Gamevice Flex Mobile Game Controller Review (iOS)
October 25, 2022
mobile game controller
$99.95 (Android), $109.95 (iPhone)
How has it been eight years since the launch of the first Gamevice and we’re just getting to the point where users can use a controller on their mobile phone without having to remove their case? Sure, there have been some like the Gamesir X2 that use Bluetooth over regular Type-C or Lightning port connections, but if you want a controller that plugs directly into the controller without any wires or clips to keep your phone dangling , you would usually have to strip your bare phone. Since switching from Samsung to iPhone, I’ve gotten my hands on various mobile controllers for cloud gaming. I have to say the Gamevice Flex is a case study in how to get it right.
At first glance, the Gamevice Flex matches the design of an earlier version from 2022 (simply called Gamevice for iPhone) that was sized to fit the iPhone 13 (and 14) Pro Max. Two things are immediately noticeable when the Gamevice Flex is closed for travel: two extra buttons and a 3.5mm headphone jack that feels more like a luxury than a standard feature on mobile controllers, even in the $100 range. However, it’s when you deploy the Gamevice Flex that its most unique feature stands out.
The secret feature is spoiled when the end user takes the Gamevice Flex out of the box and is greeted with a size chart and several oddly numbered component boxes. The purpose of these plastic parts is evident when gamers discover that they are indeed used as spacers on both sides of the Gamevice Flex’s internal grips. What Gamevice has come up with with its Flex is a sizing system that allows users to find the perfect fit for whatever phone they want, with or without a case.
Now, that should be pretty obvious given the Gamevice Flex form factor, but it doesn’t quite match the Samsung Z Fold 4 (you’d need a minimum clearance of 15.8mm, while the Gamevice Flex for Android can fit 14.1mm, which is still a modest range of phones and cases). There are a few other limitations to what might fit for obvious reasons, such as phones that have a dust cover to block the charging port (you’ll have to cut them to fit) or those with multiple pieces that lock together. together like the Otterbox Defender range.
Transparently, Gamevice also offered to send a case with the Gamevice Flex to test the functionality of the adapter, and I received an Otterbox Symmetry case with MagSafe for my iPhone 14 Pro Max a few days before the arrival of the Gamevice Flex at my doorstep. When I was finally able to unbox the Flex, I was greeted with these five boxes of adapter parts: one box of left parts, two boxes of right parts, and two boxes of phone adapters. These phone adapters are for when you use your iPhone out of its case, so for my purposes I tried the rubber molded parts, and as the name suggests, only the larger size adapters would fit the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
With the Cardboard Case Adapter Selector in hand with the phone and case chosen, simply slide the side of your phone into the key holes one at a time until you find the correct cavity that fits. Perfectly fits your phone without too much give or strain to fit. For the iPhone 14 Pro Max and Symmetry case, I went with L25 on the left side and R15A on the right. The right side piece is actually trickier to figure out because the Gamevice Flex includes different thicknesses on the back plate that borders the Lightning port. I first tried the R15B with a raised lip and although the phone fitted securely, the combined adapter and case was only a hair too thick to plug in through the Lightning port. Once I switched to the R15A variant, everything worked as expected and I was greeted by the new Gamevice button on the controller lighting up blue to show that it had power.
One area of concern with case adapters for the Gamevice Flex is installation and removal. Since these are basically milled pieces of plastic, they don’t have too much resistance to bending and can be prone to breaking (if you don’t lose them first). To install the adapter, simply slide the adapter plate face up through the pilot holes on either side of the case until it clicks into place. Once in place, there is a slight horizontal movement for the fold, but the rivets should prevent the adapter from falling out. However, the pullback takes a bit of finesse to get out. To reliably remove the adapter plate, I would have to simultaneously lift the adapter plate while tilting it to one side to release the adapter from the controller shell. It’s a tricky transition to get the plates off, but unless you’re changing cases every day of the week, you should be able to find the right fit and leave it in place. I’ve tossed the controller in my bag and traveled or cycled and no amount of jostling and shaking has caused either adapter to fall out when not in use.
