Dedicated Gaming Handsets Before the Razer Phone

Razer has made the hearts of mobile gaming enthusiasts throb with the announcement of its first smartphone, built with gamers in mind. The phone has the specs of a modern-day flagship device, processing power to match even the most expensive handsets, and enough RAM to fit a basic gaming PC. All this, for a price that doesn’t really put it in the same league as some of the “generic” smartphones available today – $699, the price of the 64GB iPhone 8. You might wonder why would you need the Razer Phone when you can play the worlds most popular games for iPhone at Red Flush on your existing handset – yet there are a few features on the Razer device that were added with players in mind that are worthy of your attention. Whether or not the Razer phone will be a success is yet to be seen. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up in the garbage bin of tech history like some of its predecessors – mobile phones aimed especially at gamers, like the ones below.

Pogo Mobile

Pogo Mobile was an early attempt to fuse gaming, multimedia, internet connection, and messaging into a single device. Released in 2001, had a few quite advanced features, like its touchscreen, its server-side compression of web pages, MP3 playback from its MMC memory card, SMS and email integrated into the same inbox, a cloud-synced contact list, and the capability to run Flash 4 games on the go. Besides, it was a fully functional GSM phone, too.

In spite of the promising nature of the Pogo Mobile and the enthusiasm it was surrounded by, the sales of the device failed to take off. The product was discontinued next year, due to the liquidation of the company.

Nokia N-Gage

Nokia tried to break into the portable console market with a device that was unique: the N-Gage, in the early 2000s. The handset ran the Finnish manufacturer’s popular S60 platform. The device was aimed at the users of Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, offering phone functionality above the features of its competitor. For its time, it was pretty advanced: it offered players wireless multiplayer via Bluetooth and the internet, it could play MP3 and Real Audio, and PDA-like features popular at the time.

Unfortunately, the N-Gage had a few design flaws – like the placement of its buttons – and other shortcomings, like its lack of a camera, that made it unpopular. Besides, due to the weakness of the first games released for the device, it kept getting negative reactions from critics and users alike. The original device was released in 2003, shipping around 3 million units by 2007, when it was discontinued.

Sony Xperia Play

The Xperia Play was one of Sony’s attempts to fuse the handheld console, which started to lose market share after the emergence of smartphones, and the smartphone (the other was the PS Vita). Originally, it was rumored to be a “PlayStation Phone”, but Sony decided to release it with the “Xperia” branding to emphasize on its nature – it was an Android-powered smartphone, after all. What made it special was its slide-out game controller interface that allowed users to play PSP games much more easily.

Xperia Play was presented at the MWC 2011. It ran Android 2.3.7 (Gingerbread) and PlayStation Mobile, which changed the phone’s interface to one similar to that of the PSP and allowed the download of dedicated games, some of them made for the PSP, others, for older PlayStation consoles. The gaming device was released in April 2011 in the UK, Ireland, and Spain, making it to Canada later in the month, and to other countries throughout the year.

Unfortunately, the device – and the system in general – was not very well received by users. Four months after its presentation, it was already available at half its original price at Verizon. Ultimately, Sony decided to abandon PlayStation Mobile and the Xperia Play and focus on the PS Vita instead. Today, it is mostly used to play emulated games from older generation computers and consoles.

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