GeekDad Review: Gamevice Controller for iPhone

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Gamevice for iPhone: Overview

Gamevice is a hardware controller that fits over your iOS device to give it traditional video game controls instead of relying on touchscreen input. The version I tested is the latest offering for the iPhone.

Gamevice review
The Gamevice controller wraps around your iPhone and fits it snugly (Photo by Brad Moon)

The Gamevice has two sections—each has a thumb stick and shoulder buttons, one has a D-Pad and other has A,B,X,Y buttons—and the iPhone sits in the middle. The two sections are connected by a flexible rubberized ribbon. You insert the iPhone (it docks to a passthrough Lighting connector), then tighten everything up using a slider. The Gamevice accommodates both standard and plus-sized iPhones and when adjusted holds them quite snugly. The passthrough Lightning connector means you can plug in the Gamevice to charge your iPhone while in use.

Gamevice review
Gamevice folds neatly for storage (Photo by Brad Moon)

The complete unit when assembled isn’t small. With my iPhone 7 Plus, it measures 10-inches across, or just a smidge wider than a Nintendo Switch. That may be a deal-breaker for some people, but I found it was quite comfortable to hold.

When not in use, the flexible connector combined with a magnet that holds the two sections together lets the Gamevice collapse into a much more compact unit for easy storage.

There are four LED indicators on the right section of the controller, a holdover from the first generation model that had its own battery. I checked with Gamevice about what they actually show now, because I would always see a single red light. One LED currently indicates a positive connection with the iPhone and the cutouts for the lights serve as a sound port. When same-room multiplayer games hit, the LEDs will be used to indicate player order.

Gamevice for iPhone: Gameplay

Some people love playing games using touch controls. I’ll take a hardware game controller any day. With the games that I sampled, including Oceanhorn and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Gamevice controller made a huge difference in playability, not to mention keeping my iPhone’s display clean.

The thumb sticks are nicely responsive and grippy, with a rubberized coating (the first generation device was criticized for using plastic) and the buttons are well laid out. Controls are responsive with no input lag. Indents on the back of both sides of the controller make it comfortable to get a solid grip and the ultra-light weight (achieved partially by ditching the built-in battery found in the original version) means no fatigue.

In terms of battery life, Gamevice says drawing from the iPhone’s battery shouldn’t drain it any more than using headphones. I can’t say that I noticed any real impact on battery life, although I’m a casual gamer and only played for 20 or 30 minutes at a time.

Gamevice review
Gamevice greatly improves the experience of playing iOS games like Oceanhorn (Photo by Brad Moon)

Gamevice for iPhone: Compatible Games

Gamevice Live tracks the current list of iOS games that are compatible with the controller (you can also see the list using an iOS app of the same name). That numbers hundreds of titles (942 at time of writing), ranging from free apps to premium paid games from the big game studios. Sadly, no Super Mario Run at this point…

The same service will also show you exactly how each game’s controls are mapped to the controller.

You can only play games that are compatible with the controller using Gamevice, but the selection of available titles is pretty impressive.

Gamevice Controller Key Specs:

•    Dual analog joysticks
•    A,B,X,Y buttons
•    D-pad
•    R1, L1 bumpers
•    R2, L2 triggers
•    Menu button
•    3.5mm passthrough headphone jack
•    Passthrough Lightning connector
•    4 LED indicators
•    Weighs 4.6 ounces
•    Compatible with iPhone 6/7 and 6/7 Plus

Gamevice for iPhone: Should You Buy It?

At $99.95, the Gamevice isn’t an impulse buy, but if you play a lot of games on your iPhone, it can be a huge upgrade. That’s going to depend on the kind of game you play (it’s not going to do much for puzzles, for example) and how you feel about touch controls, but for me, it made gaming on the iPhone fun instead of an exercise in frustration. My kids have also been lined up to take turns with it—they love this thing.

Watching them at it raises my only real concern about the Gamevice—especially when kids are involved. The Lightning connector and the flexible connector between the two sections of the Gamevice are going to be its weak points. Care should be taken when putting it on and removing it to avoid damaging those components.

Other than that, the Gamevice is a fantastic gaming upgrade for iPhone 6/7 and 6/7 Plus owners.

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