Ultimate Gaming Handheld: Apple iPhone VS. Sony PSP

Everyone loves a big prize fight, whether it's Tito Ortiz vs Chuck Lidell or Brock Lesnar vs Randy Couture or... the iPhone vs the PSP?!

With their recent "Let's Rock" event, Apple made a huge play for the handheld gaming space, but can the iPhone really step into that Octagon and tap out the reigning champions?

Only time will really tell, but that won't stop TiPb from taking a look at each device to see how they stack up. Round 1 starts with the Sony PSP... After the jump!

Sony claimed the PSP to be, first and foremost, a gaming device. When it was first released they changed their minds and said it can do so much more, projecting it to be the "first truly integrated portable entertainment system." And it really is impressive, but not without some major flaws. When it's all said and done, it can be considered a portable Playstation 2.

(opens in new tab)


  • 4.3-inch wide-screen display (480x272 pixels)
  • Good battery life.
  • Actual physical controls.
  • WiFi, web browser, and the ability to display images along with the playing of music and videos.


  • Load times on the UMD discs are horrendous.
  • Lack of multimedia functionality
  • WiFi only.
  • Cost of games - $19.99 - $39.99.

Next we have the iPhone, which Steve Jobs declared in the "Lets Rock" keynote, as being one of the best gaming devices on the market. That is a pretty bold statement. Well ok, he was referring to the iPod Touch at the time but for this article's sake, we are using the iPhone-only features.

Some may say that the iPhone is the Wii of the console wars. A lot of people wrote off the Wii simply because of it's lack of a "normal" controller and high-end graphics. The control was something new and innovative and was not immediately embraced by all gamers. And look at the Wii now: very successful with casual gamers and that is the crowd Nintendo was trying to attract. If Apple follows suit, they may have something here. Creating games and marketing them based around how the game is controlled... the accelerometer.

(opens in new tab)


  • 3.5-inch wide-screen display (480x320 pixels).
  • WiFi
  • 3g data connection (iPhone 3g only)
  • Accelerometer
  • No cartridge or discs to carry around
  • World wide digital distribution via the App Store.
  • Cost - $9.99 and under.


  • Lack of physical controls.
  • Lack of games in general.
  • Sub par battery life.
  • Monthly cost for AT&T service.

At this point, it is still too early to say just how well the iPhone will fair with the likes of a Sony in the handheld gaming market. Will Apple topple the competition? It's doubtful, but then again look at the Wii. Many people were unsure how that console would compete as well. This we are sure of... Apple has gotten off to a fantastic start and seems to be in a position to draw first blood in this Octagon.

The next few months will be huge. With some more quality games arriving in the App Store combined with iPhone's flying off of store shelves (Best Buy anyone?) the momentum may start to swing into Apple's favor and they very well may be able to cause some damage to Sony in the handheld gaming wars.

In fact, some of us here at TiPb have already ditched our PSPs in favor the iPhone... what about you?

