iPhone 3G S and OpenGL ES 2.0 Hardware Accelerated Graphical Goodness Also a Platform Splitter?

iPhone SDK: Hardcore Gaming

This morning we wondered aloud about whether the iPhone 3G S would be splitting Apple's mobile OS X platform. Looks like we weren't the only ones wondering.

Engadget's Chris Ziegler takes a look at the new hardware's PowerVR SGX graphics-core's support for OpenGL ES 2.0, and that led him to this language in Apple's iPhone SDK documentation:

"When designing your OpenGL ES application, the first question you must answer is whether your application will support OpenGL ES 1.1, OpenGL ES 2.0, or both... Your application should target OpenGL ES 1.1 if you want to support all iPhones and iPod touches."

Sure, with 40,000,000 iPhones and iPods touch on the market, many developers will want to stick with OpenGL ES 1.1 support, but like with any generational transition -- even slow ones -- eventually more and more might just want to push the new hardware and see what it can do...

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone 3G S and OpenGL ES 2.0 Hardware Accelerated Graphical Goodness Also a Platform Splitter?

1 Comment

I've wondered about this mostly in relation to games. I expect the gaming segment to be the biggest winners with the new speed and graphics.
It is not that unusual to see games bundle code to handle parallel technologies, and the phone has the memory to store the extra software.
However, I have to point out that if Apple wrote their APIs correctly the software developer should be none the wiser as to which chipset is running the video.
The game just gets the best the device can handle, without having to write special code. This has been the trend in software development and device drivers for a long time, so I don't think Apple would make a 1995 mistake and require developers to be aware of the chipsets involved on any specific phone.
That still leaves the very likely possibility that some games tailored around a 3Gs would run like molasses on a 3G.
At this point the differences are really not that great. Processor speed increments of 100% really don't amount to much.
The OpenGL ES 2.0 presents more of a problem, but this too can easily be handled by turning off some visual special effects in the game, flattening the lighting, reduced rendering quality, etc. And, as I mentioned, if Apple did their homework the game developer won't have to worry about this.
However, the long term accumulation of incremental improvements becomes significant. Some games may have to be restricted to the 3Gs, but more probably about the time Apple kicks the G4 out the door next year, this platform dependency will become acute.
We accept this with our computers, and I see no reason to expect anything different with our phones which are computers.
Radical statement:
Virtually ALL improvements in processor speed since 1995 have been gobbled up by look-and-feel.
The spread sheet does not calculate faster. The report does not print faster. Typing data into computers is not faster.
It just looks better. The games look way better. Gaming is the single biggest beneficiary of processor speed, and the rest largely goes to look-and-feel.
So expect the G4 (or what ever its called) to look REALLY good.