The Nintendo Switch is a new type of game console that’s designed to be used both as a gaming tablet and as a home console. Attach controllers to the sides of the tablet and you can use it anywhere. Detach the controllers and prop up the tablet on its kickstand and you can play without holding it. Connect it to a dock and you can play games on a TV.

But the folks at Wonder want to go even further by releasing a product that does all those things… but which also works as a smartphone.

The startup plans to launch an Android-powered smartphone in 2019 that works with detachable game controllers and a dock. The Verge got an early preview of a prototype.

On the one hand, there’s something compelling about a Switch-like device that’s also an Android phone. It’s one less separate gadget you need to carry around.

On the other hand, it’s not the hardware that makes the Switch special: after all, the NVIDIA Shield TV console with Android TV software has the same processor as the Switch. But the Shield runs Android, while the Switch… doesn’t.

In some ways that makes the Shield a more versatile device. But you know what you can’t do with a Shield TV? Play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, or Arms. Nintendo has the clout to attract top-tier game developers to its platform, not to mention develop its own first-party titles. It’d be tough for a startup like Wonder to compete.

But maybe it’s not fair to compare Wonder’s upcoming device to the Switch. The Verge reports what Wonder really wants to do is take a page out of Apple’s playbook and create a complete ecosystem of products with an emphasis on gaming, but the ability to do much more.

The idea is to sell products including a phone, dock, and controllers as well a a subscription package that grants you access to games and possibly other media such as music, movies, or TV shows.

Wonder hasn’t announced the specs for its phone yet… and hasn’t even committed to selling its own hardware. The company could license its software to third-party device makers, much the way Roku does with smart TV sets sold by TCL, Sharp, Hisense, and others.

It’s an intriguing concept, and one that sounds a little more compelling than the recent crop of Android “gaming phones,” which are really just phone with a handful of special tweaks that are said to offer better audio, display, or performance features.

But I’m always skeptical of companies that say they want to create an Apple-like ecosystem without providing evidence that there’s really a market for that. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so well.

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10 replies on “Wonder’s gaming phone will be like an Android-powered Nintendo Switch (that’s also a phone)”

  1. I’d kill for an Android phone that had even crappy, diminutive physical gaming buttons built into the device. I was big on PocketPCs back in the day, and my main use case was for running emulators. And the buttons on those devices were _really_ crappy.

  2. This is not gonna work.
    Android or iOS do not have good games, that are worth a time or a gamepad/big screen.
    Sure there are exceptions, but like 20 good games do not make a gaming console.

  3. It’s gotten to a point where it’s now doable for mobile to pull off some console style games, back in 2016 Arm in fact predicted 2018/2019 as when mobile hardware would begin nipping at the heels of consoles.

    Problems:
    1) However you do need content and a lot of it upfront to convince skeptical people to buy into an unproven platform (where Shield failed). You need something big a recognizable franchise.

    2) Mobile ports are not enough though you could piggy back Switch ports.

    3) Piracy is rampant on Android.

    4) Building a community is very difficult to do and many companies have failed in the mobile space.

    The main two consoles will almost certainly jump ahead in the hardware game to leave the Switch and other mobile efforts behind widening the gap.

  4. Not gonna work.
    Switch is popular because it is just a gaming console.Pure gaming experience.And it uses cartridges.Almost 1000 games till now, great support from where ever you turn arround and it will have support for more than 6-7 years from now.

    This is going to be just another android device, running games that are working on any android phone, it will have some controllers and that’s it.Might have support for 2(like any android). No support from anyone in the gaming industry, only mobile gaming world.Mostly will be used for streaming, watching videos, reading, surfing playing music etc

  5. I remember 3DO doing a similar “license our tech” thing in the past. And look where they are now. I’d be intrigued and would probably buy this but I expect it to go down in flames.

  6. The device itself doesn’t make a gaming device shine.
    What you really need are game titles that can make use of the hardware.

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