As smartphones get more powerful, more and more people are using them as their only computer. That means they do all their email, web browsing, shopping, and even gaming on these handheld devices. The gaming experience on smartphones can vary wildly depending on the hardware and software optimization, but Google might be planning to step in. According to a leaked document, Google wants to begin certifying Android gaming phones to make sure they’re up to snuff.
In the early days of Android, most phones had the same (or very similar) hardware, and there were virtually no custom gaming optimization features. Now, there are phones with processors specifically tuned for gaming, and phones sometimes have dedicated gaming modes. Does any of that matter, though?
With each version of Android, Google rolls out a new Google Mobile Services (GMS) agreement that its partners have to follow if they want Google certification. It goes into more detail and includes rules that aren’t covered in the public Compatibility Definition Document (CDD), and a copy of it recently leaked. XDA says the new GMS document for Android 10 includes a set of guidelines for OEMs that want to build Google-certified gaming phones. Google apparently thinks this will help developers by creating a more consistent landscape for mobile gaming.
The document doesn’t specify a particular hardware configuration, but it offers some general metrics. For example, gaming phones must support version 1.1 of the Vulkan Graphics API and pass the Khronos OpenGL ES/Vulkan graphics conformance tests. They also need to meet certain thresholds for touch latency and animation rendering. These phones need to have at least 2.3GB of memory available to allocate to a game as well. That effectively means the phone would need more than 4GB when you factor in what Android itself and system background services would take up.
We don’t know if this program will result in a user-facing certification, but that might be very useful. A game listing could specify whether you need a “Google-certified” gaming device for optimal performance. If you don’t have one, it would be easier to avoid games that won’t run well on your phone. Since this isn’t a public document, Google has refused to comment. We might hear something about gaming certification next week when the company unveils the Pixel 4 and 4 XL.
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