If you are into mobile gaming and happen to own an iPhone, iPad or Android device, then the Gamevice gaming controller will spin your world around. Here's our full review.
The Gamevice is an External Gaming Controller for iOS & Android. A Must-Have, No-nonsense Accessory for Mobile Gamers
Important Note: Before I go ahead with the review, I want to make it known that the Gamevice controller is available in different versions depending on the device you have. You can get one with a Lightning connector for the iPhone, iPad, or one that is tailor-made for certain Android devices. The one which I will be reviewing today fits the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus as well as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Therefore the entire review will reflect the experience I had with that particular model.
I'm Not Quite a Mobile Gamer. Let's Get that Out of the Way
I've never quite considered myself a mobile gamer. Sure, I'll whip out a game or two occasionally, but my go-to pastime on an iPhone or iPad has always been either YouTube or Netflix. I simply find the process of gaming on a smartphone or tablet cumbersome even though there are exceptionally good titles out there.
Even after all these years I never got the hang of hitting on-screen controls to steer the car around or throw a grenade in an online multiplayer match. That's why I try to find games that don't involve 'complicated' controls at all and are limited to simple taps and gestures. Monument Valley is a good example of that, while also quite mundane at the same time.
With that being said, it's fairly obvious at this point that I'm not quite a mobile gamer at all. Don't give me flak for it just yet. Trust me, things changed rapidly down the line.
When I found out that I would be reviewing the Gamevice, my point of view didn't go down a single step. I had my doubts way up where it should be but I was proven wrong the moment I unboxed the Gamevice and slapped it onto my iPhone. Very, very wrong. In fact, at this point I realized that throwing out an opinion without using something is the worst thing anyone could do. So, my bad.
Before I go ahead and talk about the Gamevice controller in detail, let's do a quick unboxing of the hardware first.
Gamevice for iPhone 8 / 7 / 6s / 6 Unboxing
Note: The unboxing experience will be different depending on the model you get. But the general outcome of the unboxing will be the same across the board.
At the front of the box, you will find the usual artwork depicting the controller in action with a 'Made for iPhone' logo on the bottom right corner. Flipping it around you'll find more details on the controller as well as a quick highlight of GAMEVICE LIVE, which I'll talk about later in this review.
Lift the lid and you're greeted with the controller itself and some paperwork which includes the quick start guide and a Gamevice sticker. There's no cable or any other accessory inside the box.
Design & Hardware
The Gamevice is nothing but a high-quality product and does not feel cheap in any way although it's made up entirely of plastic. Everyone, including myself, would wish that this was made of metal, but hey, if you're going to game for an extended period of time, you'll need a lightweight controller in hand, not a slab of military-grade metal.
The Gamevice does not disappoint in this area at all. It's both lightweight and the ergonomics are nearly perfect. I said 'nearly' because the experience can change if you are using the iPad version of this controller where the overall weight will definitely become an issue for some users.
On the left-hand side of the controller is an 8-way D-pad and an analog thumbstick. On the right, you'll find another thumbstick as well as analog buttons labelled X, Y, A and B (like on the Xbox) and an LED indicator. I wish these buttons were slightly more tactile and clicky, but that's just me being picky. They feel great, and I'm hopeful they won't lose their current clickiness down the line real soon.
At the top / back there are trigger and shoulder buttons. Again, this is something you'll find in any gaming controller out there. So yes, the Gamevice does not wuss out in any way.
There's also a headphone jack at the bottom, which is quite necessary since the controller blocks it on the device to which it is connected to. If you have an iPhone 7 or iPhone 8, then you can use the Gamevice as a massive makeshift headphone jack dongle, given you forgot yours at home. Just saying.
Separating the two parts of the controller is a 'Flex Bridge' which is made out of a smooth plastic - rubber like material. It basically keeps the entire controller together while your smartphone is holstered in between. Do I trust this 'Flex Bridge'? Most certainly. I never had an instance where I got an impression that it would fail me. But do keep in mind that it would see some wear and tear down the line if used in a harsh manner.
There are magnets underneath the controller too. What are they about, you ask? Well, it turns out, if you're going to travel with this thing, the magnets keep the left and right pieces of the controller together as shown in the photos below. It's genius, but don't rely on the magnets too much as a little shake will pull them apart. It's only meant for a quick and secure solution while stowing the controller away in a backpack or drawer. Nothing more.
Last but not the least, and found next to the headphone jack, is a Lightning connector. This Lightning connector only serves as a pass-through to charge your iPhone. This also means that the Gamevice does not include an on-board battery and solely relies on the connected device for power. So technically, the Gamevice lasts as long as your iPhone does, obviously.
