The GameSir X1 Battledock sounds like a good idea — on paper. The $45 device has bubbled up as a curiosity on social media a few times now, and allows you to play mobile games like Fortnite and PUBG using a mouse and keyboard. It’s kinda cheating, depending on how you look at things, but this kind of cheating in those games has become a popular way to play.
I was going to buy a GameSir and review it. Instead, this turned into a story about why I literally didn’t feel safe doing so.
The GameSir hardware itself feels pretty solid: There’s an arm to hold your phone, there’s a large button you hit to connect via Bluetooth, and everything feels nice and well put together. Your mouse and keyboard connect to the USB ports on the side, and then the device connects to your phone via Bluetooth. Or at least that’s the idea. It all folds down into a tiny square when you’re not using it, and batteries allow you to take it on the road. It’s a pretty neat little package, until you try to use it.
The important thing to know is that the X1 Battledock is going to do things to your Android phone that Google definitely does not want it to do. It’s also not a product that’s plug-and-play; you have to be pretty comfortable diving into the menus of your phone. Here are the instructions to get started on an Android device:
If you know anything about phones, you’re probably already seeing a lot of red flags here. And the Android OS doesn’t want you to install this program at all.
Otherwise, this seems like relatively normal stuff so far. Operating systems these days, like Android and even Windows 10, doesn’t like you downloading and running programs they don’t know about, so I was pretty comfortable installing this anyway.
And Google really needed to remind me this was a bad idea. This, or some variation of this, became my home screen for the next few days:
So I downloaded the latest version of the program from Google Play, and that’s when I learned how all this works. The dock doesn’t play games downloaded from a legitimate source; you have to download special versions of each game from GameSir itself. And things look … shady on the store.
Most of the app’s instructions are written in Chinese, not English, and what English does exist about the product is often poorly translated. But it turns out the version of the app that’s on the Google Play store doesn’t support the X1; it’s for the device’s standalone controllers. I needed to download the program that’s on the company’s website and sideload it onto my device.
But here’s the thing: The app requires you to give it permissions for just about anything. I’m not exaggerating: This is a ridiculous amount of privacy to give up to use a mouse and keyboard on an Android phone. Take a look:
I emailed the company last week to ask why the app needed to have this much access to my phone, and have yet to hear back. A co-worker suggested I wipe my phone back to factory settings so I could be safer using and reviewing the hardware, but at this point, I’m not sure it’s worth it. I would just stay away from the GameSir altogether — this is a ridiculous number of warnings to ignore and permissions you need to give up.
So the dream of playing PUBG with a mouse and keyboard using a portable dock is dead, at least with this product as your option. It looks tempting, but it just doesn’t seem worth the loss in security.