Gamevice has a very characteristic design to fold the controller when not in use, with the two rear pieces fitting into each other. It takes a bit of practice to get the phone to fold up neatly on itself and that would be a point I would give to similar devices like the Backbone One which simply pulls out horizontally to accommodate your phone. Additionally, the Lightning port remains exposed even when the controller is folded up, so be careful not to put open candies or sodas in your bag when traveling with the Gamevice Flex.
Once the Gamevice Flex is plugged in, gamers can just as easily jump into Call of Duty Mobile, Xbox Cloud Gaming, PlayStation Remote Play, or any controller-compatible app they have on their phones. However, with a new button dedicated just to launching the hub, Gamevice would love for gamers to use this button to quickly access their new Gamevice Live app. From there, gamers are greeted with a variety of games and services that Gamevice says will work with their controller. However, this is the illusion of a pitcher. Choosing a game from the list greets the player with a trailer, the option to add to favorites, and a How to Play guide that links viewers to a YouTube tutorial showing how to access that particular streaming service. Although it’s connected to the Xbox Cloud Gaming webpage, there’s no hook to switch from the Gamevice Live app to the Xbox app, or Stadia, Geforce Now, or any other for that matter. Fortunately, Apple Arcade and App Store titles can be downloaded directly from these game pages by simply tapping the Install button and the Get button that appears. Remapping this dedicated button is not possible, nor is there a way to disable it without completely uninstalling the Gamevice Live app from your phone.
I’ve talked for so long about the Gamevice Flex’s capabilities and limitations when it comes to holding cases that it’s about time I mentioned something about the controls. Triggers are easily the star of the show, with the Gamevice Flex offering the same Hall effect as previous models, but with a much smoother pull with well-defined tension. Whether I’m playing a first-person shooter or an RPG, they were comfortable for longer periods of time with a large concave-curved lip to keep your fingers in place. Likewise, the joysticks don’t compromise on what gamers can expect from the big three console makers and stand up to dozens of hours of use without scuffing on the textured grip around the edge or anywhere else. However, the D-pad and buttons still leave something to be desired (and let’s be honest, most mobile controllers don’t get the right D-pad). Both sets of inputs have a soft membrane feel underneath that is a shock of feel so distinct from the thinness of the same controller maker’s triggers. While it’s certainly not the worst d-pad I’ve put my thumb on in years, it just lacks satisfaction from multiple inputs or even rolling in a full 360 degree motion. The positives I have to admit for the Gamevice Flex d-pad are the one-piece design and the raised lip around the end of each direction, giving the gamer’s thumb a smooth place to rest when not using the left analog stick.
Let’s put that aside: the Gamevice Flex is the best controller the company has put its name to. With a unique adapter and sizing design that supports a wide range of phone cases, it’s great to see companies realizing that gamers don’t want to compromise between gaming and the durability of their phones. While some features of Gamevice’s weaker aspects are still present in the Flex, this is a controller worthy of being on your holiday wishlist.
Examination unit provided by the manufacturer.
Products mentioned in this article
The first mobile game controller in its class with case adapters for a wide range of phones, the Gamevice Flex fits a unique niche of gaming peripherals for those who want to jump into Xbox Cloud Gaming on the go without removing their phone from its protective case.
- No need to remove most phone cases thanks to the unique case adapter layout.
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Hall effect triggers and full size joysticks
- Case adapters will not fall off randomly during transportation
- Lightning passthrough and no noticeable change in phone battery life
- Currently only available direct from Gamevice or Walmart
- $10 premium for the iOS version without additional features
- D-pad leaves a lot to be desired
- New app launch button cannot be remapped and always opens the Gamevice app unless uninstalled
- No Lightning data transmission, so cannot be used as a wired controller like the Backbone One
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