As Sony and Nintendo cling to physical buttons as a major advantage of dedicated portable gaming systems, smartphone and tablet accessory makers have come up with an answer. At a CES press event, two companies were showing off attachable game controllers for smartphones and tablets, providing the tactile feedback that’s sorely needed for precision shooting and platforming.
I checked out one of these controllers, Gametel, from a Sweden-based company called Fructel. The controller clamps on to an Android phone or iPhone–or pairs remotely to an iPad–and communicates via Bluetooth. It includes a directional pad, four face buttons and two shoulder buttons on top. Gametel’s built-in battery runs for about nine hours before needing a charge from either mini USB or Apple’s 30-pin connector, depending on model.
I didn’t get a chance to try the other controller, from ION, makers of the iCade arcade cabinet for the iPad (Engadget went hands-on with it, though). ION’s latest controller, the iCade Mobile, has the same button layout as Gametel, and uses Bluetooth to communicate, but it also has a unique dock that supports both landscape and portrait orientation.
As for supported games, Gametel’s website has a list of them, and they’ll be the same for any Bluetooth game controller, because they’re all using the same method to communicate with the smartphone or tablet. (They’re all just mimicking keyboard input.) Because of this, I expect more game developers will start supporting physical buttons, creating a platform within a platform for button-based games.
Unfortunately, these controllers are pricey. The iCade Mobile will cost $80 when it launches in Q2, and the Gametel currently costs 50 pounds in the United Kingdom. Fructel hasn’t set U.S. pricing, but hopes to launch the Gametel stateside this quarter.