Smartphone gaming has gotten a lot better over the years as the internal components of our devices have become more and more powerful. The Nintendo Switch is a testament to the power we can get from a handheld device, and our iOS and Android phones are no slouches when it comes to offering vast libraries of fun games. But touching the screen without tangible or touch controls can be an awkward experience, which is easily remedied with a controller.
Fortunately for us, iOS and Android smartphones are compatible with a number of excellent game controllers. Some controllers support near-universal Bluetooth connectivity, while others rely on USB-C or Lightning for super-fast response times. With these gamepads, you can enjoy a much richer gaming experience and see more of the games you’re playing since you don’t have to cover half the screen with your fingers. So if you’re ready to start gaming, here’s our selection.
These are the Best Phone Controllers
1. Razer Kishi
The best phone controller
Phone compatibility: iOS, Android ● Connector: USB-C or Lightning ● Phone cradle: yes ● Weight: 0.35 lbs.
Many standard controllers pair with your phone, but few are as perfectly designed for mobile gaming and portability as the Razer Kishi. This controller turns your Android phone into a portable console similar to the Nintendo Switch by placing the controls on either side of the phone’s screen. This controller is compatible with a wide range of Android phones when using USB-C and measures between 145.3mm and 163.7mm tall, 68.2mm wide and 78.1mm long, and 7mm and 8.8mm thick. There’s also an iOS version that’s compatible with all devices starting with the iPhone XS or newer, with the exception of the iPhone SE 2. Razer also has its own Microsoft xCloud model.
The Razer Kishi features two analog buttons that can be pressed, as well as AXBY buttons, triggers, shoulder buttons, a D-pad, and various navigation buttons. Don’t worry if you need to charge your phone while gaming, as the controller, can ignore the charging process. And when you’re not gaming, the Razer Kishi’s sides can shrink down to a portable form factor.
2. The SteelSeries Stratus Duo
The best tool for Android
Phone support: Android ● Battery life: 20 hours ● Connectivity: Bluetooth ● Phone support: no ● Weight: 0.5 lbs.
Another well-designed and button-packed SteelSeries Stratus Duo controller: two joysticks, a four-way directional pad, four action buttons, two shoulder buttons, two triggers, and three front buttons.
It’s a better controller than the Status XL thanks to a new, more user-friendly design and a rechargeable battery that the XL doesn’t have. Ideal for Android phone and PC users only – for iPhone, see SteelSeries Nimbus below.
3. SteelSeries Nimbus+
A good option for iPhone users
Phone support: iOS ● Battery life: 50+ hours ● Connectivity: Bluetooth ● Phone support: Yes ● Weight: 0.54 lbs.
SteelSeries already offered a great controller for iPhone users with the Nimbus controller, but the company has decided to make it even better for modern gamers. The new SteelSeries Nimbus+ has kept the original design, but has turned a battery that could last 20 hours into one that can last over 50 hours of gameplay. It certainly lasts a lot longer between charges than your iPhone. And if you need to charge it, you can use the same lightning rod you use for your phone.
PlayStation fans will feel the controller feels natural in the hand thanks to its symmetrical analog sticks, and its controls are the same as most game controllers. You’ve got thumb buttons, triggers and shoulder buttons, a full-sized D-pad, and the standard right-thumb button fair. This controller also includes an iPhone holder. And if you want to keep using it on larger screens, it works with the iPad and Apple TV systems.
4. Sony DualSense
For the Sony team.
Phone compatibility: Android, iPhone ● Battery life: 10-13 hours ● Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB-C ● Phone cradle: no ● Weight: 0.62 lbs.
Sony’s DualSense (read our review) dramatically improves gameplay with the controller. It features a new design that doesn’t just look good. The DualSense has an ergonomic shape with textured buttons (which mimic the PlayStation buttons, if you look closely).
At the heart of DualSense is the heart of the experience: its haptic sensations. The DualSense name comes from Sony’s impressive haptic feedback, which can provide an extra layer of immersion in games. Sony has also introduced adaptive triggers that can adjust their resistance to bring you even closer to the action. However, it may be a while before games on mobile devices actually offer these control features.
