Turn your iPhone 7 into a hand­held con­sole

An­drew Hay­ward re­veals how the Gamevice can make your phone look like a Nin­tendo Switch

Macworld - - Contents -

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 iPhone-hold­ing 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 Plus­sized 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 gamepads. 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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