There’s been various stabs at doing a controller for portable devices and the folks behind Wikipad has come out with what seems to be a nice setup.
The Gamevice is a mobile controller that locks onto the ends of your phone or tablet and gives you full console gamepad controls so you can enjoy mobile games in a nice comfortable setup. The fine folks at Gamevice sent me a version that was compatible with my Galaxy Note 8, but they have other setups as well if you have say an iPhone or a Galaxy S7.
Looking at the Gamevice, it’s made up of two parts with a flexible connector. On the left half is a thumbstick, D-pad, two triggers, a back button, and a Gamevice button. On the right half is another thumbstick with two more triggers, a start button, and the basic diamond layout of game buttons. And in a nice touch, the right portion features a headphone jack and a micro-USB connector so you can charge your phone while using the Gamevice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support fast charging, but that’s not too bad. My Note 8 would fast charge on my testing cable, but would only do a normal charge when inside the Gamevice and the same cable plugged into the peripheral. As long as you can charge the phone when in use, then it was fine in my book.
While a lot of peripherals out there use Bluetooth as a connector, the Gamevice uses the phone’s connector so for mine, it was the USB-C port on the button. You slide that into the right half and then wrap the left half and slide it on the other end of the phone. This, in turn, locks the phone in place and the Gamevice secures itself on both ends of the phone. I love the fact that it uses USB-C as it cuts down on latency and eliminates the need for a separate battery to power the Gamevice. The one minor problem is the left side is a little bit wobbly. The right side is locked in tight due to the the USB-C connection. The left side of the Gamevice has too much wiggle for my tastes but it never wiggled enough to pop out. This might annoy some people, but I don’t know how Gamevice could have been designed to provide a more solid hold on the left side of the phone.
Storing the Gamevice is pretty easy as the two halves can be put together via some internal magnets that will keep them in place in your bag. They aren’t too strong so you might occasionally have the two halves separate in your bag, but for the most part, they stick together. The back connector that joins the two halves folds up nicely and you can neatly store the Gamevice away somewhere when not in use.
Using the Gamevice has its ups and downs. I did like that it worked pretty much out of the box. I was able to fire up games like Minecraft, NBA Jam, Grand Theft Auto III, MAME, and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and use the Gamevice’s controls pretty easily. Let me say, I love the way the form factor as having the screen be in the center with the controls on either side is reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch.
With how the Gamevice wraps around each side of the phone, it had a nice effect of increasing the volume coming out of my Note 8’s speaker. The sound gets funneled out through the Gamevice four little openings next to the start button making it louder and directed towards you. If you don’t use headphones when playing, this isn’t a bad way to hear your games as you play. So, good job on Gamevice for increasing the speaker sound with their design.
Holding the phone with the Gamevice is pretty comfortable. There’s some indentations underneath for your fingers to rest it and having a larger phone like the Note 8 sitting in the middle wasn’t unwieldy at all.
The big thing about a controller is, it has to be precise and reliable. Here’s where it falls short in some cases. The buttons, for the most part, felt pretty good. They offer good feedback and the triggers aren’t too shabby. The top trigger has a little more muddled feel when pressing, but the bottom triggers offer OK tension when being pressed. I would’ve liked a stronger spring, to be honest.
The thumbsticks seemed pretty accurate and felt smooth. I liked how they were when playing some more fast paced games like NBA Jam or Galaga. They even support a button press so if you have games that take advantage of that, these work like a charm.
The D-Pad is where the Gamevice falls short. While it doesn’t have a bad feel when pressing, is unreliable. There were many times it didn’t register movement even though I felt the feedback from pressing a direction. To test this, I installed a gamepad testing program where it would output each of my button presses. All of them except the D-Pad was consistent, especially the left where it would miss key presses consistently. And I was able to duplicate this by varying the distance of where I pressed from the center of the D-Pad. If I pressed it more on the inside of the D-Pad, it would click but nothing would happen on the screen. The farther to the edge I pushed, the more reliable the D-Pad would register.
Another test I performed was placing the selection cursor in the center of my app draw. Pressing the D-pad would move the selection box around. I pressed twice in opposite directions two presses left then two presses right. After that I would do two presses up and then two presses down so if it all works how it should, the cursor would end up at the starting position. It never did for long. Just a few presses in and I would find the cursor in an off spot and not in the center, thus making it unreliable.
Even though I could feel it being pressed, the registration of the press was a hit or miss. Which is a shame, as this is one thing that keeps me from really recommending the Gamevice for those looking for a good mobile controller. The thumbsticks were fine, so if that’s all you use then you won’t be affected by this. I went back to my gamepad with a clip that positions my phone above it, but it just wasn’t as nice of a setup as the Gamevice.
The Gamevice is a peripheral that comes pretty close to replacing my go to mobile game controller. If it wasn’t for the wobbling left side and the unreliable D-Pad, then this would be the go to product for my gaming needs. At $59.99, I expect it to not exhibit the D-Pad problem. The wobbliness I can live with as it’s not too terrible, but for games that use the D-Pad, the Gamevice caused me a lot of frustration. If they can fix that issue, then I think the Gamevice is a real nice option for gamers on the go. Until then, I suggest using a more hardened gamepad option.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.
I'm married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.