When iOS 13 was released, the iPhone and iPad finally had the right controller support, with PS4 and Xbox One controllers (not all) supported. This was a big deal as it removed some of the biggest barriers not only for customers but also for developers on the platform in terms of controllers. Developers don’t have to worry about how much effort is wasted considering how popular PS4 and Xbox One controllers are, and gamers don’t have to worry about buying a more expensive controller considering how cheap PS4 and Xbox controllers are released every few months.
Apple has also slowly started making the App Store more user-friendly with the controller support described on the game pages. With Apple Arcade, more games than ever on iOS and iPadOS have controller support. With iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5, both the new PS5 DualSense controller from Sony and the new X | Microsoft Xbox series S controllers supported on iOS and iPadOS. The support here is above what I expected with the ability to remap buttons per application, use the controller’s new social buttons, and more. While many people probably already have a controller, I wanted to help those who couldn’t find the best one for their own use case to play on iOS and iPadOS with so many options available.
What’s the best controller you can buy just to play iOS games?
If you don’t own a console and are just looking for the best iOS gaming controller available, the new Xbox Series X | S-Controller is the right one for you. When I made my iOS 13 controller buying guide, I recommended the Xbox One S controller, but this new X | Xbox series S controllers are a huge step forward in a few key places. The X | Xbox series S controller has the same perks as better support for key prompts and new ones like the new release button which worked perfectly on my cross-game tests. The X | Xbox series S controllers have the added benefit of having better support for PC games too, as most PC games are created with Xbox key prompts and these can usually be broadcast well to mobile ports. The upgraded D-pad, triggers, and textured grip make the Xbox Series X | S-Controller a worthwhile product.
If you have a PS5 and want to use PlayStation Remote Play
If you already own a PlayStation console, you will likely find yourself looking at PS Remote Play at some point. This works best with a PS4 controller, of course. When iOS 13 shipped, I was hoping for more games to be updated for PS4 prompts, but the support is still negligible compared to games with general prompts or Xbox controller prompts. Until now, Sony’s PS Remote Play app has not been updated to natively support the DualSense controller functions even though the controller is working. I tested it in Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Atelier Ryza 2 and had no problems. Hopefully Sony will update the app soon. If you already have a PS5 with a DualSense controller this will work in the iOS games I tested, although some instances of the games will not be detected until I force quit and restart the game. In the games that support key prompts for the PS4 controller, the games for the DualSense controller were displayed.
Amazon Link: PlayStation 5 DualSense Wireless Controller
Is it worth buying a PS5 controller if you already own a PS4 controller for iOS?
The only reason it’s worth buying the more expensive PS5 controller to replace your existing PS4 controller is because of the controller hardware. I prefer the feel of the controller and buttons in hand. Games and Sony’s own PS Remote Play don’t currently use all of the DualSense features, so this is basically like an updated PS4 controller on iOS. I also like that I can charge the DualSense controller with the same cable that I use to charge my iPad Pro through the iPad’s USB C port. Overall, I wouldn’t pay full price to upgrade from the PS4 to a PS5 controller for iOS gameplay only.
Amazon Link: PlayStation 4 DualShock Wireless Controller
Which controller should you buy on iOS if you want to use Steam Link?
If you play games on Steam, you likely already have an Xbox One controller. If you’re looking to buy a new one for iOS 14.5, consider an X | Buy Xbox Series S controllers or stick with your existing Xbox One controller. This will ensure that the prompts in games are the same for you on both PC and iOS. The improvements and improvements to the X | Xbox series S controllers versus the Xbox One controller are worth buying if you don’t already have one, as the share button can also be used to take screenshots and videos on iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5.
Amazon Link: Xbox Series X | S wireless controller
What’s the best iOS controller for xCloud?
While Microsoft has only finally started sending out invitations for xCloud on iOS and iPadOS, the release is not yet dated. The best controller in this situation is also the Xbox Series X | S controller, as it is native to Xbox One, Xbox 360 (backward compatibility), original Xbox (backward compatibility) and Xbox Series X | S games not only on the hardware, but now also works on iOS and iPadOS.
Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 for iOS
While the original Xbox Elite controller remains my all-time favorite controller, it won’t work on iOS and iPadOS because it doesn’t use Microsoft’s newer wireless technology that allows controllers to be paired via Bluetooth. While the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller works, it seems to have more hardware issues from everyone I know who owns it. If you liked the original Elite controller and want the new one, it’s best to buy it, assuming you can get an easy replacement when you need it. It’s more expensive than the previous controller and in its current state lacks the new Xbox Series X | release button S controllers.
Which Xbox controller should I buy for iOS in 2021?
Currently the X | Xbox series S controllers available in several colors, but there is no functional difference. The Xbox One controller, on the other hand, has a variety of color options, some of which have a textured handle. The best Xbox controller to buy on iOS in 2021 is one of the X | Xbox series S controllers. Decide on the color that you like best. I love the blue controllers Microsoft uses, so I got the new Shock Blue Xbox controller. All X | Xbox-series S Controllers, known as Xbox Wireless Controllers (look for the release button on the box), have the same functionality. Some of them come with a USB-C cable while others don’t make sure it’s important to you. Consider getting a clip for the controller if you want to play on an iPhone like MOGA’s officially licensed Xbox Grip.
Amazon Link: Shock Blue Xbox Series X | Wireless Controller S.
Amazon Link: PowerA MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip 2
Which PlayStation controller should he buy for iOS in 2021?
Just like the DualShock 4 before, the DualSense controller for PS5 is drastically limited when compared to the Xbox options. You currently only have one option for the DualSense controller, which is the standard white option. The DualSense controller is also $ 10 more expensive than the MSRP for the DualShock controller. If you expect to ever get a PS5 in the future, DualSense is a better buy in the long run. If you just want to buy something for iOS and don’t intend to ever buy a PS5, the DualShock 4 is cheaper and works the same way for the moment.
Should I buy an MFi controller for iOS in 2021?
It still only makes sense to buy an MFi controller if you want something that captures your device like the backbone. However, I cannot recommend purchasing an MFi controller that is the same form factor as a PlayStation or Xbox controller. These are cheaper and better overall, as Apple Arcade and other games on iOS and iPadOS now basically support all controllers.
Battery life of controllers for PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4 and Xbox One on iOS
The DualSense controllers PS4 DualShock 4 and PS5 have an internal battery that is charged via a cable. You can plug your DualSense controller into your iPad Pro USB C port and charge it too. If you don’t want to use a cord, you can get charging stands for it, but you basically have to charge it, and overall battery life is pretty poor for both PS4 and PS5 controllers.
The Xbox One and Xbox Series X | S controllers do not have an internal battery and require two AA batteries. This takes many times longer than the DualShock 4 and DualSense controllers, but you still need external batteries. You can use rechargeable batteries or buy a game and charge kit (there’s a new one for the Xbox Series X | S controller) from Amazon. However, you’d better only buy AA batteries or rechargeable batteries and replace them if they lose their charge. In the end, it’s a lot cheaper overall, albeit less practical.
Both the Xbox and PS5 controllers appear under the battery widget on iOS and iPadOS 14.5. I own the Play and Charge USB C kit which allows me to use the rechargeable battery in the controller and treat it like an internal battery, but it didn’t show me a charge indicator when I used the USB C cable and connected it to the controller with the other side on my iPad Pro. However, the DualSense shows the charging status via the widget. This is a little thing worth considering.
It will be interesting to see how quickly many games update to add prompts for the two most popular controllers. I have both platforms and will be using a dedicated Xbox One S controller for all non-PS4 remote play things on iOS.
Amazon Link: Xbox Play and Charging Kit USB C.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X Controllers for iOS
If you’ve recently purchased an iOS device and are looking for the best controller for premium, free-to-play, and Apple arcade games on the system, the overall Xbox Series X controller is the clear winner. It has the new button sharing feature for screenshots and video recordings, as well as better support for button prompts. The only downside that some don’t even consider is using AA batteries or buying the rechargeable battery. The big advantage is that the Xbox Series X | S controller is cheaper than the PS5 DualSense controller. Along with better support for key prompts, this is the best controller you can buy for iOS today.
I am very curious to see if and how developers will work with the DualSense range of functions to improve the feel and immersion. As of now, the future of controller gaming on iOS and iPadOS is better than ever, and hopefully Apple continues to improve support with each new version of iOS, iPadOS and tvOS.
Disclaimer: MCM Gaming may earn a small commission on purchases made through the affiliate links above.