Ultimate Gaming Handheld: Apple iPhone vs Nintendo DS

When Steve Jobs uttered the statement that “Now you can make a pretty good argument that the [iPod Touch/iPhone] is the best portable device for playing games on”, did you nod your head in unison? I have my money on you saying no—the iPhone is a great device, to be sure, but a gaming device? Leave that to Nintendo you probably thought.

Why? Because the Nintendo DS has sold close to 80 million units since its inception. The numbers speak for themselves, the Nintendo DS is the king of portable gaming. So what would it take for the iPhone to knock the DS off of its throne? Well, that’s what we are here to tell you.

Read on to see how the iPhone can take on the Nintendo DS!

Taking a quick look at the Nintendo DS we can definitely see that Apple has a lot to learn before even coming remotely close to matching the success of the DS. The DS has great games, a sleek, colorful design, and a fun factor that is unmatched in portable gaming. Nintendo as a company bleeds games, it is their sole priority—to compete with such dedication Apple needs to befriend those whose talents better suit the field.

But looking at it spec-by-spec, it is clear the the iPhone/iPod Touch is fully capable of challenging the DS for portable gaming supremacy, the processor is superior, the screen is bigger, and multi-touch simply runs circles around the stylus+touchscreen of the DS.

Nintendo DS

Processor: two ARM CPUs (67MHz and 33MHz)

Screen: two 256x192 pixel screens



Processor: ARM CPU @ 620MHz

Screen: 480x320 pixels


Plus the added benefit of not having to carry a cell phone AND a gaming device is understated, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve fired up an iPhone game to kill dead time—I don’t readily carry my DS as much as my iPhone.

The biggest concern for iPhone gaming is attracting developers to develop standout games for the iPhone and more importantly, exclusives. The DS has an advantage because the company who makes the system (Nintendo) is the company who makes its best games (Nintendo). This is why it’ll take time to develop the iPhone as a viable gaming platform—developers need to become familiar with the format and develop games that can take advantage of all the iPhone’s features. But guess what? It’s already happening. Super Monkey Ball and Spore Origins is already here, Need for Speed is coming, and who knows what else is next. Multi-touch, the accelerometer, and flexibility is all specs that the DS can’t match.

Games CAN sell on the iPhone because of the wondrous App Store that leaves the developers with no advertising nor packaging costs. If a solid game hits the $9.99 price point, gamers will flock. Add to the fact that the iPhone is always-connected to the internet (DS accepts only WEP encrypted WI-Fi) and has a 8GB/16GB hard drive, the iPhone is the most superior system to develop games on—its more powerful than any gaming device with the most unique control system yet maintains a convenience factor that cannot be duplicated.

We at TiPb agree that gaming on the iPhone is still a work in progress—there are few games that adequately replace the portable gaming device feel and there are still traditionalists who prefer physical buttons over multi-touch. Yeah, the iPhone is heads and shoulders above “cell phone games” but to compete with the DS, Apple desperately needs to accommodate for more “game-like features” such as: better save modes, deeper immersion in video games, and maybe even external, physical buttons.

When all that happens, look out. The DS is a limited system that can only play games. The iPhone? Well, we at TiPb think that the iPhone is the perfect platform for gaming. What do you guys think?

