There's a plethora of Bluetooth game controllers out there for use with your Android smartphones and tablets, but sometimes it can be a tough decision to weigh down your options. I own a few different gamepads myself and while I love them all, each has it's pros and cons. In this review I'll attempt to breakdown just about every important aspect of the controller, from weight,(comfort) to responsiveness of the buttons, to battery life, and everything in between. With that in mind, lets get to it. This review is about the brand new Phonejoy controller, which not only had a successful kickstarter, but has already begun shipping to backers and officially started the pre-orders for consumers.
First off, lets start with the design. Compared to other gamepads out there, the Phonejoy actually has quite a unique design that seems a little weird at first but once you hold it in your hands it seems more natural than one might think. The controller is made of a nice soft-touch plastic that feels nice in the hand, and each individual button has a soft rubberized top layer. The controller is more compact than others, which for the most part is a huge benefit. The controller houses your standard A,B,X,Y buttons, a D-Pad, two joysticks, start button, back button, your power on/off switch, and a set of left and right bumper and trigger buttons up top. The buttons all fit nicely in their respective locations and the design placement is rather pleasing to the eye and feels comfortable when in use. On top next to the right bumper and trigger you have your micro USB port where you plug in the controller to charge. The controller splits apart to hold your phone in the middle, so unlike having a top-heavy arm/clamp like with the MOGA, the Phonejoy houses your device right in between the left and right sides of the controller, just like you're using a portable gaming device. Think SEGA Game Gear. On the back, you'll notice a nice little depression in the controller where your fingers tend to sit, I find that this gives you a nice little grip on the back of the controller for a more secure fit in the hand. You can see the Phonejoy monkey face mascot imprinted on the back right where the depression is, providing a nice little bit of aesthetic. Overall the design is great and looks better than just about every other controller out there, the compact design also makes it easy to tote around.
The controller is fairly light weight, so using it to play for extended periods of time shouldn't get uncomfortable for the most part, but that will honestly depend on the user. For me I found it to be rather comfortable to hold for hours at a time. As I stated above each button on the controller has a nice soft rubberized top layer, so pressing them continuously doesn't rub your fingers raw or leave them feeling sore. Once again, this may change depending on the user. Normally when holding a controller of Phonejoys compact size when out of use, it almost feels too small. This isn't a problem of course when not using it, but it can feel a bit cramped as this is how you use it with devices that don't fit in the middle like a tablet.(My nexus 7 will fit in the middle when in portrait mode, but not in landscape which is how I play most games on it) The workaround I have found to this issue is just to take my Nexus 4 and place it in the middle of the controller to hold it in place while in portrait mode, so it actually spaces the controller sides apart a nice distance and I can play games on my Nexus 7 more comfortably. It also serves as a nice and easy way to see anything that happens on my device should I get any incoming notifications, as I can quickly pause the game on my tablet, and interact with the phone that is essentially already in my hands.
The controller actually functions quite well. The pairing and connection process for devices is easy, and remains this way. The slide mechanism opens without much effort, and on the inner edge of each side of where the controller splits, there are little rubber pads that span the height of the controller to help keep your device in place. It also has interlocking teeth of sorts on the front that sit just above the edges of your device on both sides, so the phone can only be removed from the top where you slid it in or the bottom and not backward or forward, making it near impossible for your device to fall out accidentally. All of the buttons respond well and have great feedback, and even though some reviews have been less than fond of the feedback response from the D-Pad saying you have to press too hard, I have found that using the D-Pad is pretty easy and I don't have to press down with excessive force to make it work. The joysticks work great. I do wish they were just a tiny bit more raised, but even sitting almost flat like they do they work wonderfully. The top bumper and trigger buttons can feel a little out of place depending on how big or small your hands are, but overall they are easy to press.
Battery life is listed as being somewhere between 8 and 12 hours, depending on individual use. I have found it to be closer to 8 than 12, but it did last longer than 8 hours for me personally which is great, and seems like better battery life than both my Nyko PlayPad Pro controller and my MOGA Hero Power. Once the battery dies, you can simply plug it in to charge with the included USB power cable,(no a/c adapter included) and juice it up. If you're a heavy gamer you might see the battery life die faster than others, but you should get at least 8 hours out of it.
