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Can cell phone graphics hit PS3 quality in 3 years?

Sounds impossible, doesn't it?Let's face it, iPhone graphics are great but they can still bepretty 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 anduses 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.


Thefirst colourcell 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 handsetscould run it without the backgrounds, and even then it was jerky. It was anotheryear or so before the game was running as smoothly as the original, so we werestill a good 15 yearsor 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, butnot 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

Justin worked on the GamesRadar+ staff for 10 whole years. Imagine that. Now he is a contributor, specialising in racing games, retro, and Sanic.