5 phones to help you ‘catch ’em all’ on Pokémon Go

18 Jul 2016

Pokémon Go is the hottest thing in the entertainment industry right now, but the app is pushing the limit of some people’s phones. What phones are up to the job?

There’s very little that hasn’t been said about Pokémon Go at this stage as, in just under a week, it’s pushed Nintendo into financial territory the company hasn’t seen in nearly a decade, birthed a new era of augmented reality (AR) gaming, and opened up a door to advertising that marketing departments would have only dreamed of.

But for those of you who have been hiding under a rock for the past week, Pokémon Go is an app available on iOS and Android in a limited number of countries – at least for the moment – that lets you take on the role of a Pokémon master.

An unexpected phone stress test

It’s therefore your job to go out into the real world and catch digital Pokémon, which can then be trained to battle others at places designated as gyms. Power-ups can be traded and purchased at pokéstops.

All of this has led to an unprecedented level of success. The app is one of the most downloaded apps of all time, with more daily average use than established services like Facebook and WhatsApp.

There is one small problem with the game, however, that many users – particularly owners of older phones – didn’t anticipate: phone performance.

As an app, Pokémon Go is now a de facto stress test for your phone. While the app is running, it is using your screen, camera, GPS, mobile data and processor or, in other words, everything that drains your battery all at once.

Images have already emerged from stores in countries where the game is available of empty racks where rechargeable power banks were once stocked, simply because players felt they needed one to get their phone through the day.

So now that Pokémon Go has been released in Ireland, and if you’re in the market for a new phone, what phones should you think of buying?

Well, why not try these out for size?

Asus ZenFone Max

While definitely unfamiliar to the majority of readers out there, the Asus ZenFone Max is pretty much the same as your average 5.5in smartphone on the market, but with one distinct difference: an enormous battery.

Many Android phones on the market have batteries which hover around the 2,000-2,500mAh range, but the Asus ZenFone Max clocks in at nearly twice this with a 5,000mAh battery.

This puts it in a league of its own, with a manufacturer’s promise of 914h (38 days) in standby, or 38 hours of talk-time.

That’s more than enough to handle the demands of the game, and will make up for the less than stellar hardware of a 1.2GHz processor and 2GB of RAM.

Huawei P9

Perhaps more mainstream is the Huawei P9, which was marketed on the basis of its Leica-made cameras, but it can more than hold its own for gaming, too.

While nowhere near the Asus in terms of battery capacity, its 2,700mAh gives it the edge over other Android phones out there and, with two quad-core processors and 3GB of RAM, it will be more than capable of handling Pokémon Go.

Throw in a great camera for you to take screenshots of your AR Pokémon in the wild and you’re on to a winner.

Pokémon Go master

Pokémon Go image via Angelina Pilarinos/Shutterstock

OnePlus 3

Where the Asus ZenFone Max excels in battery capacity, the OnePlus 3 is strides ahead in RAM that puts it at the top of the food chain, especially given it’s a relatively new release.

The Chinese start-up has been making affordable high-end phones for a few years now, and each new iteration receives praise (unless it misses its manufacturing deadlines, which has happened once or twice).

With 6GB of RAM, it’s already more than double many of the flagship Android phones, but it’s also backed up with a powerful quad-core processor and Adreno 530 GPU which will be able to handle all of the graphics and movement appearing on its 6-in screen.

And, let’s not forget, a faster phone means less strain on the battery life – which already promises half a day’s use with just 30 mins of charge – even if your Pokémon adventure goes on for longer than you thought.

Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge

The Samsung S7 and S7 Edge are included here, largely because they’re all-round among the best phones currently available on the market.

Based on our review of the S7 Edge earlier this year, it’s very capable of handling Pokémon Go without the need to carry a power pack around thanks to its in-house Exynos 8890 processor dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo, dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo and 4GB of RAM.

Another feature worth noting for Pokémon masters is the fact that Samsung’s software takes every game installed on the phone and then lets you tinker around with settings to change how it performs. In doing so, you can set it to the lowest graphical setting, or turn off sounds, and get those extra minutes out of the battery’s performance, which is terrific.

Nexus 6P

Finally, Google’s own Nexus 6P, built by Huawei, again offers high performance with its hefty 3,450mAh battery and 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon chip and Adreno 430 GPU.

It’s also certainly on the larger end of the scale for phones – if you’re looking to get your Pokémon that bit larger – with its 5.7-in AMOLED display.

Likewise, you’ll catch ’em all on camera with the Nexus’s pretty effective 12.3MP resolution.

It’s certainly at the pricier end of the scale, however, so be wary of shelling out nearly €700 for a phone just because you want to play Pokémon Go.

But where’s the iPhone?

You may have noticed there is no iPhone included in this list, simply because, while Apple’s phones are certainly capable of handling the game, Android’s variety of manufacturers lets you get a phone that can better deal with battery draining games like Pokémon Go.

So, until we get more details on the inevitable release of the iPhone 7, the iPhone 6s will have to do as the best Apple performer for the game.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

Pokémon Go on screen image via Krista Kennell/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic