Now that the Pokemon Go craze has exploded into a phenomenon comparable to the popularization of rock music, a lot of people are asking how they should upgrade from their obsolete Android phones in order to be able to play Pokemon Go properly.
Pokemon Go places certain requirements on the hardware and operating system of the phone, and inability to fullfill these requirements will prevent you from playing at least for now:
- Android version 4.4 to Android 6.0.1
- GPS, preferably with the A-GPS feature and the typical Google Location Services
- A fast internet connection over 3G or 4G.
A processor that is NOT made by Intel. (Fixed in the newest app versions)
Optional / flexible requirements:
- A gyroscope is optional, but required for the AR (augmented reality) mode, where you can see the Pokemon in the back camera view.
- 2 GB of ram should be considered a minimum requirement with a modern Android OS. The game does run with 1-1,5GB but you might not be able to install it from Play Store.
You can play Pokémon Go without the gyroscope, but you’ll only see the pokémon on a forest background while trying to catch it and you can’t “look around”. If you start researching, you’ll be surprised how many phones below $400 lack gyroscopes.
A phone with less than 2 GB of RAM will probably be listed as incompatible on the Play Store, though I’ve heard of phones with 1.5 GB beeing deemed compatible by Play Store. With less RAM, you can still install it as an unofficial .apk, but this isn’t recommended for security reasons. Playing the game with less memory works to some extent, but you might run into repeated crashes below 1 GB.
Almost all high-end, large-brand Android phones post-2013 meet the requirements, but you’re presumably reading this because you don’t have one. New high-end phones can easily put a 500-800 euro ($550-880) dent in your wallet, and many people can’t afford these. Therefore I’ve compiled a list of budget mid-tier brand phones that are confirmed to fill all the requirements:
- The ZTE Blade S6, for 180 € ($200)
- The Motorola Moto G 2016 version (4th generation or “G4”) and it’s Plus -version (better camera) for 230 – 270 € ($250-300 ) work quite well, though it could have a faster GPU. Earlier Moto G’s are not fully compatible.
- The (LG) Nexus 5X, for about 270 € ($260). Google Nexus phones have usually been a safe bet.
- The Huawei Honor 7, for about 330 € ($300) is an affordable semi-high end phone if you aren’t bothered by Huawei’s user interface rework.
- The LG G4, for about 360 € ($340) (not the stylus version).
- There are a number of really cheap Chinese Android phones, but there will probably be neglibible support and few to no OS updates for them. This includes the more expensive OnePlus series, that struggles with very buggy post-release updates.
- This search result on gsmarena.com can help you on your way if you do some research
Newer brand devices that will not meet all the requirements due to missing a gyroscope (no AR mode but should be playable) include the Huawei P8 Lite version, LG G4 Stylus, ZTE Blade X9 and the Samsung Galazy E7. Many other phones in the 150-230 euro range seem to run Pokemon Go (without the AR mode) though they have less than 2 GB of RAM. These include phones like the, Samsung S5 Mini, Galaxy J5,the Galaxy On -series and the LG K10 and K7. Such hardware is quickly getting obsolete, possibly preventing Play Store installation now or in the future. Might work, might not. Regardless, you’ll end up with a phone that will feel sluggish in a year or two.
If you’re only getting the phone for your child as a toy, you could probably go with a Chinese phone like the 130 € ($110) Oukitel K4000 or even any 80 € Android 5-6 chinaphone as long as it has a powerful processor like a Snapdragon and your child can live without the AR mode. I believe the AR mode is quite important to the smaller ones, though. It’s a complicated balancing between feature cost and risk of breakage. It should be mentioned that hardcore players often don’t use the AR mode (aside from sharing pictures), because it consumes more battery.
You can also get most 2014 semi-flagships used online for around 100-150 €. Just check the requirements. If you’re not too deep in the Android ecosystem, you could also try finding a used iPhone 5 instead. The game isn’t really playable on the older iPhone 4 and 4S models due to very little RAM.
It’s always good insurance to invest in a “ballistic” case for your smartphone, preferably one that is thick and rubbery, and bounces a little. The thin ones are mostly for decoration and preventing scratches.