The Flipside was a Kickstarter project I covered last December, which aimed to create a Bluetooth video game controller case that charged via solar power and used low-power Bluetooth 4.0. At the time, it had a very ambitious funding goal, and was hurt by the lack of official support for game pads in iOS. Now, it’s back on Indiegogo, with wind under its sails thanks to Apple’s inclusion of a universal game controller SDK in the upcoming iOS 7.
Flipside creator Justice Frangipane says that the Flipside was subject to Apple’s review last fall, and that the team there was very excited about the project and even offered support, but that Frangipane wasn’t allowed to discuss any details ahead of the announcement of iOS 7. The Flipside offers the ability to work as both case and controller for an iPhone, but can also work as a Bluetooth controller for Mac or PC, iPad, or Android tablet.
The Flipside has one pretty significant advantage over other designs, in that it is solar-powered, and Frangipane says it can charge faster than the battery depletes through use, meaning it should theoretically never be completely drained, unless you seal it in a light-tight environment. That built-in battery is also supposed to last 10 years, Frangipane claims.
This time around, Flipside is setting its sights on a more realistic funding goal of $40,000, after failing to come close to its $135,000 goal and cancelling the Kickstarter project early last time. The Indiegogo campaign is also the flexible variety, which means Frangipane and his collaborators (which include iDevices, the creators of iGrill) will retain any funds raised by the end of the campaign, even if it doesn’t meet its target.
Frangipane says that the iOS 7 controller support changes the game for accessories like the Flipside, especially when those devices offer the kind of integrated controls that you’d get from a gaming handheld like the PS Vita.
“I think that if a controller like the ‘Flipside’ can gain momentum it will change handheld consoles globally,” he said. “Currently Vita and the DS hold the serious gaming market because they have controls that support serious gaming needs. The iPhone doesn’t, but if you take a $40 game that currently sells to a market of a million and then you open that market to another 200 million consumers, you’ve just changed high end gaming.”
As to whether one device will win out over others in this new space opened up by iOS 7, Frangipane says he thinks there’s plenty of opportunity early on for variety and healthy competition, and believes we probably won’t see anyone dominate right away come iOS 7’s consumer release.
“The reality is we are in a hundreds of millions of consumers market that is really just opening up for the very first time this fall,” he said. “It’s going to be bigger than huge and I am really glad to be part of the pioneering few. There is a need out there so large that without question we can all be very successful at the same time. Then, I’m sure the market will decide within a few years what type of mobile controllers will and won’t be successful long-term.”
The Flipside is available to Indiegogo backers for a starting pre-order pledge of $60, and the anticipated ship date is March 2014, so we’ll likely already have seen a host of iOS 7 game pad competitors emerge by then. Still, this hardware startup is determined to be part of that first wave, and hasn’t been discouraged by setbacks so far, so the Flipside is definitely one to keep an eye on.