There’s no doubt that smartphones have completely revolutionized our lives. For many of us this includes instant access to GPS, messaging, the internet, videos, and a myriad of other benefits. Speaking personally, one of the biggest uses I get out of my smartphone is as a gaming device. Games designed for cellphones tend to lean towards the simplistic side. Understandable considering that most phones don’t have much in the way of buttons. However, at the end of the day, smartphones are incredibly powerful computers, which makes them ideal candidates for emulation of older games for systems such as the SNES, PS1, Dreamcast, and several others.
The obvious problem with emulation is of course a lack of buttons! Many emulators will overlay buttons onto your screen which work fine for when you want to play a turn based or strategy game but are horrendous if you’re ever in the mood for an action game. Without the tactile feel of a button or a d-pad I just didn’t have the precise control that an action game demanded. It was an extremely frustrating situation to be in until, I happened to learn of the Ipega-9021’s existence.
The Ipega-9021 is an extremely lightweight bluetooth wireless controller that shamelessly copies it’s design from the Xbox 360 controller. I’m thankful that even though this controller is a blatant forgery, they decided to steal from the best with a twist. The middle panel on the controller flips up to reveal a clasp that can accommodate smartphones of all sizes including phablets that are 5.7 inches or even a little larger. A word of warning, it won’t accommodate actual tablets (although Ipega sells a separate controller for that!) The clasp is very stable and will firmly hold the phone in place, I never had any issues or worries that the phone would fall out. The controller itself is made from a solid plastic that feels like it can take a few hits. Don’t worry about tossing it into your work bag or suitcase.
The controller itself works flawlessly. I had absolutely no trouble pairing it to my Note 3. I was delighted to find that not only did the controller work with many game apps but it also either worked natively with many emulators or required a very brief dive into the key configuration menu to get working. The best part was that since I now had physical buttons, I could remove the button overlay on my screen, freeing up the game to completely fill my screen. I’m also pleased to report that battery life is excellent and will easily last 15+ hours. You’re going to have to charge your phone long before you need to charge this controller! The controller even comes with multimedia buttons if you want to change up any tunes while you’re playing your game of choice. Most important of all, the buttons feel quite responsive. The 9021 does work with iOS devices but I unfortunately did not test this feature. The instructions are a little vague but different face buttons activate pairings for different kinds of devices. If you have any difficulty connecting your controller, the best place to go for answers is the internet. Something else I wanted to mention quickly is that after you pair the device once, you can simply push the “home” button in order to reactive the last pairing made which is pretty simple.
Having said all that, the controller does have some problems. Firstly, this peripheral takes over the function of your keyboard when it’s enabled. So if you feel like being a boss and writing out messages in between levels, you won’t have access to swype. You’re going to have to type out each letter as if this was a desktop keyboard which can get quite annoying. Once you stop gaming, you’ll have to manually switch your keyboard to your former setting. Additionally the thumbsticks and D-pad could be slightly more precise/sensitive but most gamers will be able to adjust to them with no issue. The instructions which come with the controller are lackluster and a bit vague. Although pairing itself was smooth, there’s multiple modes on the controller and it took me a little while to figure out the best one for my phone. Last but not least, although this is a bluetooth controller, good luck trying to get this to work on your pc. It is a complicated nightmare and after trying for 2 hours (and reading many different forum posts) I just gave up. Stick to using it for your phone and you’ll be much happier!
Overall for it’s intended purpose, a bluetooth controller for your phone, the Ipega 9021 is excellent. It’s sturdy, pairs easily, works with many gaming apps and all tested emulators, and has a great battery life. Oh, and did I mention that you can purchase it for less than $25 dollars on Amazon? This one is a no-brainer, if you game on your phone or know someone who does, this is the controller for them!