Pokemon Go is finally out. All your friends are playing it, and you want to join in. Unfortunately, your Android phone is letting you down, and it’s making you krabby.
It could be the case that Google Play is refusing to let you download it. Certain features of the game (like the awesome augmented-reality view) might not be working. Do you need to buy a new handset, or is the situation not as bad as you might have fearow-ed?
Augmented Reality Requires a Gyroscope
I downloaded Pokemon Go yesterday, and was positively gloom-y to discover that the much-hyped augmented reality (AR) feature wasn’t available on my device. When I activated it, an error message popped up that said, “We’re not detecting your phone’s orientation. Would you like to turn off AR mode?“.
A bit of googling suggested that this was because my device either did not have a gyroscope, or it was deactivated or otherwise defective.
So, how do you know if your phone has a gyroscope or not? One app I’ve found will answer this question conclusively. It’s called Sensor Kinetics, and it’s free from the Google Play Store. It’s a pretty simple app, showing diagnostic information about the phone’s on-board three-dimensional sensors.
If you don’t know if your phone has a built-in gyroscope, this app will tell you. Unfortunately, it’s not guaranteed. Many manufacturers have removed them in order to reduce costs. My phone – a Huawei Honor 5X – lacks one, despite being a pretty middle-of-the-road device.
While Pokemon Go is playable without the AR mode, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was missing out on something special.
RAM: Pokemon Go Needs at Least 2GB
If Google Play isn’t letting you download Pokemon Go, it could be because your phone doesn’t meet the steep memory requirements. Pokemon Go is really resource intensive, and if your handset is a bit of a slowpoke, it’ll struggle to run.
Lots of phones – particularly budget ones – skimp on RAM to drive prices down. Last month’s Wileyfox Spark is a great example of this, as it comes with a mere 1GB. To find out how much RAM your device has, tap System, then About Phone, and scroll down to see what it says under RAM. Alternatively, the full specifications of your phone should be listed on GSMArena.
The problem is that Pokemon Go requires a minimum 2GB of RAM. If you have less than that, you won’t be able to download it through the Google Play store and will be forced to acquire the APK from an unofficial source and sideload it.
This is less than ideal, as it can expose your phone to malware. There have already been documented examples of malware masquerading as Pokemon Go APKs. It also means you won’t receive updates as they’re released. The current state of Pokemon Go could charitably be described as rough. It’s inevitable that in the coming months, much-needed patches and performance updates will be released.
You’re also likely to encounter significant performance issues, with gameplay being stuttery and sluggish.
Battery Life: Pokemon Go Used Leech!
Pokemon Go is super effective at draining your battery. My Huawei Honor 5X can typically go a day between charges, but once I installed the game, my battery life was slashed by two-thirds.
A consequence of the unstoppable slimming of phones is that many of them ship with truly wimpy batteries. Thankfully, Pokémon Go comes with a battery-saver feature that, when enabled, lessens the impact. You can find this by tapping Settings, and then scrolling down until you can see Battery Saver. And Abra Kadabra, you should get an extra couple of hours of play time.
You can extend your play-time even further by switching off sound effects, music, and vibration.
In addition, you might want to get yourself a power bank. These have fallen in price over the past few years, and now you can get your hands on one for less than $20. I personally own the Anker Astro E1, which at the time of writing is currently on sale on Amazon for $16.99, instead of $49.99.
If your phone has a user-replaceable battery, and you don’t fancy being constantly tethered to a power brick, you might want to consider purchasing a second battery.
It also wouldn’t be farfetch’d to consider the power needs of Pokemon Go when it comes to replacing your handset. At the high-end of the market is the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active, which has a ludicrous 4,000mAh battery. For those with lesser budgets, the OnePlus 3 is a solid option. Unfortunately, some big-battery budget phones like the Blu Studio Energy (our review) don’t have the required 2GB of RAM.
Only KitKat and Above
This is unavoidable. Pokemon Go only works on Android 4.4 KitKat and newer, including 5.0/5.1 Lollipop and 6.0 Marshmallow. Thankfully, that covers most phones released in the past two years. You can find your Android version by entering About Phone, and scrolling down to see what it says under Android Version.
If your phone is below that level, you should see if there’s an Over the Air (OTA) update that you’ve neglected to install. As was the case with my (positively ancient) Huawei Honor 3C, which I use as a backup phone, there was an update available from the manufacturer’s website. This came in a ZIP file. In order to install it I had to boot into recovery mode. It was clefair-ly easy.
If all these options fail you, your next step should be to see if there’s a recent third-party ROM for your device. You might be able to root your device and flash a ROM running a newer version of Android.
Realistically, though, if your phone is running a three-year old version of Android, chances are high that it won’t have the hardware required to run Pokemon Go smoothly. At this point, I’d be seriously contemplating an upgrade.
Pokemon Go is a Demanding App
So, here’s the thing. In just a matter of days, Pokemon Go has seel-ed its place as the biggest mobile game of the year. By no means is it perfectly executed, but it’s undeniably ambitious.
This ambition translates into steep hardware demands. There are phones that were released last month that cannot run Pokémon Go. Many people will be have to upgrade their phones if they want play it — you can’t weedle your way out of some of these requirements.
Have you had any problems playing or installing Pokemon Go? How did you solve them? Do you think I should be banned from making Poke-puns ever again? Let me know in the comments below.