23 May 2011

The Best Warcraft Smartphone

We’ve all been there, pouring over the various websites looking at glitzy marvels of glass, metal and plastic. But how do you decide which one is best? More importantly, how do you decide which is the best one for Warcraft?

There’s two main smartphone camps to consider: Apple’s iPhone on the one hand or an Android based device from a huge range of suppliers. Apple only make a handful of different iPhone models, making  choosing one fairly straightforward. By contrast Android is heavily fragmented, which is a fancy way of saying there’s loads of different phones which are all slightly different.

There are a few non-contenders. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, the Palm/HP WebOS platform and RIM’s Blackberry all miss out on Blizzard’s Warcraft apps. As a result I’ve not included them here.

To make the comparison a bit simpler I’ve used a flagship device for each camp. For Apple I’m using the iPhone 4, while Android is represented by the brand new Samsung Galaxy S 2.

Battle.net Authenticator

Both iPhone and Android work in exactly the same way in this regard (which is also the same as the key-ring). When you first launch the app you’re presented with a serial number to use when linking the device to your account, along with instructions on how to do it. Once set up, the screen displays an eight digit code that changes periodically. It’s as simple as that.

The code then needs to be used every time you log into World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2 or Battle.net. This means that if you lose your phone your account becomes inaccessible until you phone Customer Support. If you end up with replacing your phone regularly this may not be a good option for you.

Although there’s not much to tell either app apart I prefer the iPhone version, simply because the code is easier to read. I’m not a big fan of the choice of font used for the Android version and think it should be customisable.

Warcraft Remote

Once again the app looks almost identical on both the Android and iPhone. Both allow you to login, inspect your characters and search the armoury. There’s also premium features available for remote management of your auctions  and access to guild chat.

Unfortunately that’s where the similarities end. The Android app has several key features missing that have been included in the iPhone version. Your Apple smartphone will also give leaderboards for your characters and guild, as well as full calender access to accept and decline invitations.

Character profiles are also incomplete on Android – there’s no activity feed, talent build, glyphs, profession details, reputation lists, achievements or arena teams. All of these are present in the iPhone version, along with a talent calculator. With all of these omissions the Android version really does feel like only half the app.

That said, using guild chat is much more fluid on Android. if you’re looking to use it as an IM replacement for chatting to guildmates remotely then the full-on multitasking will help to make sure you don’t miss anything vital.

Non-Warcraft Gaming

Both platforms support a range of apps for other games, including plugins for managing Eve Online and authenticators for other games. Whichever you choose, chances are it’ll be supported by both.

Android also supports a client for connecting to Mumble servers. If you want to catch up with the guild using something a bit better than remote chat then this could be ideal. It’s due to be released for the iPhone at some stage, but Android users can be getting into the beta version today.

Both support a range of podcasts, although iTunes does make it a huge amount easier to discover, download and sync podcasts to your phone. Google have recently released a service called Google Listen to help get podcasts to Android phones, but it’s still very much a beta service. If you’re looking to keep up-to-date with your favourite Warcraft podcasts you may find the iPhone a better option.

In Conclusion

Purely on features it’s easy to point to the iPhone as a clear winner for your Warcraft needs. The official apps from Blizzard contain more features and are for the most part easier to use. While it’s possible that they may update the Android apps to the same level as the iPhone there’s no guarantee.

Any decision can’t just about the phone itself but also the price, service plan and contract. IPhones command a premium price, while hunting around for a good Android deal could save you a bundle. It’s a case of having to weigh up the features you need against the price you’re willing to pay. Go into a shop and try out the phones you’re considering. Ask around for advice, read reviews and grab a range of opinions. You’re committing to a two year contract in most cases, so think carefully before you sign the paperwork.

Meanwhile I’ll be asking Blizzard one thing: Sort out your Android app. Please.

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