Mobile gaming continues to expand, and exciting new titles are coming out every day. Developers keep pushing the boundaries of phone performance to offer the most immersive and technologically-advanced mobile games possible.
If you want to get in on the fun, there are a few important qualities to look for in a gaming phone. We’ll break down the important specs and make some recommendations to help you find a gaming smartphone that meets your needs.
Features to look for
When it comes to gaming, you want a balance of a large, bright screen, a high-performance chipset and graphics chip, and a long-lasting battery to power it all. The best gaming phones offer all these things in a high-end mobile package that is both capable and powerful enough to keep up with industry developments in the years ahead.
Look for a large screen (5.5” or bigger, measured diagonally) and a large-capacity battery (ideally, 3,000 mAh or greater). Recommending a chipset is a bit more difficult; there are several different manufacturers and some phone manufacturers, including Apple and the Chinese company Huawei, have in-house chipsets. The industry standard for Android, by and large, is the Qualcomm Snapdragon line, so if you’re looking at phones that use something else, compare them to the table on the Qualcomm page to understand how they stack up.
While it may seem simple, there are a couple of other things to keep in mind. Edge-to-edge screens are all the rage these days, but gamers may want to consider phones with wide bezels (the frames surrounding the screen). Otherwise, you may have difficulty holding the phone while you play - and there's nothing worse than missing that critical shot because you accidentally tapped the edge of the screen. Similarly, notches can be a big distraction or leave a hole in your field of vision, so you may want to avoid them. Finally, remember that the biggest drain on your phone's battery is the screen, so between two phones with the same capacity battery, you can expect the larger screen to empty the battery faster. Similarly, a smaller screen may not require as big a battery as a larger screen - look for a balance between the two.
These phones will perform admirably under the demands of modern mobile gaming:
- iPhone 8 Plus – If you’re an Apple user, the obvious choice is the iPhone 8 Plus. It has the same high-performance specs as other high-end Apple phones (like the X), including their most recent in-house processor (a six-core design called the A11 Bionic) and their famously beautiful screen. What it doesn’t have is the distracting notch found on their other models. You also benefit from a rich choice of the best cell phone games in the App Store. iPhones often get exclusive releases or initial releases before other platforms.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – The Note 9 is one of the best Android phones for gaming. It has the most recent Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, a high-performing Adreno graphics processor, and a big screen with no notch and enough bezel to grip the phone well. It also has an exceptional cooling system that will allow you to play longer without overheating the phone and an exceptionally large-capacity battery (4,000 mAh). For gamers, the Galaxy Note 9 is outstanding on all fronts.
- Sony Xperia XZ2 - Sony makes the PlayStation - what more can we say? They know gaming, and this device delivers. It has the same high-end chipset as the Note 9, but trades in some screen size (5.7 inches rather than 6.4 inches) for wider bezels and front-facing speakers, giving it a comfortable grip and stereo sound - even without earphones. Bonus points for accepting microSD cards up to 400 Gb, making it perfect for gamers with a huge library.
- Razer Phone - While Razer is not a household name like the other brands on this list, it may be familiar to gamers. Razer is a dedicated gaming hardware company, and they make a mobile device specifically designed for gamers. While it doesn't have as powerful a processor as the other Android offerings here (it sports the older Snapdragon 835, as compared to the 845 in the Note 9 and XZ2), it more than makes up for that with a mammoth battery (4,000 mAh), up to 2 TB of memory (via microSD expansion), and a 120 Hz framerate for the smoothest gaming experience possible. Wide, grip-friendly bezels and a solid cooling system enhance the comfort of this offering.
Whether you prefer Apple or Android, a larger screen, or better sound, there’s a phone model out there for you that will offer the perfect gaming experience.