The Perfect Gaming Phone

Editor’s note: Tadhg Kelly is a games industry consultant, freelance designer and the creator of leading design blog What Games Are. You can follow him on Twitter here.

A sketch comedy show in the UK called The Fast Show used to have a farmer/bumpkin character named Jesse who would emerge from a shed to declare “This week I have been mostly” followed by something amusing. Like eating raw chickens, wearing Dolce and Gabbana, wearing no pants and so on. In that vein, this week I have been mostly enthusing about my silly big giant iPhone 6 Plus.

Although released two months ago I got caught in a long wait owing to stock shortages, so my 6 Plus only recently landed in my hands. I had wanted to get it for two main reasons: battery and legibility. I’d grown tired of buying mandatory extra battery packs in order to use my iPhone for gaming. And as I’ve grown a little older my near vision has declined, making text and small interface elements harder to discern.

I was also just sort of into it. I’m an Apple user through and through, to the point that it’s hard to consider an ecosystem shift. And so I’d seen several friends with Galaxy Notes and similar for a while, and lusted. I had some questions about one-handed use (and to be fair, the iOS double-tap solution isn’t the best) but I’ve discovered in the last week that it just means re-learning. I’m using Siri and dictation more, learning some different ways of holding the device and so on.

Many of my friends think the 6 Plus is ridiculous. My wife finds it oversized for her fingers. She wants Apple to go back to making iPhones of the v4 size, neat and palm-sized. I get that. In terms of “telephone, text, camera, apps and music” users she’s probably right. My wife frequently plays games with her iPad, but in her out-and-about life she almost never does. But I play games all the time, and the unexpected part of my new big phone world is how different it feels. It feels far more like handheld gaming. It feels more serious.

The screen of my 6 Plus is bigger than my PS Vita and much sharper. It doesn’t have anything like the T-problem that my older phones did (where your thumbs occlude the screen and the visible screen area forms a T). At the same time my big phone is yet small enough to feel comfortable when held in landscape mode for playing action games. This is something that my iPad has never felt quite right with.

All in all this means I’ve been going back to a variety of games and playing them once more. They feel fresh again. One example is Grand Theft Auto 3. I bought it when first released for iOS but never liked it. It was too fiddly and I couldn’t see anything, and it killed my battery. In big giant telephone land, however, it’s different. I can see. I’m absorbed. Don’t get me wrong: this is still a touch phone and lacks haptic feedback. But GTA3 on phone gels where before it didn’t.

I feel for the first time that I own a real gaming phone as opposed to a phone that happens to play games. Indeed that I’d consider the iPhone 6 Plus to be the perfect gaming phone. It has the specs of course, and the catalog. But more than that: it feels right-sized, carry-able in the pocket while capable enough. It’s easy to pop out of a pocket (too easy possibly – buy a cover with more friction) and get to playing, and that playing will be richer than before.

What am I saying? Other than urging you to get a big giant telephone, I suppose it’s that simple change often leads to a different outcome. Over the last few months I’ve felt that while other new paradigms have been trying to find their berth (VR, media streamers, watches, microconsoles, yada yada) mobile has only imprinted itself further and further. With big phones like the iPhone 6 Plus I feel that the devices themselves are ever-more-serious, worthy of the future of becoming the new core gaming.

All I know is that I’m playing Badlands, Nimble Quest and Threes. I’m playing Framed and the pocket version of Ticket to Ride. I’m playing Desert Golfing and Godus. I’m playing Phoenix Wright. I’m playing Peggle Blast and TwoDots. I’m playing games on a phone with a kind of glee that I haven’t experienced since I first got Angry Birds on my smartphone many moons ago. If you get the chance you should try it too.