Welcome, one and all, to another 148Apps holiday shopping guide! Are you having trouble figuring out what to get for a distant relative, new neighbor, or estranged second cousin? Thankfully there are people like us putting together handy-dandy holiday shopping guides for you! Whether you’re looking for new hardware and accessories, or just something a bit less impersonal than an iTunes gift card, we’ve got you covered.
Today’s guide centers around iOS gamers. These are the folks who love their portable games and spend most of their morning commute matching pieces of candy or fighting immortal titans. If you’d like to make the gamer(s) in your life have an overall more pleasant and convenient gaming experience, or simply get them some really cool stuff to play, check out our list below for some ideas. Continue reading 148Apps 2014 Holiday Shopping Guide for Gamers »
MOGA has announced that the MOGA REBEL – a full-sized, console-style, premium game controller for iOS – will be releasing on September 17. The bluetooth wireless controller has dual analog sticks, L1/R1 and L2/R2 buttons, a D-pad, and four action buttons.
Eric Bensussen, President and Co-Founder of PowerA said, “We’ve seen an influx of triple-A games coming to the portable gaming market, including 2K’s recently released BioShock for iOS, and we’re thrilled to usher in the MOGA REBEL as the next best-in-class controller, enabling a rich, console-style experience on iOS devices. With the addition of MOGA REBEL to our iOS controller family, which also includes the more portable MOGA ACE POWER, we’re giving gamers two quality controllers with a choice of size and features to suit their individual needs.”
The MOGA REBEL will be available for purchase on September 17 for $79.99. You can check out which games are currently MOGA compatible here.
Golem Arcana, the point-based army-building board game from Harebrained Schemes – and its accompanying app – are now both available. The app will allow users to connect to the game’s figures, board, and cards via a Bluetooth-powered stylus – with a tap on the pieces or the board from the stylus sending information to the app.
The board game challenges players to assemble an army and take on the enemy with their combination of attributes and special actions. The story behind everything begins with the rise and fall of the Great Khan, with the ensuring chaos causing tribes and clans to rise up and take back their sovereignty and empires to reclaim their lost territory and honor. Now the heirs of the Khan are battling to take control of the Gudanna Dominion.
The app manages all the math for the player, meaning players do not have to memorize a complex ruleset. The app will also download new scenarios and will tally the results of every game into the overall conflict, with major developments triggered by the collective results of the players.
The Golem Arcana app is available on the App Store now as a free download, and the board game is $79.99.
Touch controls can be a tricky thing to master, especially for designers. Too many inputs can clutter the screen, fingers can get in the way, and sometimes virtual controllers just don’t cut it. That’s why I found Caonpy’s Sensus iPhone case to be so intriguing.
The Sensus attaches to your iPhone 5 or 5s (with future support for more devices planned) and protects it from bumps and scrapes like most other cases can and do. What’s different about it is the inclusion of touch sensors along the back and side that can work as extra control inputs – that use variable pressure, no less. This means that it measures the strength of your taps to create something akin to virtual analog button sensitivity. It also means that, potentially, you’ll be able to use the back and side (or top if you’re playing with a landscape orientation) of the case to control what’s happening on-screen.
A lot of what happens with the Sensus is dependent on whether developers embrace the technology and what they decide to do with it, but there’s so much potential there. No more obscuring the screen with a finger when playing a game. Entirely new control methods that measure how hard you press down on the sensors. Honest-to-goodness virtual shoulder buttons in a place that feels natural!
Canopy is planning to release the Sensus in mid-2014, and the case will retail for $79.99.
So it looks like the MOGA Ace Power MFi controller has had a price drop. The collapsable iOS controller has gone from $99.99 down to $79.99 – possibly due to some rather stiff competition, hmm?
Well regardless of the reason, you can now get your hands on the MOGA Ace Power for $20 less than you could before. So if you’ve been wrestling with the idea of buying one for yourself now might be the time to reconsider.
