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There are several good paid and free apps out there to use your Android, or iOS device as a peripheral for your pc. Some are free, others are paid, and some offer a limited version free with the option to pay to unlock further functionality.
Personally, I have a preference for open source (both hardware and software) when I’m given a choice. Not that I’m opposed to paying a reasonable price for something that is polished and works well. I also have no problem donating and encourage others to donate to any open-source project that you find particularly useful. The people behind these projects give their time and expertise freely and when that means that I can enhance my gaming experience I think a few dollars is the least I can do to show my appreciation.
MATRIC vs Competition
What I won’t put up with is a blatant bait and switch. Allow me to introduce you to a program and app called MATRIC. MATRIC has a ton of potential and could possibly be a great app to add to your gaming experience. Presently it is not. Let me preface this by saying that I have a very similar app that I have paid for called “Sim Dashboard.”
The difference between the two is dramatic, in Sim Dashboard (SD) everywhere you look both in the app on your phone/tablet, the server app on your pc and the website there are unmissable notifications that the free version is limiter to 3 widgets and if you want more, they are very upfront about what the costs are and the different options. Heck SD actually won’t allow you to add more than 3 widgets to a dashboard for a title you don’t own the pro version of.
I fully intend to give Sim Dashboard its own detailed writeup in the not-too-distant future.
The Problem with MATRIC
Contrast this with MATRIC where I specifically looked in the phone app, server app, and on their website. I devoted a good 10 minutes looking to see exactly what I’d get for free, what I’d have to pay for and how much that might be? There is no mention anywhere about them charging a red cent. So, great I though before diligently investing the next 4 hours in making a very detailed button box for an old game I recently bought on sale for like $6 and have been rediscovering. It’s called “B17 The Mighty 8th” by Microprose. Those who are familiar with the title know that it is what passed for a full fidelity flight sim back around the turn of the millennium.
My Experience (The Bait)
You are in command of a B17 squadron in WWII, so first you have to choose your target, ordinance, assign planes and crew to go on the mission. You then take control of each member of the crew of the lead bomber as you carry out your mission over occupied France. It’s an awesome very immersive game especially for the time, but every little thing has a control or sequence of controls you have to perform in the correct order for you to get in the air, in the right place, then attempt to actually bomb your target.
The downside is if you forget one button press, you’ll wind up leading a squadron on B17’s as they are torn to shreds while flying back and forth over a target because you forgot to open the bomb doors, initialize the bomb site, or turn the damn master switch on! Being a game from the early 2000’s, you can pause but forget about viewing any type of options menu once you are in flight. The thing came with a 300+ page book, several fold outs and an overlay for your keyboard listing all of the different commands.
Now that I’d devoted myself to setting up most of that as macros in the MATRIC app spread across 5 pages so that everything followed a nice logical progression. I already had an article more than half written praising these guys for the obvious work they’d put in and expansive functionality they’d imbued this app with btw. So, I go to test my creation. It wasn’t much to look at, but I intended to go back and add graphics and what not at a later date.
And the Switch
And bam! I’m told what I want to do requires the Pro version and I’m presented with an option for a subscription!
Scrolling down further I am presented with options to buy at least!
Look, I’m not some communist or hippy who thinks everything should be free and everyone should donate their time and talents freely. I’m also not even saying that what they want to charge is necessarily out of line. There are some beautiful premade controllers they provide, so long as everything works as it should it’d be hard not to get your money’s worth.
What I am saying is that it’s a shame after all of the time and work they have obviously invested in this app to ruin it with a blatant bait-and-switch. Which pardon my language, is complete bullsh*t! It’s also a shame that I for one will never find out if these beautiful looking contraptions actually work because I refuse to reward dishonest behavior. Every time I have in the past it has come back to bite me and not about to find out if this is the one exception.
You can tell from the amount of community buy in and interaction that the guy behind Sim Dashboard (SD) despite a much smaller potential market, — Sim Racing vs. Flight Simulators/General PC Control — has to be making a ton more money. A look at each apps page in the Play Store shows SD has been reviewed 11k times to MATRIC’S 279. Now SD has been out since 2017 vs 2019 for MATRIC, but that certainly doesn’t account for 10,000 more reviews. They both have a 4.2 star out of five rating however SD has over a MILLION downloads vs 10k for MATRIC. There is no dispute here that MATRIC is the more feature rich piece of software.
In my opinion there is one good reason why an app that is far less functional, with less features serving a much smaller potential audience is doing so much better by every conceivable metric. That’s because the dev behind SD goes well out his way to inform people what they are getting and what the costs are if they would like to unlock a more functionality.
MATRIC seems to go out of its way to hide the fact that there is any monetary cost involved until its sprung on you out of nowhere. What an app costs shouldn’t need to be a secret especially if you have a quality product. A banner or popup that appears in the page builder when you try to use a function that won’t work in the free version, and page dedicated to showing what they want money for on their website is the bare minimum to expect out of any reputable developer, company, or individual I choose to patronize. I sincerely hope that they fix these issues because from the look of it this app has a ton of potential.
To see how this concept is done right see my writeup on Sim Dashboard.
Here is a completely free way to turn your Android device into Gamepad for the PC.