Gamevice Flex review: Clever iPhone game controller

Clever side-by-side iPhone game controller has no problem with bulky cases [Review]

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Clever side-by-side iPhone game controller has no problem with bulky cases [Review]★★★★
Play games on the Gamevice Flex without taking off your iPhone case.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Gamevice Flex is an iPhone game controller that mimics the design of the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con with the controls set on either side of the display. Similar iPhone controllers make you take the case off your handset to play but the Flex wraps around the handset even if it’s in a protective case.

The wired controller includes a full set of buttons, sticks, bumpers, etc. so you can enjoy games like Fortnite from Xbox Cloud Gaming or similar services, or almost anything from Apple Arcade.

I spent quite a few hours testing Gamevice Flex – here’s why I like it.

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Gamevice Flex review

A game controller isn’t required for iPhone gaming but one can definitely make playing a lot more enjoyable. Touchscreen controls are fine for simple, casual games, but can be frustrating with a complex RPG or other action titles.

Using the left stick to run, the right stick to aim, and the X button to fire is simple with a controller. And services like Xbox Cloud Gaming give you access to plenty of games that make use of all these controls and more.

Gamevice Flex puts the controls on either side of the iPhone, similar to a Joy-Con. It’s an arrangement that works well, and takes up less space than a traditional controller.

And, unlike rival iPhone controllers with similar designs, it’s not necessary to take the case off your handset to play. Plus, it connects to the handset via its Lightning port so there’s no fooling with Bluetooth.

Make your iPhone in a Nintendo Switch with Joy-Con

Gamevice Flex folds to be very portable.
Gamevice Flex folds to be very portable.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Gamevice Flex starts out as 5.5 inch by 4.0 in. by 1.7 in. package. This is small enough to be reasonably portable, fitting easily into a backpack. But go easy on it – no game controller is truly rugged.

Tug on a couple of tabs on the back and the two halves of the Flex separate, but with a stretchy center strip to keep them together. Place one half on either side of the iPhone and you’re ready to play.

As you put the controller on, you’ll plug in the Lightning connector. I much prefer wired connections like this. There’s no hassle with pairing with Bluetooth, and several people can easily share the accessory. Just plug the Flex in to any iPhone and you’re ready to play.

And you never have to charge the controller because it gets power from your iPhone.

Also, Gamevice build a Lightning port into the bottom edge of the Flex. Plug a power cable in here and the iPhone charges while you play. I love ending a long game session with a full battery.

A headphone jack lets you keep the game audio to yourself so it’s not bothering grandma.

Just in case

I’m a fan of the Backbone One, which uses a design somewhat similar to the Flex. But it can’t be used with the iPhone in a case. The Gamevice Flex can.

The left and right sides of the the controller are designed for the handset to be in a thick case. It also comes with adapters so slimmer cases fit, too. Or no case at all. It’s a nice system. A bit of a hassle to set up the first time, but after that your iPhone just fits.

The Flex’s design also handles various iPhone sizes. It easily fits my 6.1-inch iPhone 13 and can handle an Pro Max, too. The iPhone Mini models are too small, though.

Let’s play

Bulky cases are no problem for Gamevice Flex.
Gamevice’s latest has al the game controls you expect.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Gamevice Flex has all the expected buttons, left and right sticks, bumpers, triggers… everything is there. The buttons are nicely clicky and the full-size sticks are responsive. I tested it quite a bit to be sure.

I spend hours a week using various game controllers so I’m very familiar with their feel. And to me the ABXY buttons are slightly closer to the right stick than I prefer, and the triggers are not as tall as I like. I got used to them in a few minutes, and you might prefer them if you have smaller hands than me. It seems Gamevice designed the Flex to be as portable as possible, and these are a result.

There are lots of games to play. Support for this type of accessory is built in iOS though not every iPhone game supports the external controllers. Still, there are many titles to choose from, especially serious action games. Plus, almost the entire catalog of the Apple Arcade subscription service is controller friendly. I fired up a few of my favorites when testing the Flex. It was fun.

Gamevice includes a free one-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate trial with purchase. This lets you try out Xbox Cloud Gaming at no additional cost. If this online service is new to you, console games play on a remote server and the action is streamed to players as video. All your handset needs to do is display video from a remote session and send commands from the gaming controller to the server.

I’ve used Microsoft’s online game service quite a bit and the Flex handles it easily. If you need help getting started, I wrote a “how to” on setting up an iPhone to play Fortnite, one of the many games available via Xbox Cloud Gaming.

And the accessory is also compatible with Amazon Luna and Nvidia GeForce Now. (Google Stadia too, not that that matters anymore.)

Gamevice developed a handy, free app to help you find games that support controllers.

Gamevice video

To see the Flex in action, watch this short advert:

Gamevice Flex final thoughts

There is a wide selection of iPhone games with controller support available between cloud gaming services, Apple Arcade and regular iOS developers. Take the hint – play them with a physical controller. Trying to take on a top-tier RPG with on-screen controls is frustrating.

The Flex works well and is quite portable. And it’s the only Joy-Con imitator I know of that works with iPhones in bulky cases.

★★★★

As noted in the review, some of the buttons, sticks and triggers are just a bit cramped, which kept me from giving the product top marks.

Pricing

Gamevice Flex is now available to preorder – it will launch October 25. The cost is $109.95.

Buy from: Gamevice

Buy from: Amazon

Those who preorder before October 14 get a second free one-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate voucher. This can be combined with the one that comes with the controller for two free months.

If you want to shop around, the rival Backbone One ($99.99) is strong competition. And the GameSir X2 Lightning ($69.99) also uses the same general design. Neither controller is as portable as the Flex, and both require you to take off you iPhone case.

Gamevice provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.