Zeon Tech, the company behind the forthcoming iPhone-activated Tardis and R2-D2 Smartsafes, is to release a rival to the iCade Jnr, an arcade cabinet for the iPhone and iPod touch. Called the iAppCade, the new device differs in several key areas, the most notable being that it doesn't connect to an iDevice via Bluetooth.
Instead, the mini coin-op machine casing works a bit like an iPhone dock: just insert your handset and away you go. It will automatically work with dedicated games without the need for a complicated setup period.
Essentially, movements on the eight-way joystick or either of the two buttons equate to presses on the lower half of the device's touchscreen using a capacitive material and, as the play screen is 4:3 in aspect ratio, you can't even see that going on.
"As I use one half of the screen as the control interface, the other half is used to display the game," says Steve Carpenter, the designer of the iAppCade.
"I designed a case that would fit the iPhone, have buttons and joysticks for playing the game. I then coded a test game for the iPhone and set the screen to roughly half the available screen space. By chance this was around the 4:3 aspect ratio that real arcade cabinets use. Fitting it all together resulted in a small but proportional cabinet with a 4:3 screen, 8-way joystick and dual buttons!"
It results in a cabinet that doesn't require power, nor sucks the life from your device like Bluetooth can.
However, there is a downside to this proprietary method of control. On launch, there will be only a few games on the App Store that are compatible - Blasteroids, Pinger, BlockBuster and Invaders from Outerspace - all variations on classic arcade titles. But developers are working on more and the iAppCade will play HTML5 games online for multiplayerbattles and user generated games.
Additionally, as we secretly spied at the unveiling of the prototype during London's Toy Fair in January, the cabinet is also completely compatible with MAME4all, the arcade emulation software that's barred from the official App Store, but still available on Cydia for jailbroken iDevices.
The iAppCade is coming in Q2 (around summertime) and will cost a mere £14.99. A larger version for the iPad is also on the cards, if its diminutive forerunner proves successful.
Who do you think will win the iAppCade versus iCade showdown? Let us know in the comments below...