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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:06 PM   #1
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Poor Build Quality and High Price of iOS 7 Game Controllers Due to Strict Apple Guidelines




Current MFi game controllers designed to work with devices running iOS 7, including offerings from MOGA, Logitech, and SteelSeries have all been unpopular with reviewers due to their high price tags, their build quality, and lack of game support. While it has been unclear why each manufacturer has chosen a $99 price tag and why all controllers have suffered from the same quality control problems, a new report from 9to5Mac sheds some light on the issue.

As it turns out, the main issue driving up price is Apple's strict guidelines on the creation of the controllers. Apple is requiring manufacturers to source the pressure sensitive analog switches used in buttons and thumbsticks from a single supplier, Fujikura America.

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According to manufacturers that spoke to 9to5Mac, pressure sensitive switches may have been an area where costs could be cut if they were not forced to use Apple-approved supplies. Apple isn't setting specific prices for the controllers, but these supply costs, coupled with licensing fees and other component costs are edging the controllers to the $100 range.

Along with cost, other construction limitations may be affecting build quality. In addition to specifying the build of the pressure-sensitive buttons, Apple also has requirements that cover the joystick range of motion, d-pads, color, labeling, layout, and more.
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There are other limitations of the program as well. For instance, the d-pads must be one circular button, opposed to just a raised cross shape or separate buttons for up, down, right, and left that you find on PlayStation and Xbox controllers and that many gamers prefer. The requirements also extend to the color, labeling and layout of the face buttons, thumbsticks, triggers, etc. It's all meant to control quality and make it easy for developers to update apps to support all controllers, but in some areas Apple's controller specification might not be strict enough.
Quality issues can also be chalked up in part to the rapid development of the first crop of MFi controllers. Apple introduced the API back in June, but developers and manufacturers had little time to get a controller out before the holiday season. One Logitech employee expressed disappointment to 9to5Mac over the quality of the controller and said that it was "put together in haste."

SteelSeries Stratus

One final problem with the controllers lies in developer hands, with some developers expressing reluctance to implement support for subpar hardware and others seeing no need to add support to their games.
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For other developers, especially those that developed games specifically for the touchscreen, controller support just doesn't make sense. App developer Massive Damage compared the controllers to Kinect: "An optional piece of equipment with relatively low market penetration that a developer has to program and design for explicitly." It won't introduce controller support in any of its games "until iPhones come with controllers out of the box."
According to accessory maker Signal, the company currently developing an Xbox-style MFi game controller, it is not currently possible to create a reasonably priced controller (matching the cost of low-priced generic Bluetooth controllers) with the quality of those from Microsoft or Sony under the MFi program.

Though MFi game controllers are riddled with issues, there is room for improvement in the future. It is possible that with more development time, second-generation controllers could have a better build quality, and it is also possible that Apple could relax its restrictions in the future to make it easier for companies to source less expensive components. Existing controllers will also see improvements as developers embrace the technology and build specific support into a wide range of suitable games.

Article Link: Poor Build Quality and High Price of iOS 7 Game Controllers Due to Strict Apple Guidelines
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:08 PM   #2
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i think there is a jailbreak tweak that will let you use a PS3 controller
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:09 PM   #3
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Doesn't surprise me.

I'd by a decent controller at $40, not $99.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:09 PM   #4
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It's not accurate to link poor build quality with Apple's guidelines. High price, yes, but build quality is not a guideline issue (but design is linked with Apple's guidelines).
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:09 PM   #5
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As soon as I find one that promises a good build quality, I'd spend $100 on a controller.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:10 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by neuropsychguy View Post
It's not accurate to link poor build quality with Apple's guidelines. High price, yes, but build quality is not a guideline issue (but design is linked with Apple's guidelines).
If Apple are explicitly telling them to use switches from a certain supplier then it sort of is Apple's fault, by proxy.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:10 PM   #7
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I have read all the article and still don't understand how Apple is responsible for the poor build quality of those controllers.