The build quality of the controller seems extremely solid. The material used to make the controller and the buttons seems sturdy enough to withstand a very long life of use by even the most hardcore gamers. The sliding spring mechanism in the middle where you place your phone seems like it'll hold for a long life as well. Nothing on the controller feels cheap, which is something you absolutely don't want with a gamepad. Even the accessories feel premium. Phonejoy definitely pulled out all the stops.
Accessories And Extras
This is where the Phonejoy shines a little bit more than other offerings. There are three different bundles you can buy: The Basic bundle, the Advanced bundle, and the Pro Gamer bundle. For the purpose of this review though we'll focus on the bundle that I personally have which is the Pro Gamer. This bundle includes the USB charging cable to plug your controller in and charge it back up. The cable is fairly long and has the flat tangle resistant design which is a huge plus. You'll also get a soft pouch to carry the controller, the cable and anything else you could need like a set of headphones. The pouch feels nice and premium and has a draw string like closure. Since the phones headset jack and charging port will be covered up when using the Phonejoy, should you want the ability to charge your controller or plug in headphones for a more immersive experience with your games, you'll get the headphone and charging adapters which you plug into those ports before you slide the phone into the controller.
The adapters have connection ports for each on one end so you can plug in both things if needed. There are two downsides for me personally here. The adapters have a rectangular form factor, so they are supposed to sit flat against your phones edges when plugged in. Since I'm using a Nexus 4, the headphone jack adapter doesn't sit flat like it's supposed to because of the rounded edges of the device and placement of where the headset jack on the phone is. This wouldn't be a problem for devices that have a flat top edge though, so most phones should be able to use it just fine. This can cause a problem it seems when the Nexus 4 is placed inside the controller if too much pressure is applied, and the possibility of the headset jack bending or breaking can't be ruled out.(I'm afraid to try using it for this reason) The charger adapter works as intended and fits in place great. The two last accessories you get with the Pro Gamer bundle are the tablet kickstand, and the travel case. I myself did not receive the kickstand, which I believe is because it was one of the different kickstarter versions of the product. The original Pro Gamer bundle you pre-order from retailers will have it though. I can't speak to how it works myself, but it looks solid in design and functionality and will be great for propping up your tablet for a better angle while playing. The travel case is a real gem and a pure joy to have, as it's made from a hard material with a soft micro-fiber or velvety interior to keep from scuffing your controller. It also has a little mesh pocket on the inside of the lid to hold the accessories and headphones. It has a zipper enclosure so it stays closed tightly and securely. It even has a nice little plate emblem on the top of the lid with the Phonejoy branding which looks nice.
Pros And Cons
While there were a few cons to this controller, they were far outweighed by all the great things that any gamer should love about it which makes this a really great product and a must have for any android gamer. The only cons I found with it are that, while you can charge your phone while you are gaming with the Phonejoy, you can't charge your phones battery directly from the Phonejoy, you'll have to use a separate power source along with the included USB that you get with the bundle, or your own cable if you buy the Basic bundle. The other downside is not a reflection of the Phonejoy controller itself as it has to do with my phones design and not the controller or its accessories, and I'm talking about the headphone adapter. Since I can't use it, it is a slight disappointment but easily overcome for me because I can just connect my Bluetooth stereo earbuds. This is because the Nexus 4 supports multiple Bluetooth connections to the device simultaneously as do many other devices. The controller basically shines on all other fronts. It's the best controller I have used of the four or so others I have tried while gaming with my phone and tablet.
In the end, the Phonejoy is hands down the best Bluetooth gamepad that I have used. It has great battery life, a premium feel to it that overshadows all others and is really comfortable to hold for extended gaming sessions. The included accessories are a huge plus if you spring for the Advanced or Pro Gamer bundles, and the design makes for a better and more natural feel for gaming with your mobile device. It's also extremely portable, and with the included travel case to keep it and the accessories protected, you can take it with you anywhere as the case will easily fit in a small bag pocket. Without a doubt, the Phonejoy is the absolute best android controller you can buy. You can pick up the Phonejoy Gaming Controller on Amazon starting at just $69.99 for the Basic bundle, or step it up to either the Advanced bundle for $79.99, or go all out on the Pro Gamer bundle for $89.99. When you compare the Pro Gamer bundle to what you get from the MOGA Power Pro, the Phonejoy is easily the better deal and feels like a better product.