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Database monkey at BASF. Father of 4 kids. Born in Santa Rosa, California. Went on a vacation to Germany in '82 that still hasn't ended. Opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Life is good!

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Obligatory favorite quotes section 

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire

- George Monbiot

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.

- H. L. Mencken
US editor (1880 - 1956)

Goats are like mushrooms, if you shoot a duck, I'm scared of toasters. 
- Colby Cravens 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: Gametel Bluetooth Controller for Android and iOS

For 99% of Android device owners, gaming will probably make up a significant part of your daily use. Let's just admit it, for some games, on screen controls just don't cut it. I realized pretty quickly that I needed a dedicated game controller, the only question was which one.

My requirements

Pretty much a no-brainer. I'm not aware of any wired controllers for Android devices, but it would be somewhat contra-productive to use a non-wireless approach for mobile gaming.

Compact size
I don't want to lug around a piece of equipment three times the size of my phone. A wireless Xbox controller is an awesome piece of kit, but it's not what I would consider a particularly portable piece of kit.

Some might disagree here. I like the idea of being able to recharge, others might prefer batteries so as not to depend on a usb charger to get their game on.

'Standard' button configuration
A  joy pad, 4 action buttons, left and right fire are a must. Additional buttons would be an added nicety.

Not too much to ask for, I'd say. Surprisingly, there isn't exactly an abundance of Android friendly bluetooth controllers out there that fit all my requirements. One that did catch my eye, despite not exactly being cheap, was the Gametel bluetooth controller. What caught my attention was the ability to do this:
Controller with Galaxy Nexus
Look Ma, no hands!
That's right folks, this controller comes with a spring-loaded, rubberized phone holder! What other reason would you need to spend €57.49 (Or £42.49)?
To make a short story shorter; bought, waited five days and then the big day arrived!
New toy! New toy!
Despite wanting to immediately start a gaming session, I hooked it up to my micro usb charger and fed it until the status led stopped being such an angry shade of red. In the meantime, I took care of the software side of things. Yes, to be able to enjoy your new Android experience, you'll need to download an app. The whole process of installation and input configuration is described here. I also grabbed the firmware update. Nothing like good product support to make the customer happy.

The controller:

The controller is on the light side, and is of plastic descent. That said, it feels solid enough. The buttons are good quality and the spring mechanism on the phone holder is quite strong.
While you won't be able to cram a Galaxy Note into it (been there, tried that), you can easily fit any phone up to 72 mm (2.83 inches) width in it. In any case, my Galaxy Nexus fits well, as does my daughter's HTC Desire. It also has quite a grip. You need not fear it slipping out of the holder, unless you're prone to gaming while simultaneously bull riding. Because seeing is believing, I shall risk my lovely phone for you:
Upside down, boy you turn me.

Although you can't see it, my phone is perched precariously upside down above a lava pit filled with phone eating crocodiles, the controller its sole support. Since you've now seen front and back, I might as well throw in a side view for good measure. 
Yes, those nails do need trimming.
You get a 4 way D-Pad, 4 action buttons, two fire buttons, a start and a select button. Situated at the bottom near the micro-usb connector is a red/green LED for charging/connectivity status.   
BTW, to get the controller into pairing mode, press the start button for about three seconds. The green connectivity LED will start blinking rapidly. Now you can follow the pairing instructions.

You can hook up to 4! of the controllers to a device (not tested, but Gametel can feel free to send me 3 more to try this feature out), so nothing stands in the way of hooking up that Android Tablet to your TV and abusing it as a console.

Obviously, not every Android app is designed to work with a game controller, but quite a few are and do so very well. One of those is MAME4droid. Yes, your favorite arcade game emulator works swimmingly with the Gametel controller. Just get rid of the on-screen controls in horizontal and vertical mode and setup your button configuration in the MAME4droid option screen. 
It'll work like this...
Or like this! 
Yay! We can play 80's games on 2012 technology! Will the wonders never cease? Yes, that was Galaxian on a Galaxy Note. You're welcome.
Note: No, I'm not going to tell you how to find MAME ROMs, or how to get them running under MAME4droid. Use the Google, Luke.

All in all, the Gametel controller is a rock solid controller, albeit expensive. I've tested it on a Galaxy Note, Galaxy Nexus and a Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet with nary a hitch. For those of you that think in terms of Android versions, that's 2.3, 4.01 and 3.1 respectively. You'll be hard pressed to find a better controller in such a compact form factor. The phone holder is especially nice, provided your phone isn't of the Phablet variety. Highly recommended. Full tech specs over here.

Disclaimer: I've only tested this controller under Android. According to the Gametel website, the controller works on iOS devices as well, but I don't own one so I can't confirm or deny that claim.


  1. Hi! Great review... I was wondering...You write that it's made of plastic, so how is the weight/center of gravity, when you use a heavy phone?

    btw have you tried the gamepad with other emulators as well :)?

    1. Hi Morten!

      Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I've used it with two phones that actually fit in and the whole thing is pretty well balanced. I suspect that's probably the reason that the arm is the length it is. For lack of a real heavy phone, I can't really swear that, though. As for other emulators, I've tried FPse and it works quite well.

  2. Thanks a bunch! Going to purchase this right away!