The Apple Arcade app/service may seem like a half-baked effort on Apple’s part to enter the gaming industry. One could argue that Apple doesn’t even care about gamers or gaming beyond the odd Monument Valley or AR-based game that they’ve showcased at their keynotes. However, the Apple Arcade Pro changes ALL of that. Designed as a hardware concept that rivals the Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck, or any of the Android-based gaming phones, the Apple Arcade Pro is a handheld console modeled on the iPhone, however with not one but TWO notches that allow the console to have its own button layouts.
The Apple Arcade Pro is exactly what the company needs to blitz right into the gaming industry. Google Stadia is on life-support, Microsoft Xbox Game Pass hasn’t quite picked up yet, the Steam Deck hasn’t rolled out to many people yet, and literally the only handheld gaming device that’s really got a stranglehold on the market is the Nintendo Switch… the Arcade Pro has the ability to massively tilt the scales by doing a couple of things – A. Championing mobile-based AAA gaming, B. Putting Apple’s A15 Bionic chip to even better use, and C. Allowing Apple’s Arcade service to expand rapidly in a way that would probably even threaten Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. Sadly though, there’s no way Fortnite is coming back to the Apple gaming ecosystem anytime soon…
The Apple Arcade Pro models itself on the successful iPhone format. It comes with a Stainless Steel body in four different finishes, and sports the same flat-edge design as the iPhone. On the front, however, things are a bit different. There’s no front-facing camera, but the notch is still there. In fact, there are two notches on either side of the device, allowing for the Arcade Pro to have its controls – an ambidextrous set of D-pads that change function depending on what game you’re playing. On the rim, the volume buttons are replaced by left and right shoulder buttons, and the speaker modules now go all the way from one corner to the other, immersing you in audio as you game.
Move over to the back and there’s a bit of a throwback in terms of the camera layout. Instead of equipping the Arcade Pro with the best-quality camera as you’d find in the iPhone, the Arcade Pro instead has an iPhone X-inspired dual-lens system that sits further to the corner, so it doesn’t get obstructed by your hands as you game. In between the two cameras, however, sits a LiDAR sensor that turns the Arcade Pro into the world’s first AR-based dedicated handheld gaming console.
Other noteworthy features of the Arcade Pro are its upgraded Taptic Engine that allows for better haptic gaming, the Magic Joy buttons that mimic the ones seen on the Apple TV remote, 95W MagSafe charging on the back, and a new Game OS, designed specifically to highlight the new gaming experience. The Arcade Pro doesn’t just tap into the Apple Arcade service, it redefines it completely and spins the arcade service into its own standalone service, giving it a dedicated operating system that prioritizes games first, while also offering other features/apps like Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV, Safari, etc. Want to take a break from gaming and just use the Arcade Pro to watch content? There’s a Pro Stand-inspired Gravity Stand that lets you prop your device on it and easily enjoy watching stuff online. The concept doesn’t detail whether the Arcade Pro has cellular services (there isn’t a SIM tray anywhere to be seen), although we could go on a limb and say that it’ll still have Messages, although, with a front-facing camera, Memoji and FaceTime seem out of the picture.
Obviously, this is a concept and it’s practically guaranteed that Apple won’t release a gaming console any time soon (although it definitely should, considering how incredibly lucrative the industry is), but for the people who think having an iPhone-inspired gaming device is an illogical idea, let’s not forget that for the longest time Apple did have its own iPhone-shaped device that catered to a specific category – music. The iPod Touch, for years, was an iPhone-lite that did a limited set of tasks focused primarily on music and browsing the internet… so it’s fairly within the bounds of an alternate reality to envision the Arcade Pro as a gaming-specific iPhone.
Is the Arcade Pro a great idea? On paper, it definitely is, given how the gaming industry is bigger than Hollywood, the music industry, the NBA, NFL, and MLB all combined. Apple’s had a long history of sidestepping gaming, but just purely from a revenue standpoint, it makes a world of sense considering Apple can’t even claim it’s a monopoly business here. Moneytalk aside, the Arcade Pro sounds like the PERFECT device for kids… an iPhone Lite, if you will. Apple will have to develop the OS in a way that enables incredibly rigid parental controls for youngsters, but the Arcade Pro has the potential of not just being a gaming device – it also becomes the communication device parents feel comfortable giving their kids and allowing them to keep in touch… without splurging the big bucks on buying a kid an iPhone.
Designers: Junwoo Kim & Joonho Sung