If Apple wants me to believe the iPhone is a gaming phone, it needs to take notes from Android phones
Developers took note — we now have ports of classic games revived for phones and tablets, and even massive franchises like Call of Duty making the jump to mobile. Google believes that it can deliver seamless game streaming with project Stadia, and Apple itself launched the Apple Arcade service, which gives us tons of exclusive, high-quality games to enjoy straight on the iPhone.
The iPhone has been one of the best smartphones to enjoy games on for years now. The powerful hardware coupled with the Metal API and the minimum fragmentation on the side of iOS has ensured that games will usually launch for iPhones first and often run better or have more detailed graphics than on Android.
With iOS 13, Apple not only acknowledges the iPhone as a gaming machine, it wants to actively encourage us to use it as such. Not only do we have Apple Arcade, we finally have support for proper Bluetooth controllers — DualShock 4 and Xbox gamepads now connect effortlessly to your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. So long, MFi, you shan't be missed!
A dedicated gaming mode
Now, I — as well as many others — didn't really take gaming modes seriously when the concept was in its infancy. Developers stated the feature clears up the phone's background tasks and forced the processor to always work at full power, so that we get good performance at all times. "Whoopee", I thought, "that sounds like a gimmick that may or may not give us a 5% boost in performance".
But what really makes a gaming mode is not the supposed overclocking or RAM management. No, it's the little things — like having your notifications pop up in a small, non-intrusive manner, or not pop up at all. Or automatically turning off Auto-Brightness for the time of playing.
"Just turn on Do Not Disturb", you say? Yeah, that'll work, as long as you remember to toggle it on and off every time you open or close a game, respectively. When it comes to full screen content and unobtrusive notifications, Android handles them better, often without the need of user input — the default settings are pretty close to "Let's try to not mess up this guy's winning streak".
Then, we have the issue with the ambient light sensor and its effect on the "auto brightness" setting. Let me start by pointing out that the iPhone's proximity sensor works in cahoots with the light sensor. If the former detects that your hand is covering the latter, no steps will be taken to automatically adjust brightness. And that's great — kudos to Apple for that stealthy feature.
But often, we play our games in environments with directional lighting, or rapid change in lighting, where the phone is in such an angle that we need more brightness — or less of it — than the software is willing to give us. To top it off, Apple insists that it knows exactly what you want and the Auto-Brightness toggle keeps getting buried deeper and deeper in the iPhone's settings. Right now, you can find it in Settings -> Accessibility -> Display & Text Size -> Auto-Brightness (at the very bottom of the page). So, it's not a simple "toggle it manually" solution.
First world problems!
Minor grievances and nonsensical ramblings? Probably. The point I am trying to make is that every other company, which markets its phone as a "gaming smartphone" — or simply insists that it's super-powerful — includes these basic gaming features, nicely bundled into a Gaming Mode (naming varies). Apple, despite developing a whole platform for games in the form of Apple Arcade, still kind of refuses to adopt these pretty basic features, which is not really out of style for the company. I do think that we will see some form of "do not disturb while gaming" option make its way to iOS in the next couple of iterations — those being iOS 14 and iOS 15.