Looks like there’s been a change in the SteelSeries Stratus wireless game controller’s price recently. The MFi controller is still in its preorder phase, but the price has officially been dropped by $20. So instead of paying $99 for the wireless bluetooth iOS controller, you’ll be able to get it for $79. People who have already preordered the controller need not fret however; SteelSeries has stated that they will be honoring the $79 launch price on all preorders, regardless of whether or not they were placed before the price drop.
Matrix Audio has announced The Qube 2 at CES; the latest addition to its line of compact speakers that weighs in at half a pound. It features an aluminum shell that holds 2×3 watt speakers for strong sound, and also comes with 8 hours of battery life and a bluetooth range of up to 30 feet. The device is available to order for $79.99.
“Our goal was to create a speaker that is truly portable” said Adel Babataher, Matrix Audio CEO and Founder, in a press release. “We researched a lot of mini speakers that claimed to be mobile yet they could not fit comfortably into a purse or cup holder. With the Qube², users can easily toss the speaker into their pockets and enjoy great sound anywhere.”
Lugging cables around can often be a bother, as can using said cables to act as a stationary charger for your iPhone. That’s why Thinium has been working on a pair of portable chargers called the Thinium Charge and the Thinium ReCharge.
The Thinium Charge is only slightly larger than a credit card and is designed to fit easily into a pocket or even a wallet. Once your phone needs charging you just have to take it out, unfold it, and viola; one wall-mounted iPhone charging station. There’s also a USB cable tucked away inside of it that will allow you to charge your device from a computer or any other USB-compatible energy source.
The Thinium ReCharge is essentially the same thing as the Charge with two significant differences. First, it allows you to charge to devices simultaneously. Second, it can also function as a battery backup in the event that you can’t find any places to plug in.
The Thinium Charge will be out sometime within the first quarter of 2014 for between $39.99 and $49.99 (depends on the model), and the Thinium ReCharge will follow afterwards and pricing has yet to be announced.
Hardware Design Rating:
Integration with iPhone Rating:
+ Super light and slim
+ Extra battery life on the go
+ Keeps all iPhone 5 ports accessible
– Not quite a full extra charge
– Occasional disconnects
The iKit NuCharge is entering its final week of promotion on the Kickstarter website, and it’s already garnered twice the amount of its original funding goal. There’s a good reason for this, of course. The NuCharge is a well designed, light, slim battery case that can offer almost a full extra charge of the iPhone 5 battery case for a reasonable price.
Our review unit came with the battery module, a brushed aluminum face piece, and a slim clear plastic case that fits snugly on the iPHone 5, and to which the other pieces snap onto te back of. The Li-Ion Polymer battery pack is surprisingly light and thin, adding a small amount of thickness to the iPhone when snapped into place. The brushed aluminum face plate is attractive enough to use when the battery module is either charging or when I didn’t want the little bit of extra bulk. The battery pack is easily removed, though the aluminum face plate takes a bit of effort to slide off when attached.
The NuCharge has a fairly flimsy kickstand on the back, which works to hold the iPhone 5 in a landscape orientation. It’s functional, but doesn’t feel as solidly constructed as the rest of the unit. The battery module is charged at the bottom of the unit via an included micro USB cord.
Other battery cases I’ve used offer a pass-through charging system, which the NuCharge does not. It will not charge the iPhone while the battery pack itself is connected. This isn’t a deal-breaker, as the iPhone 5 lightning connector is accessible at the same time, allowing for a dual charge scenario.
Once the battery case is fully charged, it’s a simple matter of removing the recessed Lightning cable from the back of the battery unit and connecting it to the iPhone’s own Lightning port. The rubberized connector cable feels solid and rugged, ensuring regular use for a while to come. The NuCharge was able to bring my iPhone up from 10% or so up to 94% several times over many days, which is a respectable amount considering the low weight and profile of the entire unit.
The one issue that cropped up during a few of my charging tests was an odd disconnect of the charging system. I’d have the Lightning cable connected to the bottom of the unit. The cables felt solidly plugged in, but the unit didn’t charge the iPhone until I either re-plugged the cable in or fiddled with the charging button. It didn’t happen every time, but enough to be a concern. This was a pre-release unit, however, so here’s hoping the retail version won’t have this issue.
