Turn your iPhone 7 into a hand­held con­sole

Re­veals how the Gamevice can make your phone look like a Nin­tendo Switch

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS - An­drew Hay­ward

There are a few pretty good MFi-ap­proved game con­trollers for iOS, but most of them seem more ide­ally de­signed for iPad than iPhone. It makes sense to prop up your iPad and use a gamepad from a few feet away, but would you do the same with an iPhone and squint at the smaller screen? Some con­trollers of­fer iPhone­hold­ing clips, which is a fair so­lu­tion, al­though it can be awk­ward de­pend­ing on the size of the phone and/or con­troller.

Thank­fully, the Gamevice is a bet­ter so­lu­tion for bring­ing phys­i­cal con­trols to your iPhone. The newly-re­leased sec­ond-gen ver­sion sup­ports the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (as well as 6/6s and 6/6s Plus),

and as the name sug­gests, it clamps around the top and bot­tom of your phone to sur­round the screen with but­tons and analogue sticks.

The end re­sult can’t help but look like a PlayS­ta­tion Vita or PSP – or the new Nin­tendo Switch. For the av­er­age iPhone owner, touch con­trols are fine for most games, and you don’t need to bring a phys­i­cal add-on and £79.95 into it. But for any­one who craves an analogue stick and real but­tons for nav­i­gat­ing Minecraft worlds, blast­ing through The Bind­ing of Isaac, or play­ing Sonic the Hedge­hog, the Gamevice brings se­ri­ous perks. It’s avail­able at tinyurl.com/zb876do.

What it does

The Gamevice is built to grab onto both ends of your land­scape-ori­ented iPhone and squeeze it­self around your hand­set. It is a sin­gle unit, with the two con­troller halves con­nected by a rub­ber­ized strap that spans the back­side of the iPhone. One model is avail­able for both stan­dard and Plus-sized iPhones – you’re out of luck, SE own­ers – and it can ex­pand and con­tract to fit ei­ther.

Just plug the bot­tom half of your phone into the Lightning port on the right end of the Gamevice and then tug lightly on the left end to pull it over the top of your phone. In a mat­ter of sec­onds, you have a makeshift gam­ing hand­held. And once plugged in, you don’t have to go through any kind of pair­ing process: the Gamevice is rec­og­nized au­to­mat­i­cally by iOS, and will work with com­pat­i­ble games with lit­tle or no menu tin­ker­ing needed.

We didn’t get to try out the orig­i­nal model, but this sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion re­vi­sion brings in some

ob­vi­ous im­prove­ments. The big­gest is the Lightning port, which means the Gamevice is pow­ered by your phone bat­tery. That can be a draw­back, since it’ll suck away some pre­cious ex­tra bat­tery life in the process, but elim­i­nat­ing a sep­a­rate bat­tery in­side the con­troller saves has­sle and also trims down the size of the unit.

And since there’s a Lightning port on the bot­tom of the Gamevice, you can also charge your iPhone dur­ing use by plug­ging in a ca­ble. Fur­ther­more, there’s a nice perk for iPhone 7 own­ers: the Gamevice has its own stan­dard, 3.5mm head­phone jack, so you won’t need to use an adap­tor, Lightning head­phones, or Blue­tooth ear­buds to plug in while gam­ing.

The one down­side to such a form-fit­ting de­vice is that it’s use­less with any iPad: there’s no way to plug in a larger de­vice, and since it con­nects via Lightning, you can’t even pair via Blue­tooth and use it with the tablet. Gamevice sells sep­a­rate mod­els for the 9.7- and 12.9in iPad Pro and Air mod­els, and the iPad mini, but each one is priced at £79.95 apiece and only work with the des­ig­nated tablets. In other words, if you have mul­ti­ple iOS de­vices, you may need a sep­a­rate Gamevice for each.

How it works

The Gamevice is a pretty clever so­lu­tion for adding phys­i­cal con­trols to iPhone games, and while it fits fairly tightly around

your phone, the na­ture of its de­sign means the mar­riage isn’t wholly har­mo­nious. It feels a lit­tle creaky as a sin­gle unit, and there’s still some flex to the con­troller halves even when docked around your phone. We’re not con­cerned about it dam­ag­ing our phone or fall­ing off dur­ing use, but we also wish it felt more firmly af­fixed when we’re grip­ping it. Just go gen­tle on it.

Luck­ily, the ac­tual de­vice is well stocked with in­puts: you’ll get four face but­tons, four shoul­der but­tons, two analogue sticks, and a di­rec­tional pad (d-pad), as well as the menu/start but­ton. That’s surely enough con­trols for any iPhone game you can throw at it.

The im­proved analogue sticks here are very re­spon­sive, as ex­em­pli­fied by 3D games like Minecraft: Pocket Edi­tion or any of the clas­sic Grand Theft Auto ports. Gain­ing fluid move­ment in those games is such a huge and im­me­di­ately ben­e­fi­cial up­grade, and us­ing both sticks at the same time makes shoot­ers like Ge­om­e­try Wars 3: Di­men­sions and The Bind­ing of Isaac much, much more sat­is­fy­ing than us­ing their touch equiv­a­lents. Be­ing able to play our beloved Paci­fism mode in

Di­men­sions on a phone – with real analogue sticks – has been a rev­e­la­tion.

We’re not as crazy about the but­tons and d-pad, how­ever. All must be pressed firmly to regis­ter an ac­tion in any game, which means that a light or speedy tap might not be rec­og­nized. That’s a fairly com­mon trait for MFi con­trollers that we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced with other game pads. As some­one who reg­u­larly wields the ul­tra-re­fined, su­per­pre­cise con­trollers of the PlayS­ta­tion 4 and Xbox One, it’s sort of baf­fling to use some­thing that’s less re­spon­sive in 2017.

It’s a frus­tra­tion, but not one that ru­ins the gamepad’s value: you’ll have to press hard with each tap, and the lack of sub­tle in­puts might come back to haunt you in, say, a fight­ing game. But so long as you get in the habit of jab­bing the but­tons and d-pad, they do work. And re­ally, we sup­pose that but­tons that you have to press firmly are still bet­ter than not hav­ing but­tons at all. Be­ing able to use real but­tons for retro greats such as Sonic the Hedge­hog 2, Metal Slug, and Rayman Clas­sic brings such a clear en­hance­ment in both in­ter­ac­tions and fun.

Is it worth it?

At £79.95, you’ll pay a very steep price for the Gamevice, and that’s for a pe­riph­eral that only works with an iPhone. It’s a lot of money to spend on an en­hance­ment for iOS games, par­tic­u­larly when the great SteelSeries Nim­bus con­troller is just £44.95 and works with all iOS de­vices. That said, we’re not ac­tu­ally go­ing to use the Nim­bus with our iPhone. We’d switch screens and use it with an iPad

Air in­stead, but it’s just not worth the has­sle to use a free-stand­ing gamepad with an iPhone. On the other hand, we’ll use the Gamevice with an iPhone in the fu­ture. It’s com­pact, it snaps on in sec­onds, and we don’t have to worry about charg­ing it – we can keep it on our bed­side ta­ble and pull it out when­ever we’re play­ing a game be­fore bed, or tuck it into a bag for our next trip. For its myr­iad hang-ups, in­clud­ing those not-ful­lyre­spon­sive but­tons, the Gamevice is a nearper­fect fit for the iPhone. And fit is such a key at­tribute for some­thing like this.

Gamevice’s app can point you to­wards loads of com­pat­i­ble games

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