Gamevice controller for iPhone falls flat where it really counts [Review]

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Fortnite with iPhone XS in Gamevice controller
The Gamevice is good, but not great.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Mobile gaming has never been better, but you’re missing out if you’re playing the latest titles with touch controls. A good controller is a worthwhile purchase, but should you spend $75 on the Gamevice?

It looks great, boasts the best design of any iPhone controller, and never needs charging. It also works with almost any iPhone. The only problem? It disappoints where it matters most.

Gamevice review: Great design

What makes the Gamevice great is its unique design. Rather than just taking a standard controller and mounting a bracket on the top of it that holds your phone — like a lot of iPhone controllers — Gamevice split its controller in half so your iPhone can sit right in the middle of it.

Not only does this result in a wonderful, Nintendo Switch-like feel, but it makes the Gamevice more compact and therefore more portable. You can fold the controller in half when you’re not using it, too, thanks to the flexible strap that holds both sides together. And when it’s folded up, magnets hold it closed.

The Gamevice is even smaller when it's folded up
The Gamevice is even smaller when it’s folded up.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

This unusual design also means the weight of your iPhone is nicely centered. The Gamevice doesn’t feel top-heavy, like it’s going to flip out of your hands at any moment. It remains comfortable to hold during long play sessions. (You may disagree if you have large hands, however, since the Gamevice is so compact.)

No Bluetooth, no batteries

The Gamevice connects to your iPhone’s Lightning port, so you don’t have to worry about a Bluetooth connection dropping at the worst time, or replacing disposable batteries. A Lightning port on the controller itself lets you charge your iPhone and play simultaneously.

There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the controller, so even if you have a modern iPhone, you can use any old pair of headphones while playing your favorite games.

This makes the Gamevice super-simple to set up. Simply throw your iPhone inside it when you want to game and it’s good to go in seconds.

Only nudist iPhones welcome

The Gamevice supports almost any modern iPhone — including the larger iPhone XS Max. That’s great because it means you don’t need to keep buying a new one every time you upgrade your device. But you’ll need to make sure your iPhone is naked first.

The Gamevice works with almost any iPhone, but cases aren't welcome
The Gamevice works with almost any iPhone, but cases aren’t welcome.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

The Gamevice is a tight fit, and for good reason. You want your iPhone to be secure so that it doesn’t fall out. And you don’t want it wobbling around while you play a game. The downside to this is that your iPhone won’t fit inside the Gamevice if it’s inside a case.

In fact, you’ll probably need to lose the screen protector, too. I couldn’t get my iPhone XS to fit, even with the slimmest screen protector I could find in my house. Admittedly, all the screen protectors I have are glass. You may have more luck with a cheaper plastic protector, but don’t get your hopes up.

The Gamevice feels great

Everything about the Gamevice feels premium and robust. Hold it in your hands and fiddle with its sticks and buttons, and it’s every bit as good as a genuine Xbox One or Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. Its action buttons have a nice click to them, and its triggers have great travel. Its analog sticks are sturdy.

Gamevice buttons feel good, until you start playing
The buttons feel good, until you start playing.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

You can’t click the analog sticks like you can on console controllers, so you’ll have to live without that. That’s because Apple’s MFi guidelines did not support these buttons until recently, and most accessory makers haven’t caught up yet. But that’s not the end of the world. Most games offer workarounds.

There is a much bigger button problem, though. The Gamevice doesn’t feel quite as special when you’re actually playing a game with it. Its action buttons and triggers can be unresponsive if you don’t press them hard enough, and that’s really frustrating in some games.

The buttons aren’t the best

I was able to live with this in a title like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which typically allows you a bit more time to consider your actions before each button press. You can remind yourself to press a little harder each time.

But in a game like Fortnite, or a fast-paced platformer, it’s a real pain.

Gamevice review: This iPhone controller is almost perfect
It was almost perfect.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

I’ve been eliminated from many Fortnite matches because of the Gamevice. I get into a gunfight, hit B to enter build mode, then hit the R2 trigger to place a wall and … nothing happens. My opponent has a clear shot and I’m dead before I have time to realize that I didn’t press the B button hard enough and it did nothing.

This ruins the experience for me.

Gamevice review: The verdict

It’s an incredible shame that the Gamevice slips up where it matters most. This iPhone game controller proves spectacular in almost every other way. And it gets so many things right by avoiding the traditional controller design and trying something new.

I’m a huge fan of the Gamevice’s form factor. I love that it never needs charging. I’m still impressed by how good it feels in my hands. But a controller is only as good as its buttons and sticks, and these ones don’t do the Gamevice justice.

I hope Gamevice acknowledges these complaints — I’m certainly not the only person voicing them — and makes some changes. It won’t have to do much to deliver the best iPhone controller on the market.

In the meantime, it’s incredibly difficult to justify the Gamevice’s $75 price tag.