Nowhere does it state they need to use cheap plastic, and there isn't any maximum price imposed by Apple. If they choose to use cheap materials to hit the $99 price tag while having a specific profit margin, that's their decision. Same goes for the poor molding with rough edges reviewers are complaining about.

Apple is only responsible for the switches and button placement/color/thumbstick range of motion, but that's not what reviewers are complaining about.

You don't see Apple releasing $499 MacBooks that have serious build quality issues then blame Intel for not making cheaper CPUs. They make a quality product first, the rest follows. Nobody's forcing those manufacturers to apply the opposite strategy.

Last edited by pgiguere1; Jan 16, 2014 at 01:52 PM.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:11 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by neuropsychguy View Post
It's not accurate to link poor build quality with Apple's guidelines. High price, yes, but build quality is not a guideline issue (but design is linked with Apple's guidelines).

If companies are forced to use an overpriced supplier by Apple they will undoubtedly look to cut costs elsewhere, like for example in their build quality.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:11 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by NutsNGum View Post
If Apple are explicitly telling them to use switches from a certain supplier then it sort of is Apple's fault by proxy.
Only if those switches are low quality, which from the comments they are not (they are just more expensive than the switches they would like to use instead).
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:11 PM   #10
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I still love my Moga controller. It works well for emulators and many games, including GTA: San Andreas. I played N64 for about two hours on my 5s with my Moga on a flight recently, and I still had full battery when I landed thanks to the Moga's internal battery. It's not perfect, it's not cheap,but I have very little regret.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:14 PM   #11
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Most 3rd party controllers have always been of poor build quality. Apple should just make their own, and make it quality like the console players always have.

That said, very surprising that Logitech can't manage to make a quality piece.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:15 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by NutsNGum View Post
If Apple are explicitly telling them to use switches from a certain supplier then it sort of is Apple's fault, by proxy.
It's not cheap switches that are the issue problem in fact Apple probably tequire what they consider to be reliable switches used so broken controllers don't become associated with Apple products.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:16 PM   #13
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This is Apples first foray really into dedicated gaming hardware (forget about the Pippin, that was done under the old Apple regime). Obviously they'll smooth things out with more experience.

One thing about the D-Pad though, its possible Apple requires the circular D-Pad because Nintendo owned the patent for the "+" shaped D-Pad that Nintendo pioneered in the NES. I'm not sure if Nintendo still owns a patent, but I think thats also why the Xbox 360 used a similar circular D-Pad. Nintendo really pioneered the modern controller design, with ABXY in a diamond shape (SNES), shoulder buttons (SNES), analog thumbstick (N64), rumble (N64), etc.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:17 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by pgiguere1 View Post
I have read all the article and still don't understand how Apple is responsible for the poor build quality of those controller.

Nowhere does it state they need to use cheap plastic, and there isn't any maximum price imposed by Apple. If they choose to use cheap materials to hit the $99 price tag while having a good margin, that's their decision.
How do you know they have a good margin? Maybe the required parts are so expensive that the manufacturers are using cheap plastic just to break even?
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:17 PM   #15
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:21 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Gasu E. View Post
How do you know they have a good margin? Maybe the required parts are so expensive that the manufacturers are using cheap plastic just to break even?
The required parts and the license cost are the main culprits here. The fact that a bluetooth controller that isn't doing anything particularly new or fancy costs $100 is proof enough that something is driving the cost of these controllers up.

For the iPad to take off as a serious gaming device, it needs cheaper controllers, and more expensive games. Right now, things are kinda lopsided.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:25 PM   #17
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How do you know they have a good margin? Maybe the required parts are so expensive that the manufacturers are using cheap plastic just to break even?
I don't.

But my point is that they don't need to reduce cost to hit a specific margin (no matter how good it is), they can simply raise the selling price.

