12
Jun
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Game controllers for Android are a dime a dozen these days, and most of the newest ones do very little to inherently change anything. They're basically all the same Xbox or PlayStation-like designs that may or may not allow a phone to clip to them. The Phonejoy wants to change that with its controller, an interestingly designed unit that actually opens up and holds the device to replicate a PS Vita-type gadget.

While that may sound cool, execution is everything. And at $70 for the base bundle, it's on the higher end of the scale for mobile game controllers. Looking to find out if it's worth it? Spoiler alert: it's not.

Pros

Cons

  • The fact that phone fits in the center of the controller makes it easy to tap the screen if necessary
  • Fairly compact when closed
  • Wonky design that can be awkward to use
  • Flat joysticks
  • It's very overpriced, especially compared to things like the MOGA Power Pro
  • It just feels cheap
Hardware

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At this point, you should have the basic gist of mobile game controllers down: they connect over Bluetooth, usually have a companion app that's supposed to improve the experience, and try desperately to fill some market void that supposedly exists. The Phonejoy is no different. In fact, that only thing that makes it different from the competition is the overall design (which, granted, is quite a big difference). But that means nothing if it can't deliver an experience that just gets out of the way and lets users play games with ease.

Unfortunately, that's not the experience I had with the Phonejoy. Between dealing with the awkward form factor and trying not to pinch my fingers while putting a phone in the clamp, the buggy app, and buttons that didn't always work, I spent a lot more time being frustrating with this controller than I did actually playing games.

The overall idea is pretty cool though – it reminds me of the MOGA Ace (for iPhone) in the way it holds the phone. I just wish the execution would've been better.

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The controller holds the phone in place with a series of springs and such, and the front of the device has a few little "clip"-type protrusions that keep the phone from flying out into the face of the user. It works well enough, though it feels pretty janky to my hands. When the controller is spread apart it's very flimsy and just lacks an overall put-together feel.

The buttons are laid out in the most common arrangement these days: just like an Xbox controller. Both joysticks suffer from the same problem that the original MOGA controller had - they're flat, so they suck. They're hard to use and there's very little feel to them. Also, they both required a bit of force to actually work in my testing. That could be a problem specific to my controller, but there were several times when I had to actually release the joystick and start the movement motion over to get it to register correctly. Annoying.

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The D-Pad, while seldom used, isn't much better. It's very "spongy" feeling and lacks enough travel to offer good tactile feedback. I kind of hate it. The ABXY pack, however, is basically the opposite: the buttons feel great, have good travel, and are nice and clicky. Same goes for the start and back buttons, though those aren't nearly as important.

Another questionable design decision on the Phonejoy is the shoulder buttons and triggers. Both sets of buttons feel exactly the same, which deviates from the norm, where the shoulder buttons are much generally smaller with less travel and the triggers are much larger. As if that wasn't bad enough, there is zero consistency when it comes to feel across these four buttons. On my review unit, L1 and L2 are both relatively clicky, but R1 and R2 are far more spongy, with the latter being the worst of the bunch. It's pretty terrible to use.

Software and Use

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Like most other BT controllers, the Phonejoy has its own proprietary app that is used for connections, controller management, and finding new games to play. While the app itself isn't really awful and has a pretty usable interface, I experienced a slew of issues when trying to launch games, including a never-ending "loading" screen and a few force closes. Of course, games can be launched independently of the app and generally work from there. There were a few times that the controller wasn't detected (this happened on a few different games, too), but closing it and restarting the game fixed it in most cases. Also, in Bulkypix's Meltdown, the R2 button wouldn't work, but it was fine in other games. That basically made the game unplayable because R2 is the button used to shoot...I couldn't even make it out of the tutorial.

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The way the device clips into the controller may have some of you wondering if it leaves the headphone jack and charging port accessible. In short, yes and no. If you just buy the controller, then no, the ports aren't accessible while the phone is docked into the controller. If you choose to pick up one of the more expensive packages, however, it comes with a couple of adapters that essentially redirect the ports to outside of the controller's grip, making it possible to both charge the phone and use headphones. The top-tier package also comes with a travel case and tablet kickstand, the latter of which is pretty neat.

