A couple of weeks ago, we learned that Ten One Design was getting ready to release a smaller version of their wonderful Fling controllers for the iPad which would be suitable for use on iPhone and iPod touch devices. There was a lot of negative backlash to this announcement though, and I can sort of see why. The promo image for the Fling Mini showed that using 2 of the controllers at the same time really blocked much of the screen of the device, and it was hard to imagine how it could be practical to play games this way.

Last week at WWDC, Eli and myself both got our hands on an early pair of the Fling Minis and put them to the test. Surprisingly, the screen blockage is almost a complete non-issue when you’re actually using the Fling Minis. The plastic that the Fling Mini is comprised of is translucent and doesn’t really block any more of the screen than your own thumbs normally would. But, that’s not to say that they don’t come with some quirks and they won’t work on every game that you’d hope. For the games that they do work with they work exceptionally well, and just like the Flings on iPad they offer a smooth and tactile control option over using a touch screen alone.

Eli has put together this fantastic comparison video showing off the difference between the original Fling, which you can read our original review of, and the new Fling Mini:

In my own experience, I’ve found several games that work near perfectly with the Fling Mini. Both Bug Heroes [Free] and Max Adventure [99¢/Lite] are two of my favorite dual-stick shooters that don’t come with many compromises when using the Fling, which you can see in this second hands-on video. There will be times when accessing a UI element or menu option will be difficult because the Fling Mini is blocking that part of the screen, but it’s easy enough to detach a suction cup and swivel the controller out of the way to gain access to these. It would be cool if there were tiny hinges in the connector arms of the Fling Mini so you could quickly flip them up to access the entire screen. Perhaps in a Fling Mini version 2.0.

The Fling Mini is also well-suited to some games that use just a single analog stick or a d-pad for movement, and one interesting thing is how well it works with the Joypad Game Controller [Free] which we also covered at WWDC this year. Especially with the Joypad SDK now offering the ability to use analog sticks, one or two Fling Minis combined with an iPhone or iPod touch and the Joypad app could make for a really nice controller for playing an iPad or desktop game.

One example of a game that did not work so well is Age of Zombies [$2.99/Lite]. I had high hopes for this one as it employs a touch anywhere scheme for its set of dual-stick controls, which would mean precise placement of the Fling wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately there is no way to access the grenade button while using the Fling with this game, which is a pretty big problem. You can avoid this by using only one Fling on the left control stick, but this gives the game an inconsistent feel. Also, games that utilize buttons in the lower corners of the screen, like many first person shooters, are also basically unplayable due to the plastic spirals of the Fling Mini blocking those areas of the screen.

The thing I like most about the Flings is that they just “feel” good. The movement is solid and smooth, and for the games that they work well with they are definitely an enhancement. On the larger screen of the iPad, the original Fling works with a greater number of games and there are much fewer instances of inaccessible UI elements. These problems are amplified with the Fling Mini and the smaller iOS screens, but it isn’t a total deal breaker and for the select games that they do work well with they feel absolutely brilliant.

One of the first things I asked Ten One Design about the Fling Mini was whether they would also work on an iPad, thus negating needing two different styles of Flings. While there’s technically nothing preventing them from working on an iPad, almost all iPad virtual analog sticks require a larger range of motion than what is afforded by the smaller Fling Mini. You may be able to come up with a few games that work well on the iPad with a Fling Mini, but for the most part you are better off using the original Fling with that device.

Really the best thing to do is find a friend who owns a pair or head to an Apple store and try out the Fling for yourself. If you like the way they feel and can deal with limited game compatibility, then they are a great purchase. Hopefully more developers will incorporate special settings for using a Fling controller in their game, especially with them now being available on iPhones and iPod touches.

You can currently pre-order the Fling Mini in a 2-pack for $24.95, and they should be shipping sometime in mid-to-late July. The original Fling for iPad is available now in 3 colors at a price of $19.95 for a single controller or in a 2-pack for $29.95.

Product Pages:

  • oracle_ab

    Still looks stupid; still too big.  That's what thumbs are for.

    • Russ

      They do feel great though.  They rock on iPad

  • http://twitter.com/nrathaus Noam Rathaus

    How exactly isn't this obscuring the already small display/screen?

    On the iPad I can understand, but there on the iPod/iPhone?

