Shintec is showing off its SmaCon at Tokyo Game Show this week. The unusual name might make more sense once you twig that it's a contraction of "Smartphone Controller" — the device is a Bluetooth gamepad for Android phones. Once attached, it makes your phone look like a PSP Go, or (if you're feeling pessimistic) an Xperia Play. Unlike those devices, though, the controls are permanently fixed below the screen, so you'll need to detach the SmaCon entirely and pop it in a bag if you want your phone to remain in a pocketable state.
The overall feel of the device is much better than a touchscreen
The controls actually feel pretty good; the PlayStation-style D-pad is clicky and responsive, the shoulder buttons have a good throw to them, and the face buttons gave me no complaints. There's also a pressure-sensitive nub dubbed the Vortex Pad, but we didn't have as much luck getting this to work — it's designed to replace an analog stick, but it's too stiff and doesn't give great response. Still, the overall feel of the device is much better than playing games on a touchscreen.
Shintec demonstrated the SmaCon with a host of titles from Gameloft; the company is one of quite a few signed up to provide compatibility in their games. Since the company's oeuvre mostly consists of console-style action titles crammed into the confines of a phone screen, it's a pretty natural fit that could help the device achieve greater penetration than other such mobile game controllers. For now, though, the Smacon is available in Japan for ¥7,680 (about $98).