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Conclusion

All in all, the Phonejoy controller and its accompanying software is pretty janky. The unit provided to me for review is a Limited Edition Kickstarter version, so hopefully the full retail version will be a bit better – though I wouldn't count on it.

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The problem with devices like this is that the creators usually have good intentions, but manufacturing costs and the desire to make as much money as possible off of every single unit gets the best of them, which results in sub par quality. That's exactly what happened with the Phonejoy.

For $70-90 (depending on the package), it's way overpriced. I'd readily recommend saving yourself $20-40 and just picking up a MOGA Power Pro from Amazon instead – it's a lot more controller for less money.

Buy: Phonejoy

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock
    • primalxconvoy

      What an awful article.

  • Andrew

    Just gonna keep using my Gameklip, thus far the best solution I've found for those wanting a gamepad for Android gaming. http://buy.thegameklip.com/

    • XellosUAE

      I've been looking into such a clip for my Xperia Device. THANK YOU SO MUCH for providing this link. Cannot wait to have it.

      • Andrew

        It really does work well! Just be sure to test out the experience with a PS3 controller with your device before ordering to ensure compatability is in alignment with your expectations.

        Oh, and be precise when you're sticking the Gamekilp to your device case... you only get one shot!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/77537273@N03/ Herman

    ಠ_ಠ

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    Why are these controllers all so pathetically expensive? I wish I could use my Xbox One controller with my phone, guess i can just dream on.

    • Cuvis

      The Moga Hero Power is $40 on Amazon, which is in line with the average cost of a wireless controller. And it's better than this thing. About the only thing this offers over the Hero is the PSP style orientation, but that's also the cause of its issues.

      As for your XB1 controller, MS unfortunately doesn't use Bluetooth.

    • Sergii Pylypenko

      Bluetooth devices are expensive in general. Even Bluetooth mice start at $15.

      You can plug Xbox controller into a phone, using USB-host cable, but it won't work without a cable. There is a way to use PS3 controller wirelessly with a rooted phones, using a special app.

    • Joe Miller

      You could probably use it wired. To get it perfectly working you'd likely have to be rooted though, as far as I know there is no keylayout file for it included by default as of yet and generic.kl isn't always the best. Copying the 360 one to the PID of the One controller would probably be a good start for making a One compatible one.

  • primalxconvoy

    "...try desperately to fill some market void that supposedly exists..."

    You mean the market including migrating/supplementing console gamers, gamers interested in hardware controllers, android microconsole gamers and suchlike? The same market that is seeing more and more products aimed at it, suggesting that it's a (major) growth market for the mobile sector?

    Anyway, I don't think this controller is in any way like the Xperia play's form factor (to see a pad that IS like that, Google "iPhone Bladepad"). I think this company also released their pad for iPhone, too? I saw the iPhone moga and maybe "this" pad out for it at best buy. Both looked worse than the android version.

    As for price, I'm sure these pads are expensive because:

    - r and d for a relatively new market.
    - little or no competition.
    - (ios) apple forces a certain design for official pads and charges manufactures for the privilege of making them official (ie: able to work on an iPhone).

    What would give them more value would be compatibility with major consoles and pcs, so that we could use the damn things more.

  • A Skylit [S]unjΔy

    The MOGA controller is the best controller for Android.

  • Bob Hart

    How's the Samsung EI-GP20?

    It's about $55 here.

  • bat0nas

    Why Google doesn't release a controller. Like Xbox have a single model and you can't use any other controller, Android could easily have the same: a standartized , certified, with drivers (o whatever software) controlled only by Google etc.

    I see only advantages. Not a single downside of having just one controller.

    • primalxconvoy

      I agree completely. Thing is, Google are not famous for standardising anything nor refining anything that they release.

    • Cuvis

      At least they defined a standard so all these controllers are compatible now.

  • Chris

    I wonder how these companies feel when they send out a review unit and get to read this. lmfao

    Thank you so much for keeping your honesty AP. One of the last sites left that hasn't been paid to give good reviews.