The overall design feels unobtrusive once it is properly set up. It does, of course, get in the way if you are just roaming around iOS to reply to a text message or just checking up on something in Safari. Basically this thing is meant to work flawlessly as long as you're inside a game. Anything other than that and you might have some problems. I mean, seriously, the iPhone 8 / 7 have big enough top and bottom bezels already, extend that with a controller even further and you'll be left with your head scratching wondering how you'd get around the thing. So please, don't give the controller bad credit if you're using it wrong.
In case you're wondering, the two analog sticks do not press or click. They are solely meant for directions and directions alone.
First Boot, Set-up and GAMEVICE LIVE
Given the type of iPhone you have (4.7 or 5.5-inch), you adjust the Flex Bridge using an adjuster at the back, slide your phone in, and voila. There's no further set-up required at all, thanks to the controller's MFi certification. However, you will be asked if you wish to go over to the App Store in order to install GAMEVICE LIVE. It's a simple hub that aggregates all the best games under one roof.
If you are extremely brand new to gaming on iOS, I would recommend going ahead with GAMEVICE LIVE for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it lets you see all the Gamevice-compatible games in one place, bypassing the tedious App Store search process altogether. Also, if you are looking for certain games that fall under a specific genre, then GAMEVICE LIVE will make the hunting process easier.
While that sounds good and all, quite frankly, GAMEVICE LIVE is not a well-made piece of software. It almost feels like as if the company threw all its resources on the controller and forgot to polish their accompanying app. I'll go as far as saying that this might be the worst part of the Gamevice experience, but it can easily be fixed with a few updates down the line. The potential is there, but not properly harnessed just yet.
If you don't wish to install GAMEVICE LIVE at all, the controller will work just fine. The app is not necessary in any way, but I will tell you this: whenever you connect the Gamevice to your iPhone with the app not installed, it will always throw you a quick warning that the controller needs to download and app from the App Store. Just ignore that annoyance and move on.
How Does it Play? Like a Dream
I've had experience with a certain other MFi certified controller from SteelSeries, but I'm more confident in how the Gamevice functions. First and foremost, that SteelSeries connected to my iPhone via Bluetooth. It sounds convenient, but having your smartphone sit somewhere else while you game on a controller works best if you have a full-blown gaming system or a console like the Xbox or PlayStation. On a mobile level, the experience is bolstered by a huge margin when everything is in one place. Much like how the Joy-Con controllers are when attached to the Switch in tablet mode. That's how gaming should be, and it's obvious Gamevice has figured out the formula way ahead of releasing its product.
During the course of my testing, I tried out several different games. But the top few in that list were Asphalt 8, Modern Combat 5, Assassin's Creed: Identity and Sonic classic. I've played these games with and without the controller over the past few days, and I have to say: there's no way I'm playing a title on my iPhone again if I have to stumble onto on-screen controls. I understand on-screen controls are intuitive and all, but having a physical controller to go around places is just something I will always get behind. Maybe that's just me.
In a tap-and-go style game, the controller will not work. Monument Valley, for example.
Do you own a DJI Spark drone or a R2D2 Sphero? Then you'll be surprised to learn that the Gamevice works with that too. I didn't get the luxury to try it out, but it's important that you should know this.
What's the Catch?
I reserved this section of the review for the very end because I feel this is something which everyone might not share across the board. First and foremost, if you rely on a case, the GAMEVICE will not play nicely with it. You have to take the case off no matter what.
Secondly, and this one's kinda weird too: you cannot use the Gamevice if you have a glass screen protector on. Because the controller is designed in such a way that it provides a snug fit for the iPhone. If a little bit of room was made just to accommodate the screen protector, it's obvious that we would see some slack, posing a risk of damage to both the controller and the phone in the long run.
I would have loved it a lot if the GAMEVICE came with a built-in battery pack which would charge up the iPhone while you're gaming. Again, it seems as though we can expect such a thing in a later release, maybe.
Last but not the least, I really, really wish the Gamevice had backlit buttons. I know, this sounds a little too much to ask at this point, but if you're gaming in the dark, why not have your controls front and center, completely visible, no? You don't have to agree with me on this one, believe me.
The Gamevice offered me a gaming experience which was long lost. There's no way I can get used to on-screen controls no matter what I try. It's safe to say that this thing got me gaming again on mobile, that too in a way I was least expecting. How many times you've seen a piece of hardware that made you care about something such as gaming so deeply? So yes, this thing has my complete seal of approval.
Price & Availability
Like I mentioned at the start of the review, the Gamevice is available in different flavors, depending on the device you have. The iPhone version of the Gamevice is linked below. It is available for purchase immediately straight from the official website, Amazon or your favorite retailer.
- Buy Gamevice for iPhone - Price $79.95.
I always believed that iPhone game controllers were a huge sham. Gamevice changed my opinion of that and got me into gaming again.
- It's reliable. It works. Doesn't require batteries and features a pass-through Lightning connector for charging up your iPhone.
- It's not case friendly or screen protector friendly. The overall package does not include a carrying case either.