iPhone versus DS

Apple and Nintendo touch off in this bout for the portable gaming title

iPhone versus DS

When PSP Brand Manager John Koller told us back at E3 that he believes the iPhone to be less a threat to PSP than DS, it started us thinking. Exactly how competitive is Apple's device when face-to-face against Nintendo's dual-screen wonder?

The potential for iPhone to trespass on DS territory grows greater with each new game that pops onto the App Store. Both devices leverage touch screen technology to great effect and attract a wide range of gamers from hardcore to casual. But can a phone really oust a dedicated dual-screen gaming machine for the portable crown - we examine both for quality of games, touchscreen quality, graphics, use of the microphone, and accessibility to determine who's on top.

Quality of Games
With a library of games built over the last four years, it isn't surprising that we'd give the edge to DS for having the widest range. This isn't to downplay a number of solid titles already available on iPhone, but it hasn't played host yet to the same myriad of blockbuster experiences like DS has. Nintendogs, Advance Wars: Dual Strike, New Super Mario Bros, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Rift of the Grimoire - big, meaty games that can't be found anywhere else.

iPhone will get there, although it's going to take more time. We know that platforming-defining experiences are on the way with Kroll, Rolando, and others. In fact, we've even played some already, such as the brilliantly designed Trism. Right now, though, there aren't enough games that can go toe-to-toe with the impressive DS library. Give it time, though, and this edge could very well slide toward iPhone.

EDGE: Nintendo DS
Four years out means plenty of great games available on DS, while iPhone is just getting started. There's some promising stuff on the horizon, but it's clear that DS nails iPhone to the wall with a vast library of outstanding titles.

Credit must be given to DS for popularizing touchscreen technology for portable gaming, but the iPhone evolves it with multi-touch controls and gorgeous high resolution. Enormous differences exist between the two touchscreens, with the DS taking an back seat to the far more advanced iPhone display. Just looking at the screens highlights a major jump in quality from DS to iPhone. Visuals are cleaner, sharper, and more colorful on iPhone. It's also larger than the touchscreen on the DS and sports a better aspect ratio when used in landscape mode.

It's said that two heads are always better than one, so it stands that two fingers would be superior to using just one for gaming. iPhone proves the rule with its multi-touch interface that offers a wider range of control than the DS. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the DS and its stylus-driven controls on the touch screen, but we have to admit it has been outclassed by iPhone. Once you've played a touch-enabled game on iPhone, you won't want to go back.

EDGE: iPhone
While we enjoy playing games on the DS using its touchscreen and stylus, we have to give the edge to iPhone for its far superior technology. Not only is the screen of higher quality, but the ability to use more than one finger for control opens enormous possibilities that simply aren't possible on DS.

Graphically, the two platforms are about even. Clearly, developers have had more time to wrap their heads around creating games on DS than iPhone, so those games tend to take on a visual style that fits the hardware best. We've yet to see any of the iPhone's heavy-hitting titles - Rolando, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Re-Volt, Kroll - but we know from early footage that these games graphically blow away if not at least match anything seen on DS thus far.

Of course, visual quality varies on a game-by-game basis. There's a ton of atrocious-looking games on both portables, but you can just as easily pick out a handful of phenomenally beautiful games too. Artistic design plays a factor here as well, with more DS games utilizing cel-shading as a way of getting around hardware limitations. On iPhone, that isn't as much of an issue where 3D graphics can be done well. We fully expect iPhone to emerge as graphically superior within the next year or so, but for now it's even.

Neither DS nor iPhone grabs this category. Although we're anticipating a number of games to push iPhone ahead of Nintendo's handheld in the next year, we can't comfortably claim it better graphically at this point in time.

Both iPhone and DS technically have microphones, although developers have yet to tap the feature on iPhone. On DS, games have utilized the hardware for clever little elements such as blowing on coals to start a fire or blowing away smoke above a pot of stew in cooking games. Most games use the microphone in such a way that it ends up being more gimmick than serious innovation, with a couple notable exceptions. That said, at least game developers are trying new things with the microphone on DS instead of outright ignoring it as they are on iPhone. Nintendogs is top dog when it comes to microphone use, however, letting you dictate commands to your pup. Namco-Bandai's upcoming National Geographic Panda also promises similar functionality.

EDGE: Nintendo DS
It really isn't a contest here: DS trounces iPhone. Even though DS games don't make the greatest use of the microphone, it handily beats out ignoring the hardware altogether.

Ease of Use/Accessibility
You might think that iPhone would be more challenging to use as a result of its multi-functionality, but the truth is that makes it all the more accessible. As a mobile phone, you're more likely to carry the device with you everywhere you go. That means you always have a gaming machine in your pocket. To be frank, who walks around with a DS in their pocket? Even after slimming down with the DS Lite, the handheld remains too large for a pocketing. The fact that you can carry an iPhone around and instantly play a game makes it an extremely attractive device.

Cheap games also make a compelling case for iPhone over DS. Take a look at casual games like sudoku and crossword puzzles that have been experiencing a boom on Nintendo's handheld. These games retail for a reasonable $20 on DS, but you can spend half that much or less for the same experience on iPhone; moreover, there are dozens of free games to download. The DS does have the advantage of being a dedicated gaming platform, but that's not going to have you slipping it your pocket next to your mobile phone.

EDGE: iPhone
Inexpensive and ubiquitous - qualities that make iPhone a far more accessible gaming platform. DS may have a casual appeal, but the reality is that iPhone is always on, always nearby, and provides similar experiences at a lower cost.

iPhone clearly beats out Nintendo DS with superior hardware and greater potential for gameplay. There's absolutely no question the touchscreen is far better on iPhone than DS, both in terms of control and resolution. Only a few games have really leveraged iPhone hardware, but we know what's coming and it looks awesome. DS might have the better games overall at this point in time, but the handheld has four years of solid development under its belt compared to the month and a half since the launch of the App Store.

Accessibility also plays a huge factor in placing iPhone above DS. If you have an iPhone, you carry it in your pocket at all times which means you always have games at your beck and call. Combine that with cheaper games and iPhone becomes infinitely more attractive.

EDGE: iPhone