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Using a game controller with your iPhone or iPad

Using a game controller with your iPhone or iPad

With so much gaming done on mobile devices these days, touchscreen controls are fast becoming the default choice for many gamers. However, some genres like side-scrollers, beat 'em ups, and fast-paced puzzle games will benefit from having physical controls. And with Apple now allowing emulators on iOS, starting with the excellent Delta – Game Emulator app for retro Nintendo systems, there's no better time to upgrade your iPhone or iPad gaming experience with a game controller. 

Home console Bluetooth controllers

All current generation console controllers are Bluetooth devices, and will work with iOS devices. The best thing about this solution is if you already own a PlayStation, Switch, or Xbox, you already have a controller ready to go. 

Sony DualSense Controller
Credit: Sony

The process of pairing is largely the same whether you are using a Switch Joy-Con, Pro Controller, or Xbox controller. Press and hold the pairing button on the controller, go to Bluetooth settings on your iPhone or iPad, find the controller listed there, and tap on it. For a PS4 or PS5 controller, getting into pairing mode involves pressing and holding the PS and Connect (or Share) buttons at the same time.

Third-party Bluetooth controllers with mobile mount

Many third-party Bluetooth controllers have been designed to work with consoles from Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. Naturally, pairing them to an iOS device will largely follow the same process as with the first-party controllers. One bonus feature is that some of these controllers come with a mount. This makes it possible to use the setup without a table to rest your phone on. Notable examples include the 8Bitdo Pro 2's optional mobile clip, and the SteelSeries Nimbus+ (we reviewed the version made for Android, the Stratus+).

Mobile phone gaming controllers

Mobile phone gaming controllers attach to your iPhone or iPad by clamping them in the middle of the controller. Of the controllers discussed in this article, this category is the most portable, and makes your device feel like an actual handheld gaming console. Some models also feature a 3.5mm audio port, so you hear your games with less latency compared with Bluetooth audio. 

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The new Razer Kishi Ultra can be used with an iPad mini.
(Credit: Razer)

These controllers typically connect through the Lightning or USB-C port, so make sure you buy the correct model for your iOS device. Setting them up is usually super simple, just align the iPhone or iPad with the connector, and clamp till you get a tight fit. Brands also usually have a mobile app to configure the controller. Notable products in this category include the Razer Kishi series and Backbone One.

Make sure your game supports controller input

Before you run out to buy a controller, make sure the games you want to play support controller input. This is optional for app developers, so not every game will support controller input on iOS. The good thing is many of the top action games on iOS have implemented controller support, including titles like Dead Cells, Hades, Diablo Immortal, and Genshin Impact.

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