USB-C Gamepad Phone Case

A USB HID gamepad integrated into a phone case.

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A forward-compatible gamepad using 3d printed cases. This controller is inspired by the many smartphone gamepads and and game-focused phones that have come and gone. New phones come out, more powerful hardware arrives, and the old products are left underspecced or incompatible.

This is a USB spinoff of my Bluetooth gamepad idea.


I want to play action/platformer games on my phone. The straw that broke the camel's back was "Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?" - I couldn't beat a boss because my fingers kept missing the intangible touchscreen controls. I want a gamepad that is compact to carry, comfortable to hold, and works with multiple phones.


This version of the project uses USB-C to directly connect to the phone, and I plan on using an AVR chip to handle USB communication. Using a physical connection complicates phone compatibility but eliminates the battery and has better upgrade potential (battery bank for the phone, headphone jack, microSD slot, etc) through USB.

  • 1 × atmega32u4 Microprocessors, Microcontrollers, DSPs / ARM, RISC-Based Microcontrollers

  • Flex PCB brainstorming and schematic progress

    Maave2 days ago 0 comments

    One my ideas was "controls on top", letting my palms rest on the sides of the phone. This layout has pros and cons, and after going over it with my fiance we decided against it. I still like the idea though. Here's a mockup that uses the flexible PCB to accommodate different size phones.

    The current plan is a smaller PCB that will make the phone more like a PSP. The two halves will be connected with a ribbon cable, flat flexible cable, or whatever. The prototype will probably use magnet wire soldered on.

    The prize in the flexible PCB contest is a voucher for 3 copies of 2 square inches of PCB from OSHpark. That'll only fit one side of my design. So I'll make this double sided - one side is the D-Pad, the other is the face buttons. Then I can make 1 complete controller and have another half spare. I can complete the spare half with an ATmega and experiment with it.

    Finally, here's my schematic progress. Gunna try routing the PCB now.

  • Background and prior attempts

    Maave2 days ago 0 comments

    I've been spoiled by hardware controls, growing up with things like the GBA, Nintendo DS, and the HTC Dream / G1. The DS was a haven for homebrew and made a nice PDA before smartphones came around. My first cellphone was a used HTC Dream, with a well laid out keyboard that solidly flicked open, physical button on front, and a trackball that was fantastic for RDP/VNC.

    This idea started in 2014, playing emulators in the break room at work. By that time I had a newer phone - touchscreen only with a few capacitive buttons on the front. I hated it. I couldn't touch type, couldn't use terminal worth a damn, couldn't easily control a mouse over VNC, and couldn't play action games. 

    The straw that broke the camel's back was "Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?" - I couldn't beat a boss because my fingers kept missing the intangible touchscreen controls. So I started mocking up a controller that would work with my phone.

    I brainstormed and sat on it for white a while. In 2017 I started working on physical versions. I made one test with an Arduino and HC-05 bluetooth module, and then went to the nrf51822 SoC bluetooth module. Progress halted for most of 2018 while I dealt with life stuff.

    Now it's 2019. Phone UIs and mobile game design have gotten better but playing action games is still putrid. I'm back, full force, ready to slam out a design in time for the Flexible PCB Contest.

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