  • I think the iPhone definitely has the potential to be the best handheld gaming platform.
  • Alright.. look...
    i'm a huge iPhone freak... my family knows it.. friends know it...
    But i gotta be honest on this whole iPhone gaming frenzy that is going on... I think it's a little hyped up.
    I do think that the iPhone has some good potential for great mobile games, and as far as Cel PHONE gaming is concerned yes it's the best all around. No contest.
    But matching it up against a DS or PSP?? i don't think so...
    I'm just trying to be REAL here.. and not pose up some hyped front or something..
    Has anyone here played any of the 3D games for the iPhone yet? every single one that i've played has Really Really REALLY horrible FPS.
    Try FunkyPunch... horrible FPS.
    Try out crash bandicoot racing... horrible FPS.
    So many of them that when they go 3D... then go sour..
    all of the other games? Great... wonderful. i love them to bits and pieces!!!!
    but the 3D potential of the iPhone is just lacking a bit...
    Maybe with a Slight bit better processor or something in a future gen iPhone? yeah... we could see some amazing stuff.. but don't compare it to the DS or the PSP..
  • Hi, I would argue that DS/PSP are more viable gaming platforms than iphone. 1st off, at&t still forces you to pay for the data plan, which will slice off a large portion of young/money-tight gamers. a DS/PSP can definitely do motion based games with cartridges (for ds, the new Tony Hawk game will be motion based) and psp (haven't seen any official games, but there is a motion adapter for homebrew and some hacked-up games.) The PSP is receiving Skype software/accessories (not crystal clear on the details.) I would like to argue that while Nintendo 1st and 2nd parties produces many top-notch ds titles (sony for psp as well,) frankly the ds has a massive library of quality OUTSIDE of 1st and 2nd parties (Ninja Gaiden, Nervous Brickdown, Soul Bubbles, I could go on and on.)
    All that said, the iphone is still obviously a very cool piece of hardware and I predict will eventually have many superb titles.
  • Games is not what the iphone is about - just a handy add-on and not really intended to compete directly with the DS. As an iphone user though i have to admit that i play the games very often only because i don't want to carry a dedicated game console with me. However, i tend to like the really simple games rather than the complex ones because the user interface is not really built for advanced gaming. The customers the iphone is targetting for gaming are very different - purely leisurely gamers - i.e time killers. They both have their place but both products are more likely to grow the market than cannibalize eachother.
  • Give it time and the iPhone will be up there with the DS...
  • Most games on the iPhone are terrible. Real Football however gives some glimmer of hope.
    Problem at the moment is the games are are cut down versions with zero depth - that needs to change.
  • One concept: D-pad. Where's the D-pad. The DS is celebrated for its touch generation games, but that wasn't the end all be all for the portable. I enjoy the touch, but D-pad is not a lost idea. I can't imagine trying to play mario Kart on touch. Having a hard enough time playing it through motion controlled.
  • you're all missing something... The iPhone is a PHONE! All in one!!! Why carry around two devices when you can have one? I work in finance and you'd be shot if you had a DS at work, but with the iPhone you are respectible haha I don't know anyone who has a ds, but plenty who have an iphone/blackberry/smartphone and that is an untapped audience as far as games are concerned... Just you wait and see.. You can't judge future returns on past performance!
  • @ wegmans
    The iPhone is not an "All in one". I play ps3 games, I play xbox 360 games, and I play mario games. There are no real Nintendo games on an iPhone.
    And where the hell do you live, the back waters of a modernize metropolis? You can't go anywhere now a days without some kid playing psp or Ds.
  • I would still rather play a hand held game on a dedicated Nintendo DS. Sure, the iPhone games are fun when you want to kill some time, but for true gaming, it's hard to beat the DS!
  • I tried one racing game on the iPhone and said no way after that. The iPhone is great for some puzzle games, but I would say that's it...anything else would eat at the battery and would take a d-pad to play properly, trust gamers that have been playing since they were in the womb..you will feel the frustration when motion controlled doesn't feel as controlled as you'd like and you're stuck in the same corner you started when before your meeting. And for third party controllers or anything you can use on the iPhone to simulate a d-pad...lol I thought the point was not having more "bulky" things in your pocket.
    The fact remains that gamers that want to play a great 3d game or racing game WILL have a DS. Those that want a fun phone that they can pass the time with while waiting on a bus or waiting for a meeting to get started will play something casual on the iPhone. Those that have the money and game will have both..the DS Lite isn't huge lol and fits just fine in a pocket or a purse.
    I think there is room for games on the iPhone, but by no means will it ever replace the DS or top the DS in gaming quality, and remember Nintendo is known for it's innovation and so much so that other consoles like to "borrow" ideas from Nintendo, you can say the same about Apple I know, but there's no need to say one will be better than the other when one does one thing better and the other does it's own thing better, and both can exist and succeed.
    BTW; updates are already underway for the DS and the buzz is starting in Japan where they typically release any new first: http://news.zdnet.com/2424-9595_22-237531.html
  • I got my Nintendo Dsi in black, but now I regret taking the black one.
  • btw nobody mentioned GPU here... iphone has only strong processor, but 3D graphics, lightning effects and so on, runs only on processor... but on nintendo DS and PSP these things handle GPU so they don't need strong processor like on iphone :P
  • hi there you are right lets see the ipad has A4 cpu 16 gb 32 gb and 64 gb ssd 9.7 inch screen a 1 ghz cpu A4 chip html5 video suport and no nintendo sytems suport flash html5 videos soo sence the wii and dsi are for gaming and internet in text no you tube for nintendo you are right with every one wanting multi-meadia haveing the dsi and wii soo under powered not too be used as a maine computer when will nintendo the wii should have duo core or quad core intel cpus 2 to 4 gb of ddr2 ram and 4 to 16 gb ssd flash drive a blue ray player suport html5 video flash quick time silver light video also become the new nano computers that are smaller then smart computers or net computers and dsi 2 200 mhz cpu 64 mb of ram and 512 mb up too 2 gb flash memory
  • After spending considerable time with both, I can tell you that gaming is NOT something the ipad/iphone is good at, or ever will be for that matter.
    Keep in mind that the DS (as well as PSP) was built for gaming so the whole gaming experience is SO much better. The game titles are better. The way you get and share games is better. The game controls are better. Not to mention that the DS is built to withstand some abuse so it can survive a few drops (which happens when you've been playing for a while). I can't say the same for my iPhone.
    I use my iPhone for calls, music and web thats it. Regardless of the specs the DS gives you so much bang for the buck when it comes to games.
  • I've done some serious searching for decent gaming on the IPhone. I've yet to try the Spore games, which I was never a fan of in the first place. One thing I need to make clear is that physical buttons are awesome. Playing Mario with no physical buttons is damn near impossible, though the simpsons arcade game seems to have gotten it right. (yes I cracked my phone to play roms and its superb btw get a droid so you don't have to noodle with cracking a phone) I would say the DS's stupid stylus is hilariously awful compared to the experience of using fingers to play games. I prefer games that were specifically developed for a smart phone, I can see they are developing and some have done a pretty great job. Puzzle games seem to do very well on the iphone. I would say that I think Nintendo is right about sticking with their guns, they've been developing the gameboy for nearly two decades. They might know a few tricks.
  • I still don't see why Nintendo doesn't develop a couple minor titles for the Iphone. They could do amazing things with it.
  • apparently none of you have taken into concideration that the iPhone has been out a mere 5 years and it's graphics ran only by a processor are equal to the ds, the psp is the best handheld. the ds is the weakest sloppiest handheld to date. saying the iPhone has no potential is like saying you won't die someday. play nova near orbit for the iPhone, nothing on the ds comes close to the clarity and visual feast that game provides. so you haters chew on that