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Hearthstone - Can Blizzard limit Android version to tablets?

Seth Barton
22 Oct 2014
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Hearthstone should be playable on most modern Android smartphones

A recent post from Blizzard has confirmed that support for Android tablets will be coming 'before the end of the year'. However, support for Android smartphones and iPhones has been set as being 'until early next year'. However, those statements don't really the complexity of different Android devices now available, for example will you be able to play Hearthstone on your big new Galaxy Note 4?

For iOS devices it's really simple, there are iPads and iPhones and the developer simply marks the app as being compatible with one or the other, or both. This means that iPhone users aren't able to simply download and run the iPad version on their phones, and so will have to wait until Blizzard releases its official phone version of the app, which is likely to be highly redesigned in order to be workable on screens as small as 4in.

For Android though, most apps are available to work across all devices, with developers doing their best (or not) to make them look good on both large and small devices. Since Android 3.2 developers have done this by defining minimum screen resolutions that the app supports, and the Play Store won't install the app to devices that don't reach these. You can read all about the details of this in Distributing to Specific Screens and New Tools For Managing Screen Sizes. The key quote being (bold added by us) "The requiresSmallestWidthDp attribute is for devices running Android 3.2 and newer, which includes the capability for apps to specify size requirements based on a minimum number of density-independent pixels available".

The issue here is that many Android phones have the same screen resolution regardless of size, with most flagship phones using a Full HD resolution, the same as popular tablets such as the Nexus 7. In fact some of the latest handsets have huge 2,560x1,440 resolutions, while older tablets often have much smaller 1,280x800 resolutions. 

So unless Google has implemented some way to divide up larger and smaller sized displays which we can't find in its advice to developers, then any handset with enough pixels, which may in fact be most modern handsets will be able to download and play the Android 'tablet' version of the app. Now of course, it may not be very playable on such devices, or at least you'll need to have a very good knowledge of the game as text may be practically unreadable at such small sizes. If  you're willing to squint though, and many without iPads will  be than happy to, then you should be able to play.

Of course the need for a solid internet connection, and our undivided attention, means we won't be playing the game on the hoof as much as we might think, but having Hearthstone in our pockets before the end of the year is an exciting prospect - now if they'd only add more slots for decks!

It should be interesting to see how the new release affects the meta too, as we may see an influx of new players, who will be using largely basic cards and may not even possess the Naxx card set, resurrecting some deck builds that have become less common on the ladder. These new players would likely gravitate towards faster, aggro decks, as they wouldn't stand much of a chance once the common legendaries start rolling out from 6 mana and upwards. We'll just have to wait and see.

If you are looking for a new tablet to play Hearthstone on, then we'd cautiously recommend the new Tesco Hudl 2 - it costs just £129, has a squarer, more Hearthstone-friendly 1,920x1,200 resolution over a sizeable 8.3in screen. However it does use an Intel chipset (rather than ARM), so we'd wait until compatibility is confirmed by Blizzard. Of course if you've got more cash then the upcoming Nexus 9 looks fantastic, but will cost double what the Hudl does.

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