I’ve had my current cell phone for a little more than four years now and over the past few months it has started to encounter a number of problems. First there were battery issues where it would be fully discharged after as little as eight hours in standby mode despite being charged overnight. Next there came reception difficulties which frequently resulted in calls being dropped and an inability to receive voicemails in a timely fashion. The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, however, was when the external speakers finally gave out. It now sounds like the HAL 9000 being disconnected whenever it rings. Needless to say, l spent a good portion of my Fourth of July weekend looking for a replacement phone.
Now, I’m of the mindset that a cell phone should simply be a phone – I don’t need text messaging, web access or dozens of applications to complicate things – but trying to find a “bare bones” model with my carrier that isn’t as ugly as sin is certainly a challenge. These extra features, after all, tend to be the primary selling point of many current models. After browsing at least three different stores (and my carrier’s website), I finally decided that searching for such a featureless phone would probably be a fruitless and pointless task. So what did I wind up doing? I started looking at models that made decent substitutes for MP3 players instead.
Naturally, one of the models that I eventually found myself looking at was the iPhone. It’s a phone. It’s an MP3 player. It’s also got more downloadable content than you can shake a boatload of sticks at. What surprised me the most though was that someone had designed an Etch-A-Sketch game for it. Etch-A-Sketch, as in the little red-and-white children’s toy used to draw boxy images in aluminum powder before shaking it like a madman to reset the screen.
I have to admit that the first thought that ran through my mind upon discovering this was a scene of a seven-year-old kid shaking an iPhone wildly before losing their grip on it and watching it sail over their fence into their neighbor’s pool.
My second thought was that it looked like fun. Go figure.
The third was a question that I have yet to answer: if these are the kinds of casual games being designed for a technology that’s still relatively new, where will the industry be when – and if - major production studios (like Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, etc.) decide to heavily invest in mobile platforms? Will we see cell phone or PDA-compatible ports of this generation’s latest video game titles, or entire game franchises going mobile-only? It’s difficult to say, but one thing’s certain…perhaps I should re-think what I use my cell phone for.