Are gamers clamoring for a smartphone to call their own? Razer seems ready to bet that they are, with the gaming giant looking like its about to unveil its first smartphone next month.
With Razer planning a November 1 launch event and teasing "our biggest unveiling" in a tweet, most industry watchers assume that a smartphone will take center stage. Here's what we know so far about Razer's rumored gaming-centric smartphone.
When will Razer announce this device?
One of the few things we know for certain about Razer's plans is when it will unveil the new product. Razer's tweet promises a product release on November 1, and there's already a website set up where you can watch the event.
The image included in that Razer tweet features a young man bathing in the warming glow of a handheld device, which is why that November 1 event likely won't feature the laptops and gaming peripherals that have built Razer's reputation.
What will the Razer phone look like?
While we've yet to see an official design from Razer, we are starting to see leaks. Slovakian tech blog TechByte posted an image of the purported device, which sports a thin, rectangular design that brings the Nextbit Robin to mind (this makes sense; Razer owns Nextbit). However, unlike the Robin, this potential Razer phone has an all-black color scheme, a dual-lens rear camera, and a silver Razer logo in the back.
Why does everyone assume Razer's working on a smartphone?
Razer has already told the world that a smartphone is coming. Back in July, Bloomberg reported that the company was working on a "mobile device tailored for its consumer base of hardcore gamers," citing sources. In September, CEO Min-Liang Tan removed all doubt, telling CNBC to expect a smartphone from his company by the end of the year.
"One of the most hotly rumored things about Razer is that we're coming up with a mobile device. And I can say that we are coming up with a mobile device specifically geared toward gamers and entertainment," Tan said during that interview.
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A Razer smartphone isn't something that would materialize out of thin air. In January, Razer bought Nextbit, makers of the Nextbit Robin smartphone. Razer didn't outline its plans for Nextbit at the time, though analysts widely believed the move signaled Razer's interest in mobile devices.
There's also been more concrete evidence that Razer is leveraging its Nextbit purchase into a smartphone play. Earlier this month, Nextbit founder Tom Moss tweeted a picture where a mobile device with a Razer logo is poking out of Min-Liang Tan's pocket.
Razer's primary focus may be on gaming laptops and peripherals such as mice, keyboards and headsets. But it's dabbled in gaming-centric mobile devices before. Back in 2013, Razer unveiled the Razer Edge gaming tablet. Reviewing the Razer Edge Pro for Laptop Mag, Sherri Smith praised the tablet's overall performance, but criticized its battery life, lackluster resolution and high price tag. It's assumed a new mobile device would tackle those issues, tapping into Nextbit's expertise with phones.
What can we expect from Razer's smartphone?
While the rumor mill has been very clear on what Razer's announcing and when to expect it, we haven't heard many details about the phone's specs. Some of the first details about the Razer phone were first spotted by Phone Radar in a post at benchmarking site GFXBench. According to that post, a phone listed as "Razer Phone" sports the kind of specs you'd expect from a high-end smartphone: a Snapdragon 835 processor with an Adreno 540 GPU and 64GB of storage. Razer looks like it's going big with the RAM on this device — the GFXBench listing indicates 8GB of RAM, which should bolster performance.
Other specs in that listing include a 5.7-inch display with 2560 x 1440 resolution. The phone will run Android Nougat 7.1.1, which isn't surprising since the Nextbit Robin ran Android, too.
The Robin may offer some clue as to the Razer phone's feature set. When we reviewed the Robin last year, we were pretty impressed by its marquee cloud-based storage feature. The Robin was able to automatically move photos and unused apps off your phone and into cloud storage whenever you were running out of capacity on the device. Such a feature could come in handy for gamers who like to load up their mobile device with a lot of different apps.
What we want from a gaming smartphone
Until we hear more details from other sources abut what's inside the rumored Razer phone, we can only offer up a wish list of what would make an ideal mobile device for gamers.
- A powerful processor: Right now, the Snapdragon 835 is the mobile CPU inside the leading Android phones, though Apple's A11 Fusion chip outperforms its Android rivals by some measure.
- A big screen: Displays larger than 5.5 inches are becoming the standard for flagship phones, and you'd expect a gaming-centric device to follow suit. It's not just size, either. Phones like the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 are sporting a wider 18:9 aspect ratio, which dramatically improves mobile gaming in our experience while also making videos more immersive. (Disappointingly, the Phone Radar report suggests we're looking at a more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio for the Razer phone.)
- Sharp displays: To make those gaming graphics pop, we'd want to see an OLED panel on any gaming smartphone. And the higher the resolution, the better.
- Killer sound: There's more to gaming than just pretty graphics. You're also going to want to hear every crunch, explosion and beep. The Pixel 2 unveiled by Google last week features front-facing stereo speakers, and you'd expect a phone that emphasizes gaming and entertainment to follow that same route.
Those are some pretty high-end features, and any phone sporting them is likely to be in the $900-and-higher neighborhood occupied by the Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X. It will be interesting to see if Razer pulls out all the stops or holds back on some features with an eye on keeping the price tag low for its rumored phone.