Samsung’s recent New York launch event saw the unveiling of the Galaxy S4 with all the pomp and ceremony that went along with a first look at what will likely be one of the best selling handsets of 2013.
As well as the handset itself Samsung unveiled a few other gadgets about which it said very little. One of these, a wireless charging unit, sees the Korean firm leaning towards the territory Nokia has been exploring with some of its recent Lumia devices.
Another, more unusual device connects to a Galaxy S4 (or one of a number of other Samsung handsets) to turn it into a handheld games console. It’s this particular innovation which has garnered some chatter and speculation from the tech community, with many wondering what it might point towards in the future.
Known as the Game Pad, the device looks very much like a controller for an Xbox 360 and has a white plastic casing which will be familiar to users of Microsoft’s game console and Samsung smartphone fans alike.
The major difference that sets the Game Pad apart from a console controller is the extendable clip at its top which holds a handset in place in landscape mode, with the two devices then forming one handheld gaming unit.
A handset can also be linked to a television via HDMI with the Game Pad acting as a remote controller for whatever is displayed on screen. In either case, Bluetooth is the technology which links the phone to the pad, meaning that ugly cables or docking ports are conspicuous by their absence.
The Game Pad’s unveiling came with the announcement that it will be bundled with eight free games with up to eighty other Android games being compatible, although no actual titles have been announced as of yet.
While Samsung doesn’t appear to be putting much focus in to this peripheral device, we wonder if the Game Pad could be indicative of the rise in significance of mobiles in the gaming world. Will devices such as this further eat into the market share of dedicated handheld games consoles such as the Wii U and PS Vita?
Figures from industry research firm IDC reveal that in the fourth quarter of 2012 spending on games from Apple’s App Store and Google Play exceeded that on software for handheld consoles. Games such as Real Racing 3 offer levels of performance that major consoles do but on a much smaller scale and also work on freemium models that make the initial downloading of the app far less expensive than purchasing a game for a handheld.
The ubiquity of smartphones doesn’t bode well for handheld games consoles either. Why would someone pay hundreds of pounds for a separate gaming device when they can play games that are just as good on the phone they already have?
Particularly interesting about the unveiling of the Game Pad is a fact hidden within the specs of the device, listed on Samsung’s Galaxy S4 microsite. Details list the device as being compatible with handsets between 4-6.3-inches in size, the uppermost dimensions being far bigger than any Samsung smartphone currently on the market.
This has led to speculation that the Game Pad may be the first hint that the Korean firm’s next phablet device (let’s calls it the Galaxy Note 3 for now) will be even larger than the 5.5-inch display toting Galaxy Note II.
Samsung could literally expand its range and push its smartphones further towards tablet territory and if the Game Pad is an indicator of this tactic, then the Note 3 could prove to be an enormous handset when it emerges.
So the Game Pad is an interesting device in its own right, standing as an example of how smartphones are being taken seriously in the gaming world and offering stiff competition for some established manufactures such as Nintendo. But it could also point towards some sizeable developments from Samsung, in every sense of the word, which will see handsets grow even larger in the future.