Game Oven, the developer of Bounden, a novel dancing app making use of iPhone's gyroscope, has delayed its planned Android port after finding that even top tier devices using Google's platform have defective, inconsistent and in some cases completely faked gyroscope hardware.
The Bounden app (above) is a two player dancing game based around choreography by the Dutch National Ballet. It tracks an iPhone's movements through space as both players hold the phone and navigate through a virtual sphere.
However, as noted by Daring Fireball, the developer was forced to delay its Android port after finding that the "diversity of hardware" across Android devices made delivering a functional game comparable to its iOS offering impossible.
Game Oven noted that Android devices deliver inconsistent data from both their digital compasses and gyroscopes, sensors that first appeared in smartphones four or five years ago. Apple first added a digital compass to iPhone 3GS in 2009, and was the first phone vendor to build a three-axis gyroscope into a smartphone for iPhone 4 in 2010.
Steve Jobs profiled the new gyroscope as a "cool piece of hardware" that would, like the earlier accelerometer, "open up a whole new vista of gaming." Every iPhone since has integrated its accelerometer, gyroscope and digital compass to provide accurate six-axis motion sensing and rotation about gravity.
Apple made accessing these sensors easy for developers to access via iOS' CoreMotion API, which Jobs noted "give you extremely precise position information. And it's perfect for gaming, because it's built into every iPhone 4, so you know it's there."
Android is not perfect for gaming
A Vine video clip (below) of a variety of modern Samsung, Google Nexus, Lenovo and Sony Ericsson smartphones and tablets shows the devices' digital compass pointing in wildly different directions, in some cases erratically.
"Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with electromagnetic fields confusing the compass; it has everything to do with the diversity of hardware inside these devices," Game Oven noted.
The developer discovered similar inconsistency with various Android devices' gyroscopes, noting "that a) some devices had 'broken' gyroscopes that didn't work on all axis, b) that some devices were faking gyroscopes by mixing and matching the accelerometer data with compass data, or
c) that some devices did not have a gyroscope at all."
"We weren't just testing on low tier devices, by the way. Popular devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 are problematic as well" - Game Oven
Game Oven added, "these are all major problems for our heavily gyroscope-precision based game. We weren't just testing on low tier devices, by the way. Popular devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 are problematic as well."
The developer also noted that the hardware fragmentation it observed wasn't an isolated issue among Android developers.
"We're not the only ones though - after posting the Vine, we got an enormous amount of response from other developers recognizing the problem," the vendor stated.
Android buyers blame app developers for shoddy hardware
Attempting to release the game only for a "whitelisted" group of Android devices with functional gyroscopes is a complicated and risky proposition, the developer noted.
"Unfortunately, the Google Play Store doesn't allow us to filter on 'good gyroscopes', which means our only option is to test the game, on every Android device we can get our hands on, so that we can release Bounden as soon as possible," Game Oven stated.
Responding to a user's suggestion that it release a free trial version that users could try out and buy if it worked properly, Game Oven developer Adriaan de Jongh stated, "Our main concern with a level 1 for free model is bad reviews.
"Our experience with users on the Google Play store is that they are very unforgiving; and they have all the right to be," de Jongh wrote. "Other people should know when a game works incorrectly, especially when they have to put down money for it.
"However, if our game indeed does not work on a number of devices, we feel that this will give us and the game a bad reputation no matter how hard we try to make the game work on as many devices as possible.
"There will still be many 1-star reviews for something we cannot really help, and it won't do the game good. We would not make a very strong case saying 'their device is not good enough.' So unfortunately, a demo model is not going to help us solve the problem of unhappy players."
Despite asking the Android community for help in identifying hardware that works and does not work and offering free apps to users to try out on their devices, Game Oven was immediately attacked by a series of Android fans who accused the small developer of being "anti-Android" and "biased."