Now On Kickstarter: A Thin, Solar-Powered, Bluetooth 4.0 Game Controller Built Directly Into An iPhone Case

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Game controllers for iPhone are no longer all that rare, even though once upon a time Apple didn’t even allow them to connect to its smartphone. Still, there’s plenty of room for innovation in this space, and Justice Frangipane’s new design is a perfect example of how things can still get better in this market. Frangipane’s project is an iPhone case that while only 3mm thick, holds a Bluetooth 4.0 video game controller that recharges via solar power.

Launching today on Kickstarter, the project is a concept that creator Justice Frangipane has been working on for the last year, but now he’s working with iDevices, the creators of the Bluetooth iPhone meat thermometer iGrill, to help make it a reality. It features a controller that snaps into the back of a super thin iPhone case, providing physical controls compatible with specific games on iOS that support Bluetooth accessories. It not only charges via solar power, but can also use “trickle charging” to sip on low light and indoor light sources, too. The goal was to build a device you never had to build in, and Frangipane says in the project description that they’ve managed to achieve that.

The controller also doesn’t need that much energy to do its thing, thanks to the use of Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy tech,. That will help it connect to the iPhone without sucking down too much juice on either side of the equation, in order to get four hours of play time on a full charge without any light source. And Bluetooth 4.0 also means that response time for input is dramatically improved: BLE has a 6 second response time, Frangipane says, vs. a sluggish 100 milliseconds for older Bluetooth specifications.

Frangipane says that the project has Apple’s support, and that in fact, the iPhone maker has agreed to work with their team to help make sure the controller works with iOS devices, thanks to help from iDevices. At this stage, the prototype still looks like something created by a home hacker in a garage, but it clearly demonstrates that the concept works: by the time it ships, Frangipane says the control pods will snap into place on the front of the device in the case frame, and of course any wires or connectors will be less exposed.

Backers can get shipping devices for $60, with an estimated delivery date of June 2013. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are 125 prototype testing spots open at the $500 pledge level. Overall, the team hopes to raise $135,000 to bring the controller to market.