ZAGG’s probably best known for their screen protectors (I use one on my Note II.), but they acquired iFrogz a few years ago to help expand their product line. With that, I met with them at CES to go over the Caliber Advantage.
The Caliber Advantage is a nicely designed gamepad accessory for the iPhone. The iPhone attaches to the Advantage like a case and looks just like it’s part of the back of the phone. When you slide it out from either side though, that’s when the magic happens. There are two analog sticks, a D-Pad, four top buttons, and two shoulder buttons. The analog sticks are pretty unique for this type of accessory.
Magnets on the Advantage can detect when its slid out, thus turning the unit on. There’s no on and off switch as the Advantage knows when it’s closed up and it will also turn itself off after about 5 minutes of inactivity, saving battery life.
The Advantage connects to the phone via Bluetooth, but not in the traditional way. Games have to use the the hooks provided by the SDK in order to use the Advantage. That means the product pairs with the game, and not with the phone. You may be used to pairing a Bluetooth device with the phone in the traditional manner, but here it only pairs to the Advantage when a game supporting it is launched. Yes, it’s a little bit different and you can’t just go and use it on any game, but the reason being is that for the analog sticks to truly work as intended, developers have to use the SDK.
Where the phone sits, it can rotate to portrait or landscape mode. This way, you can use it in games that don’t support one or the other, which is really nice. With the phone’s headphone placement, it can get in the way of the analog stick on the right side. Thankfully, iFrogz has included a 90 degree adapter so you can plug your headset into the iPhone when using the Advantage as well without interfering with the controls
You can even use it with an iPad. Just launch the game on the iPad while the phone is inactive and the Advantage will automatically pair up with the iPad.
I’ve been told companies such as EA and Epic are really bullish on the Caliber Advantage. So much so that Epic is thinking about releasing some games for the Apple platform that they haven’t yet due to the lack of a good analog stick in the mobile area. Perhaps if this takes off, we’ll see some of those “unreleased” games come out from Epic.
Coming in the first half of 2013 at around $70, the Caliber Advantage with its 10 hour of battery life for gaming might be the gaming product that drives some new games for the iOS platform.