Power A's Moga controller turns any Android smartphone into a gaming handheld (hands-on)

Gallery Photo: Power A Moga Android controller gallery

With sales of dedicated gaming handhelds reaching new lows, accessory manufacturers are looking to the smartphone and tablet market as the future of portable gaming. This week at E3, Nyko introduced a duo of Bluetooth Android gaming controllers, and Power A is following suit with the Moga. Like Nyko's PlayPad controllers, the Moga enables users to forego touchscreen controls and use traditional dual-analog navigation and shoulder and action buttons. To preserve portability, the Moga is roughly as wide as an iPhone 4S and no thicker than a deck of cards. Despite its compact nature, the Moga's controls don't feel cramped, though the buttons and analog sliders are somewhat small considering the size of the top surface area.

But what sets the Moga apart is its flip up smartphone holder, which extends and clasps onto any smartphone, even devices as large as the Samsung Galaxy Note. By providing an integrated mount, the Moga in effect becomes a Nintendo DS-style handheld. Handsets are secured by rubberized pads, which maintain a surprisingly tight grip and the arm can be raised or lowered depending on whether you're using the Moga with a tablet or smartphone. The Moga, Power A says, boasts a battery life of 24 hours via two AAA batteries encased by the left and right handgrips.

Power A's biggest obstacle, however, is limited app support. Currently, only eight Android games support the Moga, including Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, Six-Guns, Atari's Greatest Hits, and others. Though more titles are apparently on the way, encouraging adoption on a large scale is a difficult proposition, especially considering the growing number of Android gamepads on the market. To help separate Moga-compatible games from touchscreen-only titles, Power A has created a Moga games manager app, which showcases all compatible games and provides shortcuts to either Google Play or the launcher localized on your device.

Fortunately, Power A has plenty of time to build software support, as the Moga won't hit stores until holiday season 2012.

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