of speed and heat means …
Mobile gaming is quite difficult for a battery. A 3D game is the most exhausting program you can use, except for a benchmark test (which happens to involve gamers). With a fast processor, a large, bright and refreshing screen and powerful stereo speakers, you have a cell phone that sucks juice like a hummingbird full of LEDs.
From the Razer Phone 2, the ROG phone, Huawei Honor Play and Xiaomi Black Shark 2 have no battery that is less than 3500 mAh. (Compare that with the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max with just under 3200 mAh). The Razer Phone 2 and the ROG Phone initially have a generous 4000 mAh. That's enough for a few days of charging – at least it would be if the user is not constantly playing Fortnite. Optional add-ons that take us to the next step in cellphone gaming via their rather downtrodden brothers: Hardware Extras and Accessories. Gamers love extra things to play games with, and phones are no exception. ASUS has it all: The ROG Phone features the above cooler, a desktop docking station for playing games and apps on a monitor, and even a full second screen to turn it into something like a powerful Nintendo DS. All this in addition to the unique dual charging port (which is easier to play in landscape mode) and the "air triggers" that simulate the feel of controller shoulder buttons.
Xiaomi's Black Shark and Black Shark 2 have two optional Bluetooth controllers reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch. Razer will sell you a frighteningly expensive controller designed just for his Razer Phone, and Motorola is still trying to develop its moto-mods with the admittedly very appealing controller add-on.
And that's exactly right with your phone. ASUS and Razer both have RGB lighting for their phones – that's LED backlight on the phone, not the screen.
Granted, it's not as if other phones have no add-ons. Apple's first-party accessory is pretty fancy, just like Samsung's. For those who want a customized gaming experience for mobile phones, gaming phones are just the ticket. This is especially important for Android users who can not always rely on the sufficient interest in their respective model for a good range of accessories.
So that's the hardware – what about the software?
In addition, to improve the performance of the processor and memory, many game phone manufacturers are also optimizing their software. Razer has been widely recognized for his hands-on approach to Android modifications – the mobile equivalent of a "clean" build of Windows. The few software add-ons – such as a gallery of highlighted Android apps and a management app for RGB lighting – do not affect the smooth operation of the operating system and the most frequent updates.
Razer's competitors are not quite as dedicated to a pure Android experience, but most of them offer a kind of game mode with a gentle boost to the standard clock of the phone's processor. Xiaomi calls it "Ludicrous Mode" on the Black Shark. This is the kind of performance boost you normally need to use a phone as root or jailbreak.
Again, the boundary between gaming and flagship phones is blurred, and the OnePlus 7 Pro has a dedicated game mode in its software package more intense "Fnatic" mode, which blocks all notifications and "may interfere with some apps." This only applies to the most severe gaming sessions.
] Why not make more radical changes?
If you look at the above and think, "Okay, but despite all these extra design options, they're not too different from regular phones. Right. The reason is that the market has proved that it would be no telephones, the conventional designs for games break.
Launched in 2011, the Sony Xperia Play was probably the coolest gaming phone to come out before this harvest, with a pull-out controller pad Analogue touch-sticks have been unbelievably versatile and popular with emulator fans, but unfortunately, despite a major marketing push and the association with Sony's PlayStation brand, it has failed and the phone has not even received a follow-up model.
Leaky reactions to similar mobile gaming devices like the original NVIDIA SHIELD Portable and the notorious Nokia N-Gage prove this Many hardcore gamers love these devices, most play only whatever is available on the phone that they have or are unwilling to deal with the awkward ergonomics (let alone space) of a portable gaming console. 
It is significant that while Samsung was promoting Fortnite as a selling point for a number of e-sports commercials, the vanilla Galaxy S9 still sold without a game model. Although Apple and Google are doing everything in their power to promote mobile gaming, they are not ready to invest in dedicated hardware development beyond traditional phone designs. Or they become a regular subset of the mobile industry, such as gaming PCs. It will take a while for manufacturers to assess consumer reactions to the latest models. So it'll probably be a few more years before we figure out if gaming phones will be around.