The Android OS: It's on your phone (and maybe even your tablet PC), and it lets you run thousands and thousands of apps--including games. But which phones are ideal for gaming? What kind of specs do you need to play the latest and greatest? Can you use a hardware keyboard? Read on if you're looking for answers (and good games).
Playing on Older Android Phones (G1, MyTouch 3G)
Android phones have been gamer-friendly since the very first HTC ("Dream") G1, which had a hardware keyboard, a touchscreen, a trackball, and a very capable processor--all of which were practically begging game developers to step up to the plate. Some of my favorite games debuted in that first generation, including Twiggle (which is unfortunately no longer available) and Bust-A-Move, to name a couple.
The current crop of Android phones, however, leaves the G1 and the MyTouch 3G in the dust, and has inspired the development of games (such as SpeedX 3D) that require more graphical power than the first-generation handsets can muster. For a handset with a reasonably current version of the Android OS (1.6 to 2.2), anything available on the Android Market should work properly. Users of first-generation devices, however, should stick to graphically simple 2D games (Jewellust and other puzzle games, for instance) due to those devices' limited 3D capabilities.
Tips for Navigating the Android Market
Wading through the games section of the Android Market can be challenging even for the most veteran gamer; hundreds of games are available, at many different price points. Start by keeping an eye on the 'Top Paid', 'Top Free', and 'Just In' sections to find lists of the best and newest games on offer. The first two lists are frequently updated, and new games join the "Just In" section daily.
The Android Market organizes games into genres (Action, Strategy, and so on) and sorts them by user rating. It's a good idea to start with user ratings and then check the comments section for a potential purchase--not only do you get more-detailed opinions, but you may find notes about compatibility issues or missing features that would otherwise not be apparent.
Unlike the Apple App Store, the Android Market offers an especially valuable feature: a return policy. Any application you've paid for and installed may be uninstalled for a full refund within 24 hours of purchase. If you've paid for a game and you decide you don't like it, you're only one tap away from a return and a refund credited to the payment source linked to your Google Checkout account. You have a 24-hour try-before-you-buy window, and you can take your time playing the game before deciding whether to keep it.