IM Staff

Your source for all things Apple

  • Developers need to start spitting out some serious games for the iphone. PSP games are full length games which is why their prices are higher. Most current iphone ports (minus super monkey ball) are dummied down versions of their console counterparts. Crash Nitro Cart for Playstation 2 is awesome. I was hoping for same experience on the iphone, but the game isn't even close. Crash Tag Team Racing for PSP is a huge gaming experience that is leaps and bounds better than the iphone version (of Nitro Cart).
    I think the iphone is totally capable of hosting PSP quality games, but developers need to approach the game design process the same way they do with the PSP: as a full length console game that happens to be on a portable device.
    People are excited about SPORE on the iphone (I am too!), but has anyone played "Tombraider Anniversary" or "Metal of Honor: Heroes" on the PSP? We get "Need For Speed", but remember how awesome one of the first games released for the PSP was - "Wipeout Pure"? (which would also be a perfect candidate in my opinion as an accelerometer based game).
    If we want these types of games on iphone, we'll have to pay for it like we do on the PSP...but that's ok! Give us REAL games and we'll pay for them!
  • Benji you make some very valid points. I think in due time we will start seeing games with a much higher quality. I really think that a big part of the slow turn out of quality games is that developers need a bit of time to figure out how to incorporate the unique controls of the iPhone. We shall see.
  • This is an unfair comparison no matter what Steve Jobs wants us to think. While the platform might be ready, the iPhone/Touch are not quite there yet in terms of having enough games to match the PSP/DS. They will come just not for a little while yet.
    Developers still have to figure ways to make gaming on button free touch screen work in their favor. Some creative minds will come up with ideas and others will build on top of that. I would expect that the dynamics of this battle will change a year from now as the iPhone attracts native games rather than ported games.
  • Hmmm one thing is missing from this review sadly...hackability factor
    Now this is in NO way an advaocation of video game piracy, but...load times are drastically reduced by loading games from ISO files which can be stored on SD Cards for the PSP.
    This covers 2 of the cons indicated in the PSP section, sure, the PSP may only have WiFi where iPhone has 3G..
    Lack of multimedia capability..once again hackable through firmware hacks. (to a certain extent)
    Just out of curiosity, does the iPhone offer online gaming through Ad-Hoc mode or anything like that?
  • @Bla1ze
    I do see where you are coming from, when I had my psp it was hacked, that was the only way to go. But I could have made this article go on forever if I included all of that. So I kept everything "stock". But like I said, I know where you are coming from.
  • Seriously short of possibly some types of racing games where is the iphone going to compete with action or fps games?
  • Its a fantastic platform for RPGs. Vay is a terrific experience and is not an 'abbreviation'... more like it would be great - with next gen graphics too.
  • I disagree with the "lack of multimedia" on the PSP. If you are a Windows user, you can download Sony's own media manager for $20 or on the Mac there are a few options, one being The Missing Sync for the PSP. Though neither service will sync media purchased through the iTunes store, both applications do a find job of converting the media to a PSP friendly format.
  • @Chad, like I said I wanted to go with out of the box performance for both devices. In which the PSP is NOT capable of downloading games, videos, or music. Sure you can download demos from the PSP website but that is about it. With the iPhone I can buy it, and without purchasing anything else I can get music and games. And video by using iTunes. Maybe I should have made that more clear. But hands down the PSP can not stand up to the multimedia options of the iPhone.
  • I've wondered why Sony has not made more of a push into multimedia with the PSP - it's a great portable video player - great large screen, good battery life. They could give the Touch a run for its money. Though I agree the out of box media experience is better with the iPhone (although the PSP has game d/l functionality via PS3 if I recall correctly); Apple's insistence on controlling distribution will become more of an issue for developers as they question why should Apple get any cut of their product's revenue when they could sell it online themselves (absent Apple's lock).
    Some real challenges I see for the iPhone are:
    1)A significant percentage of users likely aren't seriously interested in games - they want a good pone and mail/contact/calender manager. Games are secondary; which limits market size.
    2) Touch controls are more difficult to master than real buttons - especially some genres such as FPS where multiple buttons are used to control firing, running, jumping, etc.
    3) Impulse shopping for videos is difficult - I'd gladly pay a few bucks for a movie when my flight's delayed or to catch up on a TV show on a flight - but can't purchase unless I can get WiFI access.
  • Sorry for what might be a basic and ill-explained post..
    But i seriously cant see how you can ever start to compare the two.
    one is a phone...(and an internet browser and an sms sender and a cammera.. steve jobs you wanker)
    ...And the other is a hand held gaming console.
    'Nuff said.
  • Pretty much ever since I bought my PSP, I have been unhappy with its games. There are very few really good "portable" (as in: don't require long sessions) games. So while I own about two dozen PSP games, I mainly used the PSP to watch videos.
    Which means that I have not used it at all since I got my iPhone - and I actually play more games on my iPhone than I used to on the PSP, due to the "smaller" nature of most iPhone games. Simple, quick games like Galcon are simply better portable games than any of the games I own on the PSP.
    Another great feature of the iPhone is its store. If I'm sitting in a train and bored with a PSP, I have the stuff that I put on it before I left. With the iPhone, I can buy a new game whenever I want.
    All told, of course, the DS is still the king of gaming.
  • PSP= those with love for both media and games
    iPhone= for those who love media when compared to gaming
    DS= for those who want to enjoy a huge variety of games; many games can be bought because of the price!
  • Only one think for the iphone good and the psp suck : FPS games
  • Thanks for the great article, I was researching for details like this, going to check out the other posts.
  • I have to say that for the last few of hours i have been hooked by the amazing articles on this website. Keep up the wonderful work.