Android versus iPhone - Game On

Android

 

There's a war on: iPhone versus everyone else. 

This war against the iPhone has largely been by necessity.  Since the iPhone is exclusive to AT&T in the States, other carriers have watched helplessly as more than 17 million customers switched for the sole purpose of owning the iPhone. When you combine that 17 million with the iPod Touch's sales, there are more than 30 million of these devices in the hands of the public.  

These past six months have seen an explosion of phones and other devices intended to take on the iPhone, feature by feature. Competing with the iPhone would have been difficult, were it not for Google Android.  Like Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Google has developed an operating system that can be used (mostly) on phones, but other devices as well.  Unlike the iPhone, the Android OS is open to all comers; any phone carrier or laptop manufacturer can use Android in their own devices.  Unlike Windows Mobile, Android has been stable and crash-free since its first release, and frequent updates are making Windows Mobile devices look positively antique in comparison.

Android is making headlines, especially this weekend.  Have you seen Verizon's new "teaser" commercial for The Droid?  Verizon is about to take on the iPhone head to head, much like T Mobile, Sprint, and other carriers have.

I recently picked up a myTouch 3G (T Mobile).  I also had the chance to evaluate several other Android devices.  Given Apple's recent push to position the iPhone and iTouch as gaming devices, how does Android stack up for gaming?  What's the furture of gaming on Android?  Will Android serve to unify the mobile gaming market, or bring additional confusion?

Cell phone users on non-AT&T networks will have a lot to cheer about when they get an Android phone.  Android, at least in its current form (called Cupcake), could be described as a "geeky" iPhone.  This is apparent in how most of the current Android phones are laid out (multiple home screens, kind of like Linux), the developers its attracting, and the policies of Apple versus Google (in regards to the Android Market).  Most of the features of the iPhone/iTouch are available on the myTouch:

*Custom apps, both free and purchased, are available in droves for Android
*Google runs the Android Market, their equivalent of the iPhone/iTouch app store (more on this later)
*Music playback (paused when getting a call) is very good, and features album art, shuffle, etc
*voice dialing
*a touchscreen interface (although my device isn't multitouch, Verizon's "The Droid" should be)
*Accelerometer (tilt controls / sensitivity)
*Multi-megapixel camera / video camera
*An "underground" application development scene (more on this later as well)

Here's where they are notably different:

*Really good voice powered search on Android
*Openness of the Android Marketplace
*Better graphics on the iPhone
*A larger variety of games on the iPhone
*Different mindsets in each respective development community
*Total screen customization on Android
*Android works on different service providers
*Android doesn't suspend apps - it uses true multitasking

Gaming on the iPhone / iTouch is relatively amazing.  The 3D graphics rival that of the PSP (they are clearly a step below the PSP, but good), the large screen makes for great cinematic style experiences, and there are a wealth of developers pushing tons of titles at the iPhone.  Multitouch really does help the experience, as well.

Relative to the iPhone, the selection of games on the myTouch (and other Android phones) is pretty lame.  There are an absolute ton of very simple, 2D arcade experiences, like Breakout and Tetris. You'll see a lot of Suduku, tic tac toe, Solitaire, and other crappy games that no one under the age of 50 will play.  Granted, these are on the iPhone as well, but the App Store isn't dominated by them.

Some big names are present in the Android Market, despite the current glut of shovelware:

  • Namco - Pac Man
  • Activision - Guitar Hero World Tour
  • Glu - a ton of titles, Glu has been around in the mobile space for quite some time
  • Gameloft - Uno and several other titles; Gameloft is also well known in the mobile space

I compared the 3D features of Android to the iPhone by downloading games for the myTouch (since I have an iTouch, I'm quite familiar with its graphical capabilities).  I played games called Speed Forge 3D and HyperSpace Lite.  I also checked out Doom, just to see how well the game translated to the small screen.  Speed Forge 3D is a WipeOut clone, except slower, with lower resolution graphics, clipping problems, and a tilt based control scheme that'll have you ripping out your hair in no time.  HyperSpace Lite is similar to a Wii demo; the object of the game is to manipulate a ball over a maze using tilt controls. 

While neither of these games offer the experience I was hoping for, 3D gaming on Android is both possible and good looking.  The 3D graphics on Android phones is better than the Nintendo DS, but not as good as the iPhone.  All of the Android phones released so far use the same processor, so regardless of the service you're on, you're on a level playing field with everyone else.

Story continues on the next page...

 

 

 

 

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Android Games - Droid Games

 

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Comments
Sort By:  
RNLee, 10/20/2009 3:08:46 PM
Score: 0  
Android Game Dev
The issues with Android game dev aren't about hardware, they're twofold: 1, Apple went with OpenGL 2 and courted game devs and Google went with version 1 and didn't. 2. Everybody's been discounting Android - EA just dumps the same mobile games they make for dumb phones into the Market, so does NAMCO, etc. We actually have an interview going up later this week at Droid News Net with a principal at Rat Square, a Polish dev house that just released the best 3D game yet for Android: Speed Forge 3D. They're doing an iPhone version now, and had some interesting things to say about developing for Android v. iPhone. 
larsoncc, 10/26/2009 11:48:49 PM
Score: 0  

I agree - everyone HAS been discounting Android, and they need to wake up.

I think at this point, developers should be firing up Android development regardless of how little time Google spent kowtowing to them.  I mean, being shortsighted only buys you so much of an excuse; at this point, they're leaving money on the table if they don't get into it now. 

The writing was on the wall for Android regardless of OpenGL version - if the platform is open and supported by a ton of companies, it's going to find an audience!

I'll definitely check out that interview!

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