iPhone could be more powerful than Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, but the software is holding it back.

Next week, one of the best looking games yet for the App Store will be hitting iPhone and iPod Touch gamers – Doom Resurrection.

id Software lead programming whiz John Carmack, who has developed 3D engines from Wolfenstein 3D to the yet-to-be-released Rage, has been quite charmed by the iPhone since its release, an opinion that he’s not afraid to share.

“I love the iPhone,” Carmack said in an interview withVentureBeat. “It’s a real game platform, not a tiny little toy.”

According to Carmack, the iPhone/iPod Touch has stronger gaming hardware than the Nintendo DS–which should be no surprise–but even stronger than the PSP. So then why have iPhone/iPod Touch games thus far been below the graphical and audio quality of the PSP? It’s a problem with the software, said the programmer.

“If you look at it in raw hardware horsepower, the iPhone should be better in performance than the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation Portable,” Carmack said. “But the truth is, you can’t exploit it all because of software inefficiencies.”

While the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP are purpose built for gaming in mind, the iPhone software must also manage other forms of applications and even (gasp) phone functions.

Escalation Studios, the developers behind Doom Resurrection, expect to be able to take advantage of various features of the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0, though the game is designed to run fine on the current 2.x base.

As with any development platform, the software tools will get better over time, which should yield better games. The only disappointing bit of news for diehard first-person shooter fans is that Doom Resurrection will be an on-rails experience.