    • bigrand1

      Completely STUPID design!

  • http://www.facebook.com/CBrandonButler Brandon Butler

    http://www.icontrolpad.com/
    Solves all the issues :D

    • Anonymous

      I think I'd rather die.

    • http://twitter.com/nrathaus Noam Rathaus

      the only issue I have with this is that its ugly

      I wish it was more slick looking, this makes the ipod look old

  • Ne

    geometry wars? Is there a game called this? I cant find in appstore.

    • TheOrioles33

      Its there. 99 cents!

    • TheOrioles33

      Its there. 99 cents!

    • TheOrioles33

      Its there. 99 cents!

    • Evan

      It is called geometry wars™: touch

  • HisDivineOrder

    Looks like it obscures things far too much imo.  Especially, the buttons that most games will have around the joystick area.  If you move the buttons (customizable games), you take up even more real estate to see through.

    Seems like the analog sticks could be much smaller, closer to a PS Vita's stick size, and you'd have a better compromise on screen space.  Then again, analog sticks would need to be adjustable in size to accommodate the smaller size of the sticks.

    I like the idea, it's just the size is still too big for such a small screen.  Perhaps if Apple would update the size if the iPod Touch/iPhone to 4" and/or release an iPad Nano with a 7" screen, we'd have something for the "Not too big, not too small" crowd, but currently iPod Touch is great for portable gaming, but these stick-on sticks are too big for that portable gaming.  And the iPad is great for having room for its sticks, but wow, that's a home console for all but the most dedicated.

    Apple, as always, is rather close to perfection, but continues to dance around it to keep doors open for them to improve their product and drive people to purchase it.  At least they're giving us a way to redownload our purchases and a way to have our iOS devices update themselves without the constant back and forth to the PC/Mac over USB.  It only took them YEARS after wireless sync in the original Zune to add it to devices supposedly driving a post-PC world.

    Heh.  I'm sure they'll give us the 4" iPhone/iPod Touch in when everyone else is at 4.5" with displays that go edge to edge with no border.

  • Anonymous

    i like the idea, but I don't understand why they didn't just make the whole thing transparent. The thumb-sticks probably could have been even smaller as well.

  • Anonymous

    I like these on the iPad but I think they are just too big for the iPhone. For the most part they don't cover up much more than your thumb (As the only opaque part is the control stick itself) but the problem is when playing you can move your thumb out of the way to see something, whereas the Fling will always be obscuring that part of the screen.

    It looks great for the Joypad game controller though, And also will be great once an iPhone comes out that supports Airplay streaming so you can just use your iPhone as the controller and not have to look at the small screen.

  • http://profiles.google.com/zandog Alex Gillis

    +1 with everyone. Would be pointless to get these for the current iOS devices aside from the iPad. Infact, I would just get these instead of the iPad versions for my iPad. What needs to be done a redesign where the thumbs pad sticks would be worn on your thumbs or something let intrusive.

    • http://twitter.com/spongefile Tina Aspiala

      If the thumb pad sticks were attached to your thumbs, you'd lose the physical resistance that the spring (the bit obscuring the screen) provides, which is what makes it feel like a real controller. Otherwise, you might as well go back to using your bare fingers.

      • Stevenmilligan

        I agree. Using two thumb pad sticks would be like using a stylus. It actually seems worse. Unless the transparent coils were still there, but the attached thumb pad sticks were removable.

  • Anonymous

    The mini version has to be the most ridiculous product I've ever seen. I can't believe it gets even a passing grade from touch arcade. They block a huge amount of the screen!

  • Karma32

    Apple needs to add PC gamepad support in the future like Google does with android. That way more games can support gamepad cases. I hope Apple does something inventive with game controls in the future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Morley/511700040 Chris Morley

    I wonder how much Ten One Design paid TA for this 'review'...

  • nizy

    Considering how none of the commenters have actually used the fling mini, I think they are all being rather harsh. I mean I thought similar things of the iPad versions, but when you actually use them they are great. I too think they look rather big, but I will reserve final judgement until I can actually use 1.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      This is what's so amusing to me. It's no coincidence that I shot the video and Jared did the write up, as I wanted it to be clear that we've both spent time with them and we both think they're cool. It's totally beyond me why all Fling comment threads get totally destroyed by naysayers.

