Apple Announces the iPhone 5, New iPod Touch – What Does That Mean for Mac Gamers?

So Apple is calling the iPhone 5 “The biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone.” Like, hate, or ignore Apple’s iOS devices, they have had a tremendous impact on mobile phones, and I feel their impact on mobile gaming has yet to be truly felt.

If you feel that is a bold statement on my part, it’s meant to be. Most people have their mobile phone with them everywhere. Apple, with their development kit and the iTunes App Store, both of which has lowered the barrier to entry for many developers, has made it extremely easy for game developers, including independents, to get their games into the hands of players.

Let’s jump to one of the points – many Mac gamers do own iPhones and do game with them. You can’t be a gamer and have an iPhone and ignore the incredible games out there – Touch Arcade and Slide to Play highlight these games every week.

However, I think you’ll know the true impact has occurred when the mobile gaming device market shrinks – I don’t think there is room for the number of devices, dedicated, and otherwise, that there are currently. More and more developers are going where the devices, and for many that’s iOS devices. There are also a lot of other things being developed, that just aren’t there yet, but are going to really change things.

With the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and its version of Game Center that syncs up cross-platform games (iOS and OS X), Apple is blurring the lines when it comes to gaming platforms. Already we have the concept of a game you play on a Mac, and then picking up where you left off on an iPhone or iPad, and then come back later to the Mac and pick up where you left off on the iPhone. Scores that are kept in sync between games you play on a Mac and an iPhone. Things are happening.

While the Sony Playstation Vita mobile gaming platform may edge out the iOS devices in a few areas, those differences are quickly diminishing, and it’s not hard to imagine an iPhone 6 stomping all over a Vita as far as performance. There is a lot to be said for a dedicated mobile gaming device like a Vita or Nintendo’s 3DS. But there is also a lot more to be said for a powerful touchscreen device that doubles as both a really nice phone/media device, and a high-resolution touchscreen gaming device.

There is even more to be said when that device is updated year in and year out. Rumors of the Vita first came to light in mid-2009, and in the following years, those rumors intensified, being reportedly revealed at the end of 2010 internally, and being announced pubilcly in January of 2011. It was released at the end of 2011 or February of 2012 depending on where you live. In that same time frame, the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S were all released, with each improving greatly upon its predecessor. The days of a dedicated device that takes 3+ years to be released are numbered when mobile phones are passing them up in performance.

Another area that iOS devices are making inroads is mirroring/streaming to HDTV using a wireless connection via Apple TV. Games been written, and are being written, that use an iOS device as a controller for a game streamed through to an HDTV.

    iPhone 5 Improvements

  • 4-inch Retina display
  • 1136 x 640 display
  • 44% better color saturation
  • Thinner overall
  • Better mobile networking (LTE)
  • Processor/CPU and graphics performance – up to 2x faster than iPhone 4S.
    5th Generation iPod Touch

  • Same display as iPhone 5
  • Dual-Core Apple A5 CPU
  • Up to twice the CPU power as previous iPod Touch
  • Up to seven times the graphics power as the previous iPod Touch

What about iOS 6?
iOS 6 offers a lot overall to iPhone users, but for gaming, the benefits are narrower, but still there. There is now a “Game Center challenge”, as well as game integration with your Facebook friends. There are a few other features that we will have to wait and see implemented when iOS 6 is released on September 19.

Is the iPhone 5 or new iPod Touch a must-have for Mac gamers? If you have an iPhone 4 or earlier or an earlier iPod touch, I would say definitely, just because they are major upgrades even without taking gaming or gaming performance into account, and damn good upgrades at that. With the iPhone 4S it gets a little bit iffier, and it comes down to how things play out with apps.

If you think I’m crazy for saying the impact on gaming has not quite been felt yet and you want to mention the 10s of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of games in Apple’s iTunes App Store, I can understand that, but I just have a feeling that the groundwork is being laid for much bigger things, including taking on the consoles in the living room.

So is an iPhone or iPod Touch Going to Replace my Mac for Gaming?
Not any time soon – there are some games that require a large screen, keyboard, mouse, dedicated joystick, etc. However, Apple is laying the groundwork for the day when your Mac and phone are one and the same, and you come in, lay your iPhone down or plug it into a charging dock, you turn on a display, and your iPhone connects wirelessly to the monitor, your keyboard, and mouse or trackpad and gives you the full Mac experience.