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iPhone 15 Pro hardware, software improvements behind Apple's gaming push

iPhone 15 Pro

Apple executives have discussed the gaming capabilities of the iPhone 15 Pro, with MetalFX and many other elements doing a lot of work to make the new smartphone a powerhouse for portable gaming.

During Apple's "Wonderlust" event, the iPhone 15 Pro's A17 Pro chip was cited as a powerful chip with many elements that could benefit gaming. The improvements to the iPhone were enough that major publishers were said to be bringing native versions of "Triple-A" games to the small screen.

In an interview with IGN, senior Apple representatives talked about the different changes made to the premium smartphone that led to this situation.

When asked about external display support and whether an iPhone 15 Pro could handle gaming on a 4K monitor, GPU software senior director Jeremy Sandmel brought up how games can be rendered to one resolution but output to a different one for the display. "With technologies like MetalFX's upscaling, we can sort of separate those two things," he explained.

Sandmel continued "The game can run at really high frame rates, get really great quality results, and then upscale whatever resolution the display, whether that's the iPhone display, whether that's an external display."

VP of platform architecture Tim Millet added "The building blocks are there. We can enable applications to enable those experiences, and then the developer's job is, of course, to try to take those tools, piece them together and build an experience for you, the gamer, so that it all comes together."

Thermals and sustainability

On the topic of overheating for graphics-intensive gaming, VP of Worldwide iPhone product marketing Kaiann Drance took a stab at explaining the improvements.

"At a system level, we're able to work across teams to understand how the performance that we're enabling, how it's going to manifest in the actual gameplay, and whether we are going to be able to not only hit those wonderful frame rates and peak performance and graphics that Jeremy talked about, but also whether we're going to be able to sustain them."

Millet pointed to how developers are given "this great toolbox" to work with, and though they may want to "try to burn a hole through the back of the phone" using the GPU, Apple won't let that happen, "but they could definitely do something that was probably not optimal for the experience."

By providing tools like MetalFX, Millet adds that the developers can "really burst up in maintaining an experience for a lot longer if they want to. And they can dial that in and out, depending on the experience that they want to go deliver. But it's all about giving them the tools to build that sustainable experience."

The work performed for this isn't just limited to MetalFX, as Millet insists "we're doing it all over the system: such as the display's "really amazing scaling technology built in," and the GPU's own scaling. "So with features like ray tracing and mesh shading and this really advanced compute architecture, the developer has access to all of these algorithms to figure out what's the best balance of compute and quality and performance and frame rate and resolution."

High-value console targets

As to how powerful the iPhone 15 Pro is compared to modern consoles, the group declines to give a specific answer, and instead that using the term is "just a convenient way for us to talk about the classic games and the types of games that the developers that we're targeting, the ones who have been successful in deploying there."

Drance offers that it's the experiences that matter, in having a portable camera and "memory capturing" device that is now "a powerhouse game console, but one that is in your pocket that you can take anywhere, game over different wireless networks, game on different titles, different ways that you get."

Sandmel concludes "I think they say the best game console is the one you have with you."