The biggest challenge facing the growing number of clamp-on gamepads that promise to turn your smartphone into a handheld console is their limited compatibility, especially when it comes to fitting your phone. The Gamevice Flex wants to change that with a modular design that can be reconfigured to support almost any phone, even when inside a case.
A couple of months ago, Razer revealed a new version of its smartphone gamepad, but what made the Kishi V2 worth the upgrade wasn’t the Backbone One-inspired rigid extending bridge on the back, but the simple inclusion of swappable rubber inserts that allowed the controller to be used with not just thicker smartphones, but those with a protective case on them. As neat as the idea of turning a smartphone into a powerful gaming system is, smartphones are expensive and worth protecting with a case, and having to pry a phone out of that case every time you want to play a game just isn’t worth it.
Unfortunately, at launch, the Razer Kishi V2 only supported Android devices, and its compatibility with devices in a case was limited. That’s a big downside that Gamevice, the company who originally partnered with Razer to make the Kishi, wants to remedy with a new clamp-on controller of its own called the Flex.
Not surprisingly, the Flex looks like the first generation of the Kishi, with an asymmetrical joystick layout and a flexible adjustable strap on the back connecting both sides that also securely holds the gamepad to the phone. Unlike the Kishi V2's change to a rigid bridge connection, the flexible strap also allows both sides of the Gamevice Flex to be attached to each other, creating a smaller footprint when not attached to a smartphone.
What actually gives the Flex its name, however, isn’t that strap, but the inclusion of various spacers of different sizes and materials that help the controller securely fit a wide variety of smartphones and phone cases. The spacers also help ensure the Gamevice Flex’s USB-C or Apple Lightning connector is positioned at the proper height to connect to an inserted smartphone, even while the device is still in a protective case, which often adds quite a bit of thickness around the connection port.
Gamevice promises the Flex gamepad can be used alongside thousands of different smartphone cases, and specifically mentions brands like OtterBox, Urban Armor Gear, Casetify, as well as first-party case offerings from Apple and Samsung. That being said, if you’re using a folio-style case with a flap that covers the screen, you’ll still need to pop it off to use the Gamevice Flex. The controller also isn’t compatible with folding phones, like those from Samsung and Motorola.
The only thing not flexible about the Gamevice Flex is that you’ll need to choose between either the $100 USB-C version designed for Android devices, or the $110 MFi-certified Apple version made for iPhones with Lightning ports. Being able to swap the connector type as needed would be a neat trick, but the better solution is for Apple to finally adopt USB-C for all of its mobile devices.