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Inspect-a-Gadget: Playable Game Boy Phone Case – That's Online

Inspect-a-Gadget is a monthly segment where we feature a tech toy our editors have been playing with.

Huaqiangbei electronics market: Shenzhen’s gritty first stop on the world’s electronic supply chain. Through plastic-flap doorways, cigarette smoke drifts across narrow hallways where tech ranging from SD cards to musical plant vases are sold – in bulk. 

This was ground zero for the fidget spinner fad – and like all the fads, it started with a question: what will Westerners buy? From there, spare shelf space in hundreds of shops is set aside, with sellers happy to either take bulk orders of the gadget du jour or introduce you to a friend that will. 

This month, the shelf space is going to Game Boy-style phone cases. Wrapped around an iPhone 6 or newer model, it looks like the handheld toy that set the industry standard in the early ’90s. 


On closer inspection: a Game Boy this is not. For one, it does not play Game Boy games. A surprise, given Shenzhen’s fast-and-loose approach to intellectual property, but also a sign that this gadget-meets-phone case is meant for Western exporters who’d rather not be sued by Nintendo. 

The rubber buttons feel solid and the tiny speaker warbles ‘Ode to Joy’ as a Tetris rip-off launches. There’s also a Space Invaders-style game, though neither is likely to hold your attention for more than a few minutes, both hindered by terrible graphics and poor control response.

But that misses the point: the case is cool. It looks like a treasured childhood toy and runs games – kind of – though if you really want a gaming fix, just turn your phone around.

RMB55 Game Boy Phone Case; available on taobao.com (seach ‘gameboy 手机壳’)

Click here for more Inspect-a-Gadget.

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