The Gamevice is aimed at the mobile gamer who does more than just flick a few Angry Birds or crush some candy. This $99 gamepad shell adds legitimate console controls to your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, allowing you to play the bevy of iOS shooters, sports games and action romps out there without dealing with pesky touch controls. Gamevice does an excellent job of bringing intuitive gamepad controls to iOS games, but a few design drawbacks make it worth considering some alternatives before snagging one.
Design and Setup
The Gamevice turns your iPhone 6 into a silly-looking but functional handheld console by attaching physical controls to either side of it. The device's two clasps sport all of the inputs you'd expect from a modern console controller ─ two analog sticks, a d-pad, four face buttons, four shoulder buttons and a headset jack ─ and are held together by a soft, rubbery bridge that can adjusted to fit your iPhone 6/6s or 6 Plus/6s Plus.
Setting the Gamevice up is a cinch; you simply plug your iPhone into the lightning connector on the right, adjust the bridge to fit your device, and secure the left side. The resulting design is comfortable, but kind of goofy. Since the Gamevice's grips are taller than my iPhone 6's display, the combination of the two looks more like a disfigured Game Gear than something as sleek as Sony's PlayStation Vita. Attaching an iPhone 6 Plus creates a slightly more seamless look, but either way, I won't be using this thing on the train anytime soon.
My only other gripe with the Gamevice's aesthetics is how cheap the thumbsticks feel. The two plastic sticks are tiny and uncomfortable, and I often found my thumbs getting caught on their sharp edges. Considering that just about every gamepad out there uses rubberized sticks, the Gamevice's unpleasantly stiff ones were a bit of a bummer.
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At just 3.2 ounces (9.6 ounces with an iPhone 6 attached), the Gamevice is light enough to hold comfortably for long sessions. It's noticeably less hefty than the gamepad-shaped Moga Rebel, which weighs 6.4 ounces by itself and 12.8 with an iPhone 6 docked.
The Gamevice's two clasps attach magnetically, making it easy to fold the accessory up when you're not gaming on it. The controller's micro USB port allows you to charge your phone without taking it out of the Gamevice, but unfortunately, the onboard battery doesn't juice up your phone when you're unplugged.
While it's not the coolest-looking peripheral out there, the Gamevice successfully provides responsive, console-like controls on iOS. The gamepad handled just about every genre I threw at it, whether I was chomping ghosts in Pac-Man 256 or exploring the vast worlds of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. More important, it made me actually enjoy certain titles that were previously a nightmare to play with touch controls.
Popular shooter Dead Trigger 2 works just fine with touch, but it felt like a legitimate console game with the Gamevice attached. Using the triggers to aim and shoot felt natural, and while the thumbsticks are small, they made it easy for me to pull off a succession of perfect zombie headshots.
As a fighting-game fanatic, I was mostly pleased with how the Gamevice handled hardcore brawlers such as Mark of the Wolves. The face buttons responded snappily to my punches and kicks, and the d-pad allowed me to input complex super-attack commands with precision. However, I noticed that the left side of the controller got a little wobbly whenever I frantically moved my character around, and I would have liked for it to feel secure enough to support my button-mashing habits.
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Gamevice is a worthy companion for sports games ─ FIFA 16 felt so familiar and fluid that I was pulling off quick passes and making long-range shots within seconds. However, playing FIFA brought me back to my biggest frustration with the controller: those darned thumbsticks. Games that require you to constantly twirl the sticks around highlight just how uncomfortable the little plastic nubs can be, and I truly hope the next version of this otherwise neat accessory offers smoother sticks.
While not mandatory, the free Gamevice Live app does a nice job curating some of the better controller-ready iOS games out there. The app offers separate tabs for new, featured, free and paid games, and will take you to Apple's App Store once you've found something you like. Gamevice Live isn't the only app that helps you seek out gamepad games ─ the Moga World app does the same ─ but I appreciated having a central hub for finding some.
Before you plunk down $99 on a Gamevice, I strongly suggest you consider the $79 Moga Rebel to see which of the two is right for you. This Bluetooth-based gamepad is shaped like a traditional Xbox controller and features an expandable dongle that docks your iPhone on top of it, regardless of which model you have.
I personally prefer the Rebel's more comfortable controls and better versatility ─ you can use it wirelessly on your iPad, and its Bluetooth capabilities ensure that it won't become obsolete as you upgrade your iOS devices. However, the Rebel can feel a bit top-heavy with an iPhone attached, whereas the Gamevice's horizontal design distributes its weight more evenly. While the Rebel has much comfier thumbsticks, I found the Gamevice's d-pad to be more precise.
Both controllers felt equally responsive, even though the Rebel connects wirelessly and the Gamevice via a Lightning port. Not having to use Bluetooth on the Gamevice could end up saving you some battery, though.
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Both Moga and Logitech have their own shell-style controllers that are similar to the Gamevice, but they're currently limited to the iPhone 5 series. Until something more up-to-date comes out, the Rebel is the best alternative for iPhone 6 owners.
The Gamevice does exactly what it's designed to, offering responsive, mostly comfortable controls for any gamepad-ready iOS game you toss at it. Setting it up with your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus takes seconds, and its fold-up design is ready for the road.
However, a few awkward design issues make the Gamevice hard to fully recommend at $99. The peripheral's small plastic thumbsticks feel cheap and uncomfortable, and its slightly goofy aesthetic will likely turn some heads in public. The gamepad is also limited to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models.
If you want something more versatile and future-proof, check out the $70 Moga Rebel, which can dock your iPhone and works with just about any iOS device. Still, if you prefer a shell-style controller that makes your phone look like an (admittedly silly) game console, Gamevice is perfectly suited for serious mobile gaming.