How iPhone 3G S’s Better Graphics Complicate Matters for Developers and iPhone Owners

By  |  Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 3:28 pm

I’ve had several computers that were less powerful than the iPhone 3G S. My Intel 486 machine was bleeding-edge at the time, but could not compare to the ones like my 300-MHz Pentium powered PC that I owned just a few years down the pike. iPhone owners will soon experience a similar phenomenon, and some apps in the App Store will be off limits to anyone that doesn’t have the latest Apple hardware.

The iPhone 3G S has a 600MHz CPU, 256MB of RAM (my family’s Commodore 128’s clock speed was about 4 MHz, and it had 128KB of memory). The graphics processor in the 3G S is the PowerVR SGX (same as the Palm Pre) that supports OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics–meaning, it would blow my old desktop PCs out of the water.

The iPhone 3G only supports version 1.1 of the OpenGL ES specification. It’s possible to write an iPhone app that provides basic graphics on an iPhone 3G and better ones on an iPhone 3G S, but many developers may not bother. That means owners of the iPhone 3G will not be able to run applications and games with souped-up graphics. An increasing number of applications will be off limits, essentially being roped off into a VIP section of the App Store. How that will affect application development is an open question.

My take is that developers will need to decide which version of the iPhone they will be targeting. With Apple offering the iPhone 3G for $99, its market share will ostensibly increase–especially if Apple opens up to another domestic carrier in the U.S. Developers have finite resources, and will have to pick one or the other.

Consequently, there may not be many advanced games available for the 3GS¬† for some time. Over time, the number of 3G S owners will hit a critical mass, and developers will target it more often. If I was buying the 3G S simply so that I could play more advanced games, I wouldn’t be in a rush to get one.

 
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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Backlin Says:

    Independent and low-budget game companies will definitely develop for the iPhone 3G, since it maintains the biggest marketshare (all iPhones before 3GS and all iPod Touches). Bigger game makers may make a “pro” version for the 3G S. It would help if the company denoted what version of OpenGL the game uses, or what models it’s compatible with.

    What would REALLY simplify things would be a model check before the purchase of the app. This way, nobody pays then finds out they can’t run the program on their hardware.

  2. abcyesn Says:

    A standard needs to be created so all phones from all brands on all networks (including computers with webcams) can video call with each other. (If hardly anyone can talk with each other, like if you could only talk to other iPhone owners, it won’t ever catch on)

    Cell networks need to be dramatically improved to allow for anything close to wide-spread usable quality. (people need to just know that video calling will work no matter where they are before they start regularly using it. If it seems spotty, they’ll just forget about it)

    Until then it will be an extremely buggy, gimmicky feature that you might use to show off but when it came down to it, would sit idle. They’re BARELY getting MMS standardized between different carriers (even just a few years ago it was big news that Verizon and Sprint could send pictures to each other) and phones and imagine how simple that is compared to live streaming video.

    share your views at http://www.iPhone3GS.org it’s just for the iPhone 3G s.

  3. David Worthington Says:

    A smart dev would have a layer of abstraction so that they could fork the code with different drivers, but in this case, the hardware resources are so different, that it’s one or the other.

  4. David Worthington Says:

    branch rather

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. iPhone 3G S: What you need to know | Technology News Says:

    [...] But the graphics hardware itself also appears to be significantly improved. The graphics processor is reportedly the Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX, a powerful mobile chip that takes advantage of Open GL ES [...]