Ultimately, the combination of solid features make the NuCharge a fantastic bit of kit, giving iPhone 5 owners that extra full battery of charge for a competitive price. While it’d be great to have just a bit more charge in the module, the weight and slim profile more than make up for it.
Device Reviewed With: new iPad, iPhone 5, iPad mini
Integration with iPad/iPhone Rating:
Hardware Design Rating:
Re-Use Value Rating:
The SteelSeries Free mobile wireless controller is a wonder of miniature design and quality. It’s solidly built, feels good in the hand, and controls a wild variety of games on iOS, Android, Mac and PC. This review focuses on iOS gaming, but I also tested out the controller with Mac & PC computers, finding it easy to connect and use with a variety of games.
Pairing the SteelSeries Free is a simple matter of tapping into the Bluetooth settings on an iOS device, holding down a couple of buttons on the controller, and waiting a few seconds. That’s it. No pairing number emulation, no weirdness, it just works. As soon as the controller is paired, popping into any one of the almost 100 compatible games will get players rocking arcade games with a separate controller. The SteelSeries Free uses Bluetooth keyboard emulation, similarly to the ION iCade system, so iCade games are also compatible here.
The tiny little controller feels good even in my big hands, with its dual sticks, four face buttons (plus start and back buttons), two shoulder buttons, and a d-pad for all sorts of game control needs. SteelSeries has extensive experience in the pro-gaming scene, and it shows here with a quality vident from the first touch. There’s even a cute little bag to keep the controller in, away from potentially scratching things deep in a bag or pocket.
The only niggles I have here are not even SteelSeries’ fault. One, I’d love to see a controller that can do more than emulate the iCade. While it works fantastically for arcade and platform games, I’d like to see better support for dual-stick shooter type control schemes that really need two analog sticks. The other problem is that since the SteelSeries Free uses Bluetooth keyboard emulation, the iOS keyboard doesn’t pop up when the device is paired with the controller. Again, it’s a systemic issue, rather than one with the controller, but with such a tiny controller, it’s easy to forget that there won’t be a keyboard to use until the external game pad is disconnected.
Overall, the SteelSeries Free mobile wireless controller is delightful to use, with a solidly built and fantastically designed controller that is extremely portable and easy to use with a wide variety of gaming devices. While it would be nice to have support for games on iOS that require more than iCade-style Bluetooth keyboard emulation, what’s here is as close to mobile gaming perfection as is possible in today’s iOS world.
If there was one reason I’ve heard more than any others about why someone bought an Android or Blackberry phone over the iPhone, it’s that the person doesn’t like to type on touchscreens. Regardless of my argument that after a few weeks, I ended up typing MUCH faster on the iPhone’s onscreen than on my old Blackberry, people often opt for a physical keyboard.
The NUU MiniKey is by no means the only physical keyboard case for the iPhone (there’s a flip-out one available at ThinkGeek and another popular one by BoxWave), but it has a few interesting features and sturdy-looking design (though it looks like it may almost double the thickness of the iPhone).
The MiniKey has navigation keys to allow easier movement between characters than using the magnifying glass on the touchscreen. Like most cellphone keyboards, the MiniKey has function keys to allow quicker typing of symbols and numbers. Something I haven’t seen on other iPhone keyboards is backlighting. While it isn’t helpful to a skilled typist like myself who doesn’t need to look at the keys, other more novice typists may need to see what keys they are pressing. The MiniKey is also compatible with the Mac keyboard shortcuts like Command+C for copy and Command+V for paste. And finally, it has a key to toggle between the physical and onscreen keyboard. I assume this key simply turns the keyboard on and off (which would be great to save battery life).
The NUU MiniKey is selling for $79.99 on Amazon (free shipping). This won’t appeal to those of us that trust that Apple knows best and if we needed a physical keyboard they would have given us one. But to anyone who is on the fence between iPhones and other phones, accessories like this may be the deciding factor.