Can cell phone graphics hit PS3 quality in 3 years?

Imagination Technologies reckons smartphones (like iPhone and its ilk) will feature PS3-quality graphics in a mere 3 years' time.

Sounds impossible, doesn't it? Let's face it, iPhone graphics are great but they can still be pretty ropy. And that's right at the top of the range - mid-price handsets are still stuck in 16-bit land. But don't forget,13 years ago, mobile games looked like this:

Above: Snake on a Nokia handset in 1997

They now look like this:

Above: Brothers in Arms 2 on iPhone in 2010

That's a pretty major leap in just 13 years. But how is mobile gaming tech catching up to current-gen? Could it really meet PS3-standard in three years? Let's take a look at the timeline...



Snake, as made famous by Nokia phones, was programmed in 1997 and uses monochrome 8-bit graphics. The closest comparison we can find is Snake Byte on the Commodore VIC-20, some 17 years before it. We're talking very basic stuff - the sort of thing your dad would have been wowed by.

We're talking less-capable tech than an original Game Boy. Fewer shades of colour, fewer pixels, fewer objects on-screen.



The first colour cell phones landed in 2001. Really, this just brought the units up to similar specs as the Commodore 64 as the games were still 8-bit and technically archaic. The thought of 3D graphics on cell phones was still a pipe dream, while PS2 was rocking the console world with games like Metal Gear Solid 2. The two would never converge, or so it seemed...



By 2005, mobile phones were starting to break into the 16-bit era, with games like Sonic the Hedgehog finally making the leap to top-of-the-range devices. Other handsets could run it without the backgrounds, and even then it was jerky. It was another year or so before the game was running as smoothly as the original, so we were still a good 15 years or more behind the curve.




A couple more years and 3D was starting to break through. Just as the mid-nineties saw an exponential leap in 3D sophistication, mobile phones became vastly more competent too. Now lagging about 12 years behind the curve.




And so to current devices. iPhone 3GS is arguably the pinnacle of cell phone gaming at present. Its graphics are higher-res and more detailed than N64 games, but not quite up to PS2 - so we're basically making calls on mobile Dreamcasts:

Above: A screenshot of Rayman 2 running on Dreamcast

Above: The same shot taken on the iPhone version

Rayman 2 was originally an N64 game, sure, but the crystal-clear graphics and superior frame-rate on iPhone are much more like the Dreamcast version. That was released in 1999. So we're currently about nine years behind the curve.



PS3 came out in 2006. In the 'three years' predicted for PS3-quality graphics to hit cell phones, it'll be 2013. So seven years behind the curve. Let's see...

You know what? Judging on the rate of advancement for cell phones against home consoles over the past 15 years, it just might happen. But sadly, even if it does come true, it doesn't really matter if mobile games look like those on a PS3.

They'll still control like a bitch.

11 Mar, 2010


  • RideZeLitenin - January 16, 2011 10:33 p.m.

    Id say give it another 3-5 years for ps3 like graphics. I mean, at the current rate that phone technology is advancing (the new moto phones have dual core processors), its not too surprising.
  • PPhino - March 12, 2010 5:42 p.m.

    regarding to the competitions between cell phone companys, this may happen even sooner. Why did they release Ipad again? like anyone would buy it!
  • philipshaw - March 12, 2010 4:05 p.m.

    I think it will take another 5 years to just about reach PS2 quality
  • Cernunnos - March 12, 2010 11:47 a.m.

    i can really see this happening, 3 years seem like a tad too soon, but 4 years and i have no trouble seeing resistance FoM at least being played on a phone. it doesnt have to look like FFXIII for it to be ps3 quality, any ps3 game will do. furthermore i can see handheld gaming devices reach current gen graphics in little over 2 years, and they handle like less of a bitch, fingers crossed. captcha: Korean harelip
  • GR_JustinTowell - March 12, 2010 9:04 a.m.

    @Cyberninja - are you certain? If iPhone 2 comes out this summer with increased specs, it could easily surpass PSP's graphical capabilities before Sony releases a new handheld.
  • Cyberninja - March 11, 2010 10:06 p.m.

    no it will not happen untill sometime after normal handheld games look that good.
  • sleepy92ismypsn - March 11, 2010 4:15 p.m.

    i dont think that its possible but if its advancing as fast as it is maybe just maybe snake was actually pretty fun it was the first game i ever played on a cell phone
  • TENAXIS - March 11, 2010 3:33 p.m.

    "They'll still control like a bitch." nuff said
  • Vagrant - March 11, 2010 3:15 p.m.

    It is quite impressive to see the speed the phone tech is catching up at. But I don't think they'll make it to current gen console hardware in three years. I think they'll reach a pretty big hurdle at the 'end of PS2' era graphics. (God of War 2 kinda thing) Then again, isn't SFIV meant to be kicking bottom on the iPhone?
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - March 11, 2010 1:44 p.m.

  • GR_JustinTowell - March 11, 2010 1:42 p.m.

    That's just what I thought too, until I looked a little closer. Even 5 years sounds conservative looking at the evidence. The curve will level out at some point as there has to be some wait for miniaturisation, but still - it's clearly not impossible.

Showing 1-11 of 11 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000