Last edited by pgiguere1; Jan 16, 2014 at 01:46 PM.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:26 PM   #18
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I don't get it. This is an accessory I thought of a month after the FIRST iPhone came out. It's a completely obvious accessory. Anyone who has played a horizontal arcade game on an iPhone has thought of one

It's taken Apple 7 YEARS to get one even close to being right, and it took a third party???
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:28 PM   #19
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Only if those switches are low quality, which from the comments they are not (they are just more expensive than the switches they would like to use instead).
Perhaps, but if those switches are expensive controller manufacturers will have to cut costs somewhere else and use some other junk components because nobody is going to buy a controller for $200.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:29 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by pgiguere1 View Post
I have read all the article and still don't understand how Apple is responsible for the poor build quality of those controllers.

Nowhere does it state they need to use cheap plastic, and there isn't any maximum price imposed by Apple. If they choose to use cheap materials to hit the $99 price tag while having a good margin, that's their decision. Same goes for the poor molding with rough edges reviewers are complaining about.

Apple is only responsible for the switches and button placement/color/thumbstick range of motion, but that's not what reviewers are complaining about.
apple probably charges a 20% fee like they do for a lot of accessories. couple that with the standards they want and you get a $100 game controller that no one will want to buy.

i was going to buy a new ipad this year but bought an x box one instead. so far my oldest son has spent more time on it in the last week than he has on his ipad in the last month.

a lot of the games are too simplistic and the IAP raises the price to the point where you might as well buy a real console game with better production values

but my 3 year old is tearing it up on Temple Run 2
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:30 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by PlayRadioPlay View Post
I don't get it. This is an accessory I thought of a month after the FIRST iPhone came out. It's a completely obvious accessory. Anyone who has played a horizontal arcade game on an iPhone has thought of one

It's taken Apple 7 YEARS to get one even close to being right, and it took a third party???
Apple simply made an API and hardware guidelines. They're not involved making the hardware itself, and such hardware existed way before Apple made MFi guidelines. Not sure why you seem to blame Apple for the third party's poor execution, unless you're saying Apple should have made even stricter guidelines that also cover build quality / materials / molding finish.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:31 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by PlayRadioPlay View Post
I don't get it. This is an accessory I thought of a month after the FIRST iPhone came out. It's a completely obvious accessory. Anyone who has played a horizontal arcade game on an iPhone has thought of one

It's taken Apple 7 YEARS to get one even close to being right, and it took a third party???
steve jobs was still alive and he decreed that no app store was needed and people would just use web apps
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:31 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by pgiguere1 View Post
I don't.

But my point is that they don't need to reduce cost to hit a specific margin (no matter how good it is), they can simply raise the selling price.

You don't see Apple releasing $499 MacBooks that have serious build quality issues then blame Intel for not making cheaper CPUs.
You're comparing apples to oranges. You can easily justify spending more for a good computer. But when you have a controller that isn't any better than what the competition offers, but it costs twice as much? Yeah, you've got a problem somewhere.

The sad fact is that these controllers are currently too expensive to ever take off.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:31 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by PlayRadioPlay View Post
I don't get it. This is an accessory I thought of a month after the FIRST iPhone came out. It's a completely obvious accessory. Anyone who has played a horizontal arcade game on an iPhone has thought of one

It's taken Apple 7 YEARS to get one even close to being right, and it took a third party???
Is this really surprising you? They say that the last 7 years Apple has been busy re-inventing TV. They can't be bothered with a game controller.
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Old Jan 16, 2014, 01:33 PM   #25
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I don't know about that one ....

The idea that analog controller buttons could be priced SO high that it causes these controllers to all have $100 price-points seems pretty far-fetched.

I'd say if Apple specified that one vendor for switches, it's more likely because there's something they like about that particular button/switch design. Maybe Apple tested these in the past and found this one type to be more durable over time? (I know at home, we have a couple of PS3 controllers with buttons that now have a "soggy/mushy" feel when they're pressed, because they just wore out with regular use. Using one gives the impression that the system is junky, but it still works properly so we can't justify spending $50-60 per controller to replace them until they break completely.)


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If Apple are explicitly telling them to use switches from a certain supplier then it sort of is Apple's fault, by proxy.
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