      Again, they stock the Fling at the Apple Store. If you're skeptical, drive over to one and give it a try. Otherwise, this is just silly, as basically it seems everyone who has tried them likes them and everyone who hasn't tried them thinks they're terrible... Which seems hilariously ignorant to me.

      • Anonymous

        And if there's anyone who's an expert on talking trash about things they haven't tried it would be Eli.

      • Stevenmilligan

        "Which seems hilariously ignorant to me." 

        Welcome to the human race.

      • shamus back.

        seems understandable to me. Its 2011 and touchscreens are here now! who would want to go back and stick a massive kempston looking joystick on their screen that blocks about 40% of their view. apart from looking like a dog curled out something on your screen its just not needed.

  • Evan

    $30 for the iPad pair is too expensive for me to spend on little pieces of plastic.

  • maka

    Since games are growing to be more and more important, apple needs absolutely to create a joypad or something, onestly it's not so bad playing on the touch screen but games like SFIV are made for the real thing,

  • bigrand1

    I can't believe TA is praising the mini unit at all! While the idea is good, the design of this is an absolute disaster! Takes up an already small screen and makes even the function buttons unreachable! To say it doesn't block the screen much is a ridiculous statement! I'd throw these away if you gave 'em to me for free inside a box of cereal! Piece of crap IMO!  

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      We're praising them because we've spent a lot of time with them and we like them.

      • Emi Hondap

        You're paid by them, that's why you spend time for this.
        I don't even need to try it to say it's pointless and it covers 40% of the screen.
        But we know how it works here on TA: you get paid and you write.

        Remember ng:moco, Eli? I do.

      • Anonymous

        Given a choice of only one, would you pick up the mini version over the iPad version so it can be used on either device (if you happen to own both iOS devices)?  Should they try to market the mini as universal and the first edition as Maxi edition?

  • bennehftw

    Eh I've spent an okay deal with them.
    As much as I want to say their not so bad. I've yet to see a game where either I'm settling with the smaller screen, or I can't play at all. I mean its a real annoyance in most cases. Half of the ipod apps have enough annoyances as it is. I don't believe that I really need to have to have physical annoyances as well. Geometry wars sucked with your thumbs getting in the way in the first place, and trying to play the game with 1/3 of the game gone is even harder. Hell there should be an achievement for getting a high score with the fling mini's equiped.

    Some people like them. Sure, but some people also like a lot of unproductive things. But you sure its not you're just settling with them until something better comes along?

    Transparency doesn't do anything, it's just some false positives to give the readers. I mean in the video IMO it looked like you guys hated the mini. Honestly try them out. But as a reader I would hope that you guys are in the best interest of the readers. The money spent on the fling is not worth the productivity of it all. Buy a bunch of apps instead you'll be much happier. 

  • Anonymous

    sorry, but this fling thing is imho downright ridiculous, this piece of plastic occupies almost 30% of the already small screen, not to mention the 20$ price tag ... ridiculous.
    other than that and according to the rules of logic, a touch screen-only device is made for everything but d-pad dependent games.

  • http://twitter.com/teknikal69 P Allen

    I can't see them being useful at all on the iPod touch or iPhone just take up to much screen space which is already to limited. It does occur to me that if the fling mini are smaller I think they would be better on the Ipad than the earlier larger ones.

  • Ron

    I tried these at E3 with some reservation - very surprised how awesome they "felt," almost as if the software was designed with their use in mind! I couldn't get past how ludicrous it was that they covered so much of the screen, and that to me is still unforgivable. Not as much of an issue on iPad, of course, but still it is very distracting to me when anything (even a finger) is getting between my eyeballs and the screen. This is absolutely worth trying if one has the opportunity, but I'll stand my ground that the best solution overall lies in the original software design, it must play to the strengths of the touchscreen/accelerometer rather than just "throw some images of buttons on the screen"

  • Anonymous

    For those interested, these are on eBay for much cheaper (prob. a knockoff) so maybe try those, then splurge on the real ones if you like them

  • shamus back.

    haha not this thing i thought this would be in the poundstore by now.

  • Anonymous

    I love this thing on the iPad...iPhone on the other hand, I just can't get used to it. It really does get in the way a bit too much. I had to take it off several times just to press a button on a screen.