5. 8BitDo SN30
Perfectly adapted to the retro look
Phone support: Android ● Battery life: 18 hours ● Connectivity: Bluetooth ● Phone support: no ● Weight: 0.3 lbs.
If Nintendo’s SNES is the highlight of your childhood memories, this game is for you. The SN30 from 8BitDo is a great mobile controller with undeniable nostalgic appeal. And sure, you can use it on your Nintendo Switch, but it’s also a great retro-inspired accessory for your Android phone (sorry iPhone users, but this one isn’t compatible).
The best thing is that the colors of the controller are based on variations of the original Nintendo Game Boy Pocket. The price is also good.
6. Razer Raiju Mobile
The “everything” package.
Phone Compatibility: Android ● Battery Life: 11 hours ● Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB-C ● Phone Support: Yes ● Weight: 0.5 lbs.
As one of the more established names on this list, it’s no surprise that Razer has become one of the “top of the line” mobile controllers on our list. It can be connected via Bluetooth or wired via one of the USB-C cables Razer includes in the box.
The controller also features a built-in dock for your phone, which slides up and should be compatible with most Android phones without issue. Our favorite is the companion app that lets you map the buttons and adjust the sensitivity of the analog sticks. The downside: it’s an expensive controller that we’d only recommend to the most dedicated mobile gamers. Android only.
7. Xbox Core Controller
The best ergonomic telephone remote control
Phone compatibility: Android, iPhone ● Battery life: 30-40 hours (2 AA batteries) ● Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB-C ● Phone cradle: no ● Weight: 0.63 lbs.
Microsoft’s new Xbox Core controller (read our review) isn’t much different from the previous Xbox One controller. The look is slightly different, but there are the same buttons and controls, although the D-pad has been slightly redesigned in a style closer to the concave pad of the Elite controller. That’s not to say there aren’t improvements.
Microsoft has changed the feel of the controller in your hands. The shape hasn’t changed, but the controller has a textured grip in more places, including the triggers, to offer a better grip when playing. There’s one major update that makes it a powerful mobile option, and that’s the upgrade to Bluetooth LE for a less power-hungry connection to smartphones and tablets.
8. PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus
Best Xbox Game Pass Controller
Phone Support: Android ● Battery Life: 3000mAh ● Connectivity: Bluetooth, micro USB ● Phone Support: Yes ● Weight: 1.16lbs.
If you want to get the most out of Xbox Game Pass, you can play on more than just your console or PC. One of the big advantages is the ability to take your Xbox games on the go and stream them to your phone. While the Microsoft controller is a convenient mobile controller thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, the PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus offers an even better streaming mobile gaming experience.
The PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus is designed like an Xbox controller, so all the buttons and controls are right where you’re used to them. The front panel buttons are also properly mapped, so you’ll have no trouble mastering the controls for your new game. In addition, the PowerA controller can support both wired and Bluetooth connections. So far, the Xbox controller experience may not seem like much, but that’s precisely what makes it unique. The controller features a mounting point for the included phone clip that holds your smartphone for easy viewing and portability. The built-in 3000 mAh battery isn’t just for the controller. You can use the controller to give your smartphone extra power and extend your play time. The controller also has programmable shortcut buttons on the bottom, similar to the buttons on Xbox Elite controllers. That’s a lot of options for gaming on the go.
What You Need to Know About Mobile gaming controllers
Compatibility: First, make sure the controller works with your mobile device. Many mobile controllers are designed for Android only, but there are plenty of iPhone options as well. And pay close attention to version compatibility, especially if you’re using an older version of Android or iOS, as some controllers require newer versions to work.
Games: Some games are better suited to certain types of controls. So you need to think about the types of games you tend to play. More of a touchscreen puzzler? Your mobile controller is more likely to sit in a drawer collecting dust. But if you play first-person shooters or crave more precision in your platform games, your gaming experience is likely to improve dramatically with a little more touch.
Attach: If you’re playing with a mobile controller, you’ll need a stand for your phone or tablet. Some controllers come with a stand, others don’t. You can also get a phone stand, which is fine if you have a surface to play on, but less useful if you’re trying to get a quick game of Fortnite on the bus. A stand is recommended, either built-in or detachable.