PhoneJoy’s New Play GamePad Is A Universal Smartphone Game Controller That Hugs Your Gadget

I would love to do more gaming on my Sony PlayStation Vita, but there just aren’t enough games I’m interested in. And I’d love to do more gaming on my iPhone or Android handsets, but I still long for physical controls despite years of having gotten used to touch. PhoneJoy’s new Play controller, which opened for pre-orders on Kickstarter today, is a blend of both those worlds and is extra impressive for being platform agnostic. It works with iOS, Android and even desktop PCs, and has a unique design that means it’ll fit your phone perfectly — no matter what phone you have.

The Play is PhoneJoy’s latest, but the company is far from new to this: It has made controllers before — especially controllers aimed at connecting via Bluetooth to computers and mobile devices — designed to emulate a console experience. PhoneJoy is touting the Play as a way to turn your smartphone of choice into a portable console, and judging by past reviews, it’s the company that could actually realize this vision, which is one that others have tried before.

The secret sauce lies in a telescoping design that allows the Play to accept any size smartphone between two control pods featuring analog joysticks, a d-pad, buttons and shoulder paddles. Since it adjusts, so long as your device is 153mm long or shorter, and 14mm thick or thinner, it can be made to fit. You can even play in portrait mode while keeping the controls on the left and right side of the device, a handy feature for some puzzle games designed for vertical orientation.

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PhoneJoy’s controller connects via Bluetooth 3.0, has around 20 hours of battery life and features 14 buttons in total in addition to the two pressure-sensitive analog joysticks. When folded down, it’s only 102mm wide and 87mm high and slides nicely into a front pocket for easy portability when not in use. It can also work without a phone when connected to a Windows, Mac or Linux computer, extended to a user’s preferred length.

On mobile devices, it’ll require that games support Bluetooth accessory controls, but that’s a growing group thanks to competing devices already on the market. Any game that works with iCade will work with PhoneJoy, for example, and the company puts the conservative total of supported titles at north of 300. The project is looking for $50,000 from backers, with pre-orders of devices starting at just $50 with an anticipated ship date of April 2013.

PhoneJoy already has a working prototype, which you can check out in the video below. As you can see, it seems to vastly improve the experience of playing GTAIII on an HTC One X, and the company says this is just a basic working product that should be much more refined once it hits mass production.