A New Hold on Mobile Gaming: Phonejoy Controller Review
Since we first saw Gametel back at CES in 2012, many many companies have played their hands in the saturated market of mobile gaming solutions. NVIDIA launched the NVIDIA Shield – an all-in-one Android gaming device that doubles as a remote PC game streaming solution. Yet more affordable solutions like the MOGA made a big splash in the controllers-that-clamp-your-phone department. Big name gaming peripherals makers also followed suit as they threw their contenders into the fray: Nyko’s Playpad, Madcatz CTRL-R, and the CES 2014 showcased SteelSeries Stratus-which we are looking to review soon! Needless to say, if you wish to try your luck in this department, you better have a unique angle to promote. Phonejoy dives into the controllers-that-clamp-your-phone arena with a new “hold” on your mobile device: a more comfortable and weight-conscience hold.
Phonejoy utilizes a simple concept to clamp onto your device that it’s a surprise that no one has tried it yet. All of the other controller-clampers I’ve seen up to now hold your mobile device over the controller. And while the MOGA made strides in the placement of the arm that holds your phone, you will still have to mind your posture as it can still become top-heavy depending on how you sit, lay or stand. Over time, top-heaviness can start to cause fatigue in your hands and/or wrists unless you’re constantly shifting about. However, with all the weight centralized in the center, Phonejoy excels in comfort over long term use. I was able to use it from a full charge to the point of Phonejoy’s complete battery depletion without feeling tired. Was this due to Phonejoy ergonomics or the dexterity of a gamer with more than two decades of button-slamming and key pressing under his belt? Phonejoy made it hard to tell!
Diving deeper into the mechanics and structure, Phonejoy keeps a tight grasp on devices of varying sizes using its patented Easy Slider technology. The inner-workings of PhoneJoy consist of 12 stainless steel springs, five chrome-plated steel panels and rubber bumpers. The rubber bumpers are especially handy since not only do they protect your device from scratches and the accidental pressing of the power button, they seal the deal when it comes to hugging your phone. As advertised, it was even able to hold the weight of a 7″ inch tablet in place and held tight even during rigorous shaking. The grasp is solid on devices with and without most covers or cases.
The button layout is in league with the controllers of current-gen game consoles. You have dual analogs, a d-pad, four front-facing action buttons, “Back” and “Start” buttons, and four trigger buttons along the top. The controller feels solid and sturdy throughout its build. All of the buttons have a good feel to them, have the right amount of depth and bounce, and don’t feel too squishy. I like the feel of the analog knobs as well. They have a similar make to that of the original PSP’s analog “knob” except the rubberized coating here helps your thumbs keep a better hold. The d-pad is a little squishier than I would like, but I’m still able to pull off moves in King of Fighters 97 (Android) fairly well, despite how rusty I am in that game.
The overall button placement feels natural and comfortable. Although I felt it was a little more comfortable when playing games that use left analog rather than the D-pad. Furthermore, it was even more comfortable when Phonejoy was expanded rather than contracted. That’s not to say that playing with the controller contracted was uncomfortable. I just want to establish the differing levels of the overall feel. Whenever possible I usually play games a bit more “remotely” on my Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, just for the larger screen and better battery life. Fighting games and adventure games were about equal in levels of comfort when comparing contracted vs expanded. However, I found shooters like Dead Trigger to feel a tad more natural with the controller wrapped around a phone, albeit it could just be my personal preference. With the diagonal placement of the analogs knobs, I needed a little more distance between the two knobs since you need your index and/or middle fingers resting on those right triggers for shooting.
In terms of extras, I was a bit impressed with how complete your Phonejoy package can be. Off the bat, the free downloadable app is particularly well fleshed out. It housed a categorized list of games they suggest getting for use with Phonejoy and link you right to the market page for download or purchase. Should you be unfamiliar with Bluetooth controller-pairing, the app’s help screens are detailed enough to get anyone started – the images are even animated to better illustrate the meanings of the different LED indicators. Why different LED indications? Well the controller can hop quickly between three modes for a wide range of device support: gamepad mode for your Android devices, iCade mode for your iPhone and iPad, and TV Navigation mode, should your TV support it.
The Phonejoy Basic bundle runs for $69.99 (with referral) – tangibly granting you just the controller. But as you can see on their product page here, only $10 jumps separate the more inclusive packages: Advanced ($79.90) and Pro Gamer ($89.90). Going with the Advanced bundle will grant you a soft carrying pouch, a 3.5 mm audio adapter and a MicroUSB power adapter. These adapters allow you to use headphones or charge your mobile device while it is in Phonejoy’s grasp – respectfully not simultaneously. Not a point of complaint by far, as Phonejoy continues to maintain its respectable and stable hold while using either of these dongles. Just don’t try both dongles at once as not even Phonejoy can handle the stretch. Plus, it would just look silly. The Pro Gamer bundle gives you the same as the Advanced bundle but now includes a hard carrying case and tablet kickstand.
I have to say that I adored the Phonejoy despite it’s one true shortcoming – inability to be used whilst being charged. The included instructions scare the death out of you as they plead that you don’t plug the controller into the wall while you play with it as you will risk damaging the device. You’ll be fine as long as you keep track as to where you are in its eight hour battery span. Phonejoy is a refreshing device in a saturated market with a proper price. It’s solid in application, appearance and build. If you’re a gamer on the go, or a fan of the PSP controller layout, you need to check out Phonejoy. And should you think about purchasing one, you might as well go for the Pro Gamer bundle and keep your Phonejoy better protected and well-supplied.
Checkout Phonejoy at their website here…
† Review sample provided by Phonejoy PR team.