Beboncool's wireless controller is the first Bluetooth controller for smartphones that I've tested to offer the killer feature that I've always wanted — the ability to map the physical buttons on the controller to on-screen buttons of games that don't offer controller support. Needless to say, I was excited to see it in action, but the sad truth is my experience setting up and using this controller was fraught with frustrating technical issues and poor reliability and performance.
- Comfortable button layout
- Should be compatible with pretty much any phone
- Custom button mapping could be a game-changer
- Portable design
- Setup instructions are complicated and unclear
- Does not consistently connect with phones
- Must also connect with clunky and confusing Chinese app
- Could be considered a cheating device in online games
- In-game performance is unreliable and disappointing
Occasionally fun, mostly frustrating
Beboncool Wireless Gaming Controller
I wanted to love this wireless controller. I really did.
As someone who plays a ton of mobile games, I've always yearned for a Bluetooth controller that offers custom button mapping to fill in the gaps for games that don't support Bluetooth controls. The Beboncool Wireless Gaming Controller provides just that with a well-designed wireless gamepad that mounts around your phone and offers a button and thumbstick layout that makes the complete package look and feel like a mini Nintendo Switch.
But I simply can't overstate how frustrating it was for me to set up this controller with the different phones I tested it with, which included the Huawei P30 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S8, the Razer Phone 2, and the Google Pixel 2. I could never get the P30 Pro to work with the controller and app, but I did manage to get the others to connect and work with varying degrees of success. Had I only tested this controller using a single smartphone and ran into no issues with it, I may well have ended up recommended this and touted it as the must-have mobile gaming accessory that it aims to be. However, given my experience and the somewhat steep asking price, it's probably not worth the hassle for the average gamer.
The potential for greatness
Beboncool Wireless Gaming Controller What I like
The best aspect of this controller is the physical design. The phone grip part of the controller expands wide enough to hold even the biggest phones out there, and it's thick enough to fit your phone in its case. The backplate is reinforced with aluminum, which is a crucial addition that helps with stability and the overall durability of the accessory. Everything else about the physical design of the controller is great with thoughtful placement for the buttons and thumbsticks that closely mimic the Nintendo Switch, and that's never a bad thing. You don't get that cheap, hollow press that plagues so many cheaper controllers, and the thumbsticks are comfortable with a nice click when you press down on them.
All told, there are 12 mappable buttons along with a D-pad and two joysticks, along with paired inputs so that you can combine a shoulder button press with a direction on the D-pad for even more fine-tuned controls. But first, you'll need the app ShootingPlus V3 to set up and use the controller. I'll have more to say about the app in my section on what I don't like about the controller, but I can appreciate how easy it is to adjust and tweak button mapping, even during gameplay, which is pretty crucial when you're setting things up with a new game.
The controller comes with some preset controls for the more popular games including PUBG Mobile and Arena of Valor which is handy, although I still had to tweak the button layout a bit when I got it working for PUBG on the Galaxy S8. Due to the flexibility that custom button mapping affords, you could, in theory, set up and use this controller with almost any game, although it's marketed as a controller that works best with shooters and MOBA-style games with a fixed movement stick and an array of fixed on-screen buttons to map to. I found it takes a good long while to get used to using the Beboncool controller for almost any game, simply because you basically have to retrain your brain to play the game with new controls, and I often spent more time tweaking the controls than I did enjoying the game.
Major source of frustration
Beboncool Wireless Gaming Controller What I don't like
Bluetooth accessories can be a bit finicky at the best of times, but man did I struggle to connect this accessory to phones. I'm pretty sure I ran into pretty much every troubleshooting issue possible with this controller, which is a bad omen for the sake of this review, but good for anyone reading this considering buying this controller.
Because the accessory is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, you need to be sure to put the phone into the right pairing mode for the phone you're using by holding down the "Mode" and "A" buttons for Android or "Mode" and "B" for iOS. This, despite the instruction manual saying to hold down the "Home" button which actually turns off the controller. I had to reach out to technical support to clarify the pairing procedure because of this confusion, and they explained that there's an older and newer version of this controller with different button layouts and setup procedures — so we were not off to a great start.
My Huawei P30 Pro eventually paired up nicely to the controller via Bluetooth, but when I loaded up the app, it would not recognize the connected controller. Without the app recognizing the controller connection, the controller does nothing, so I reached out to technical support again, and the solutions they offered didn't resolve the issues. I chalked it up to maybe an issue on the phone side and moved on to test it with a different phone.
My best results came using the Samsung Galaxy S8, which completed the trifecta of connections between the phone, the controller, and the app. I loaded up PUBG Mobile, mapped out the buttons to my custom control layout and it worked(!) ...but it was a really janky experience that felt more like a self-imposed handicap than any sort of upgrade or advantage. There's a slight input delay that you'll notice right away, and I never quite felt like my character was moving at top speed. Any swipe-based controls don't work, so while you swipe up on the movement stick to sprint in PUBG Mobile, I could not figure out how to program that into the controller. I also found that the controller occasionally couldn't handle multiple inputs, which is not good. The input delay makes the whole experience feel laggy, which is the last thing you want from a controller.
When game developers opt not to include Bluetooth support in a game, they typically focus on optimizing the touchscreen controls as best they can. The ShootingPlus V3 app basically ham-fists the button mapping over the on-screen buttons, and you'll really need to tweak things just so to get them to work the way you want. Honestly, I don't think I ever felt fully confident in the controls, even when they seemed to be working alright. While the controller felt comfortable as a phone grip, I couldn't help thinking back to the GameSir F1 Gaming Grip that offered a similar style holster and grip for your phone along with an optional physical joystick that sits right on the display, but without the set up frustration and at a fraction of the price here.
Lastly, it's worth noting that using an alternative controller and app set up like this is essentially cheatware, as it's an unauthorized third-party app and accessory that's specifically designed to give you an advantage over other players. While not as bad as the more egregious hacks and third-party cheating apps floating around out there, if you manage to get too good using this controller, there's a chance you might get reported for cheating. The technical service folk I've been emailing with assured me the third-party app is "safe to play without being detected" by app developers, and that feels like a red flag to me.
Beboncool Wireless Gaming Controller
2 out of 5
On paper, this controller's exclusive ability to add Bluetooth controls to most popular mobile action games could be a game-changer, but in my experience, I found that it changed the game in a really bad way. Setting up and using the controller was filled with more frustration than gaming fun, and that's really disappointing. I admittedly had high expectations for this accessory given the claims it made, and while I admit I did have some fun moments with the controller when it worked, It's just not something I can recommend at this point in time.
Out of control
Too complicated for its own good.
Beboncool tries to deliver all the features you'd want from a smartphone controller — custom button mapping, compatibility for iOS and Android, and a comfortable design. Unfortunately, the process of setting it up and the experience of actually gaming with it is utterly exhausting. Every time I started to play a game with it, I ended up ditching it for the reliability of the default touchscreen controls.
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