An unexpected highlight of the iPhone 15 launch event was Apple’s renewed commitment to bringing AAA games to iPhone. Native ports of big-budget titles like Assassin’s Creed Mirage and Resident Evil Village are all heading to Apple’s handsets in the near future — but you’d be crazy to play them without a gamepad attached to your phone.
Enter the ELO Vagabond. Joining an increasingly competitive market of portable controller grips for iPhone, it takes on the BackBone One, Razer Kishi, and (our personal favorite) the GameVice Flex for a spot during your on-the-go gaming sessions.
Iit’s got a few tricks of its own to tempt you with, too. Shaped like a PlayStation DualSense controller chopped in half, it promises a more traditionally-ergonomic play experience than competing grips thanks to its elongated handles. That might make it a little more noticeable when packing into a bag, but will certainly allow for more comfortable play sessions.
Its asymmetrical, Xbox like sticks also make use of Hall Effect Sensors, which eliminate the stick drift that has plagued some console controllers. In addition, its buttons use microswitches, good for 3 million pushes, that promise to be quiet in operation.
With a telescopic, extendable design, the ELO Vagabond will clamp around iPhones of any size, while removable inserts will ensure a snug fit even if you’re using a third-party case to protect your phone. That was the secret weapon that made the GameVice Flex such a winner around these parts, so it’ll be interesting to see if the ELO Vagabond manages to pull it off successfully too.
Finally, an accompanying app will act as a hub for all your downloaded gaming apps, including streaming services like GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass, making for a single, console-like destination for accessing all your fun stuff. This feature apes BackBone One’s main selling point too, making the Vagabond potentially like a mix of the two best games controllers for iPhone.
Connections and availability
There’s a wrinkle in the ELO Vagabond launch plan, but thankfully one its manufacturers have accommodated — the latest iPhone range’s move to USB-C ports. Those that have pledged to buy the Lightning version of the controller, or those that buy one upon release with an eye on upgrading to the USB-C iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro handsets down the line, will have a year to return the ELO Vagabond for a replacement USB-C version, free of charge.
Having successfully been funded through Kickstarter, the ELO Vagabond should be hitting customers (and going up for general sale) by January 2024. It’ll cost $149, making it one of the more pricey grips on the market. But if it plays as comfortably as it looks, it’ll be the perfect companion for the epic games heading to iPhone in the near future.