With the release of iOS 7, Apple finally recognized the demand for physical gamepads via built-in support through its Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) program, which means all game developers and peripheral manufacturers alike can use the same compatibility standards. Gone are the days when each individual iOS controller or joystick required its own unique programming, which made many developers shy away from physical controls and diminished the value of such peripherals. Now, any game that supports iOS 7 controllers should work with any MFi gamepad – in theory, at least. That hasn't exactly worked out thus far, with at least one game only compatible with a certain early controller, and a few titles that work better on some gamepads than others.
It took a few months, but the first supported controllers began launching before the end of the year, and three have trickled out to date: MOGA's Ace Power for iPhone/iPod touch, the Logitech PowerShell for iPhone/iPod touch, and the SteelSeries Stratus for any iOS device. Each is distinctly designed and offers its own respective array of input options and other features, though all three arrive at daunting price points. Is it worth being an early adopter, or should you wait for the next round of options?
We've got full reviews of all three between our current and upcoming print and digital issues, but if you're thinking about investing in an iOS 7 game controller now, here's a concise look at the strengths and weaknesses of each, complete with our review scores from the full appraisals.
MOGA Ace Power ($99.95)
MOGA made a name for itself in the Android market with appealing phone controllers, but the Ace Power marks its first foray into the iOS peripheral world. When closed, the Ace Power looks much like a compact console gamepad – complete with a pair of analog sticks — albeit with an opening in the center. Pull on both ends, however, and it stretches out wide enough to snugly hold an iPhone or iPod touch, which connects via the Lightning port. That also allows the controller to charge your iOS device via its built-in 1800mAh battery pack.
Despite its array of input options and the portability-friendly contracting design, MOGA's debut iOS controller suffers from a very cheap-feeling build — and among the initially small number of games compatible with the Ace Power, some aren't well optimized for the device. However, the biggest issue we encountered came with the unresponsive front buttons, which required a very firm press to register. We could lightly tap a button numerous times over and see no in-game result, which means missed inputs are sadly common. For $100, we expect a whole lot more.
Logitech PowerShell ($99.99)
Logitech's PowerShell is similar in philosophy to MOGA's controller, with a design built to encase your iPhone or iPod touch and a 1500mAh battery built in to charge the iOS device during use. It's sturdier than the Power Ace and feels a bit more premium in build, but it's functionally a much simpler option, with only a d-pad, four face buttons, and two shoulder buttons. Luckily, the buttons are very responsive and work perfectly.
The same can't be said for the d-pad, which makes the PowerShell effectively useless for many types of games. Its unresponsive design means that subtle, nuanced inputs aren't possible, which makes racing games, 3D action games, and other types of games less playable (and much less enjoyable) compared to using touch and/or tilt controls. Some games – mostly 2D side-scrolling ones – don't suffer as much, but that hardly justifies a purchase. It's been sold for as low as $70 already, but even cutting its MSRP in half wouldn't make up for its significant deficiencies as a controller.