Smart Boy turns an Android phone into an old-school Game Boy
No matter how far games advance, nostalgia for simpler times will never fade. Independent hardware developer Hyperkin is known for banking on that nostalgia, releasing products that give classic games consoles a new lease on life long after the original manufacturers have moved on. Now it has announced the Smart Boy, an Android peripheral that allows old Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges to be enjoyed on a smartphone.
The device slots over the bottom half of an Android phone, adding tactile buttons and a D-pad in the all-too-familiar layout of the original big grey brick, while the top half of the phone's screen is left free to display the game itself. Cartridges slot into the back, and the device will run games from both NTSC and PAL regions. There's a double-sided micro-USB slot built in as well.
For now, Hyperkin is only releasing the Smart Boy as a developer kit, so the device comes with an open source serial app and firmware, which the company hopes will get people fiddling with it and improving the current build ahead of its planned launch as a retail product. To incentivize developers, Hyperkin is offering a royalty scheme for sales of the final product to anybody who can advance the firmware.
There's no word yet on whether an iPhone version of the Smart Boy will be available, which is interesting given that's a complete reversal of the concept's original announcement back in May last year. Initially an April Fool's joke that snowballed into a real product, back then the device was designed specifically for the iPhone 6 Plus, with Android compatibility coming at a later date.
The next question of course is what niche does the Smart Boy fill? There's no shortage of ways to play Game Boy games now: Nintendo's current handheld, the 3DS, lets you download many of the major titles on its Virtual Console store. If you still have the cartridges, you can play them on Hyperkin's own Retron 5, a console that also plays Game Boy Advance, NES, SNES, Sega Genesis and Megadrive games on your fancy new TV.
But honestly, if you still have the games, chances are you still have the Game Boy itself too, since those things are as solid as a Nokia 3310 and still running reliably almost 30 years later. If yours has gone to the big e-waste center in the sky, you could pick up a secondhand one for probably the same price as the Smart Boy, if not cheaper.
If you do have or want the cartridges, have an Android phone, don't have a Game Boy, and wouldn't mind the chance to fiddle with the hardware and potentially earn some royalties, Hyperkin estimates the Smart Boy will ship December 1, for US$59.99.