Despite Apple's semi-recent show of support for iOS controllers, the selection available to iPad and iPhone gamers is still limited.
The Phonejoy Bluetooth game controller for iOS hit its Kickstarter goal in early 2013 with plenty of room to spare, but it's far from the best solution for users looking for a comfortable and high-quality game controller to use with an iPad or Android tablet.
In short, if you want a controller for your tablet, there are better options out there. Here's why.
The controller's two halves separate like a spring-loaded accordion so players can insert their phones in the middle, but even a 7-inch tablet like an iPad mini will not fit in landscape orientation. So iPad users have two options: insert the tablet into the controller in portrait mode, or simply keep the iPad and the controller separate (they connect via Bluetooth, so no physical contact is actually necessary). Either choice proves problematic.
Keeping them separate means using the controller with the the two halves still together, making it incredibly uncomfortable to hold. Despite what Phonejoy would like its customers to believe, the controller was simply not designed to be played without something jammed in the middle. Your hands and wrists are too close together otherwise. It's not ergonomic.
Playing with the iPad jammed inside in portrait mode, while more comfortable, is no less impractical—mainly because the vast majority of games with controller support are played in landscape orientation. There's not really much point to inserting an iPad into the Phonejoy controller vertically when there are hardly any games to play, though it may prove useful if there's a specific game you want to play in portrait mode that also supports Phonejoy (download the Phonejoy app from the App store to see what games are compatible).
All that said, there are benefits to using Phonejoy. For one thing, it's very versatile. Power mobile gamers with multiple devices, including iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets, will be able to use the controller no matter what they're currently playing on.
If you don't mind playing with Phonejoy closed (i.e. with nothing inserted into the controller) then you can easily use it with all your devices. And when you're not playing on a tablet you can jam your phone inside and use Phonejoy the way it was designed to be used.
Speaking of the design—it's not great. Like basically every other mobile controller made so far, the construction feels extremely cheap overall, and just a little off. The analog nubs have a little too much resistance, the directional pad is a bit too gummy, and the numerous creaky springs that hold the two halves in tension feel like they could snap at any moment. Even when you use it with a phone you feel like your device could pop out of the controller at any moment.
At least Phonejoy has all the buttons you expect—face buttons, four triggers/shoulder buttons, two analog inputs, a d-pad, etc. Pairing it with Bluetooth is simple, and the controls work well for the games it supports. I tried out a few titles, including the precision platformer Splatterjump, the arcadey racer Bob's Action Racing, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and all were improved by physical controls—even Phonejoy's imperfect ones.
Phonejoy may be the best choice for users with very specific needs, like hardcore mobile gamers with multiple devices that use both iOS and Android. It's great to finally see a controller that works across both. But if you're looking for a tablet controller specifically, the SteelSeries Stratus and other alternatives are of higher quality overall. At $69—only $10 cheaper than its rivals—Phonejoy might not be the best choice for you.