A touchscreen smartphone is great for a lot of things but fine control of a football game or a first-person shooter is not one of them. That's why Apple's announcement of game controller compatibility in iOS 7 had a lot of mobile gamers salivating.
Fast-forward six months and player one is ready: the Moga Ace Power controller is a good start, if a little toy-like. Is it the answer to the iPhone gamer's prayers?
The Moga Ace will feel instantly familiar to console gamers. It has two analog joysticks, set asymetrically, Xbox-style plus a D-pad, four pressure-sensitive action buttons, two triggers and two shoulder buttons. That's enough variety for most gaming genres and more than the Logitech PowerShell, the Ace's main competition.
The Ace can also charge your phone while you play - seriously useful, given the battery demands of some iOS games - and uses four lights to show the level of its own 1800 mAh battery. On the back is a reset button, handy if your Ace inexplicably stops functioning, as ours did. Don't fret, a prod with a pin got it working again.
Finally, on the bottom is a micro-USB port to charge the battery and a headphone jack - essential if you're a fan of app soundtracks but don't want to annoy the person next to you on the bus. And that's all there is to it. Slide the controller open, pop an iPhone 5, 5s, 5c or fifth-generation iPod touch onto the Lightning port and you're ready to play.
Your first game: hunt the game
We've been putting the Ace through its paces with Storm Raiders, Bastion, GTA: San Andreas and Call of Duty: Strike Team. The controller is always excellent with brilliantly responsive analog controls that are, crucially, far better than the touchscreen alternative. However, if you want to know how it works with other games then you'll have to hunt them down first. It's not Moga's fault but there's a shortage of compatible games at the moment – even major titles such as FIFA 14 aren't controller compatible yet.
Be prepared for plenty of crashing and getting shot too when you first boot up a new game. None of the games we've tested give instructions for controllers so you'll have to discover them through trial and error.
Even the compatible games mostly leave the virtual controls on screen even though you're playing with a controller, cluttering up game space. These irritations will go away as developers embrace the Moga and its Logitech rival but we're firmly in early adopter territory right now.
More after the break...
Feels cheap. Isn't cheap
Spending £80 to turn your iPhone into something more like a PS Vita seems like a good deal but there's no denying that the Ace is expensive, especially considering that it feels so cheap.
It's all plastic and toy-like, and the iPhone 5s or 5 surely deserve a more premium partner for on-the-go gaming. Perhaps an iPod touch or iPhone 5c would better suit the candy-coloured buttons and orange mid-section but the flagships feel underserved.
Where the Moga falls down is in its design, which is a bit cluttered and low-grade. But the most important thing about a game controller is how it functions and the Ace itself leaves little room for complaint in that regard.
Sure, there's no huge implementation push from iOS game developers that we can see, but this is still a good choice for heavy iOS gamers or anyone who would play more but is put off by touchscreen controls. As for 2014, each new quality game that gets on board with controller compatibility will just make accessories like the Ace Power more appealing.
Moga Ace Power - the first official iPhone games controller
It's not perfect but the Moga Ace Power Controller will make your iPhone gaming more fun