It has been a great few years in the world of mobile gaming. While mobile games were once limited to the likes of Candy Crush and Angry Birds, the mobile gaming scene has truly taken off in recent years with AAA game releases like PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile and Fortnite.
Even better, with the release of cloud gaming services like Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, you can play PC and console games on your smartphone.
That’s all welcome news, but let’s be honest, touchscreen controls can be frustrating – especially when it comes to fast-paced shooters like Call of Duty where split-second response times are the difference between virtual life and death. That’s where third-party controllers come into play.
Android users have been able to use a range of Bluetooth controllers for some time, and while iOS users were initially limited to (usually expensive) MFI controllers, Apple opened up support for standard Bluetooth controllers with the release of iOS 13.
So, if you’re ready to take your mobile gaming to the next level, take a look at our selection of the best game controllers for iOS and Android smartphones available right now.
Best controller for iPhone and Android 2021
Razer Kishi – Best overall
The Razer Kishi is the ideal controller for most, designed for use with iOS and Android in mind. The Kishi essentially turns your smartphone into a Nintendo Switch with controls to the left and right of your smartphone display, clamping snuggly into place, with support for a range of smartphones – as long as they sport USB-C or Lightning connectivity.
That’s the main appeal of the Kishi: while most controllers rely on Bluetooth connectivity, the Kishi is connected directly to the phone, not only negating the need to charge the controller, but also improving response time in mobile shooters like Call of Duty Mobile, and the difference is noticeable.
Elsewhere, the controller is well-built, featuring a complete set of triggers, shoulder buttons, AXBY buttons, a D-Pad and navigation buttons alongside dual clickable analogue sticks. There’s even a USB-C port for passthrough, allowing you to keep your phone topped up during longer gaming sessions.
It’s also compact when not in use, making it easy to throw into a jacket pocket for use on long train journeys. What more could you want?
Backbone One – Best for iPhone gamers
The Backbone One is the ultimate mobile controller – as long as you’ve got an iPhone, anyway.
The Lightning-connected controller is ergonomically shaped for added comfort, and offers all the bells and whistles you’d expect.
There are rear bumpers, analogue sticks, face buttons and even separate pause and options buttons, along with a few extras including a dedicated screenshot button and even a headphone jack. A rare feature, it allows you to hook up your wired gaming headset to the Backbone One for improved voice chat in compatible games.
The hardware is exceptional, but the Backbone One goes much further than just hardware.
Hitting the bright orange button on the controller takes you to the Backbone app. The slick, well-polished app looks to be your gaming hub, allowing quick access to your favourite mobile titles without a dedicated Game folder on the iOS home screen.
It’s also home to social features that’ll let you chat and play with other Backbone One users, and you’ll even be notified when friends begin playing so you can join them.
The controller is also fully compatible with cloud gaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming and even comes with a free trial in the box, allowing you to stream some of the best AAA titles on your iPhone with full access to all game features and functionality.
The blend of hardware and software support is much more in-depth than the competition, offering an unrivalled mobile gaming experience for iPhone users. In fact, it would be our top pick overall if there were an Android equivalent, but that’s not on the cards right now.
Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller – Best full controller
The Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller offers the best of both worlds: the design of a standard controller with the responsiveness of a wired connection. It’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices, with both Lightning and USB-C variants available, and offers the same benefits as the likes of the Kishi, with the controller drawing its power from the smartphone, negating the need to charge it quickly, and response times are quick too.
It goes a step further than standard console controllers by including a dedicated smartphone mount, allowing you to attach your device to the top of the controller in landscape orientation, with an adjustable viewing angle.
It’s not the most ergonomically shaped controller we’ve seen, but the fundamentals of a great smartphone controller are there, and it’s much cheaper than some of the competition too.
GameSir X2 – A Switch-themed alternative
The GameSir X2 offers a similar package to the Kishi with a plug-and-play USB-C enabled X2 controller. It’s Android only, with no Lightning variant for iPhone users, but hopefully we’ll see a cheap iPhone variant released in the near future.
In terms of design, it leans into the whole Switch-esque design a little too much, sporting the same shades of red and blue beneath the analog sticks as the most popular combination of Joy-Con, but that’s forgivable compared to the mimicry of Nintendo’s Y-X, B-A button layout. Considering most if not all mobile games are designed around the layout of the standard Xbox layout, you’ll find yourself battling against muscle memory when navigating menus – especially during fast-paced games.
If you can look past the odd button layout, there’s a lot to like about the X2, including the USB-C port that rotates by up to 51° to make slotting your phone into place much easier, and the inclusion of a dedicated screenshot button too. It’s also a generally nice-looking controller and draws next to no power in use.
Sony DualSense – Great for PS5 players
Sony’s DualSense controller is arguably one of the main selling points of the PS5, and to further sweeten the deal, it’s also compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones. It’s an all-around improvement on the older DualShock 4, featuring an improved design that not only looks great but feels more comfortable in the hand, and the textured grips are a notable addition too.
But it’s the haptic system and adaptive triggers that truly steal the show. The former allows for advanced haptic feedback for improved immersion in games, simulating the feel of raindrops or footsteps on metal floors, while the triggers can adjust resistance depending on what you’re doing. It’ll be a while before game devs build these features into mobile games admittedly, but if you’ve already got a PS5, it’s well worth using – especially as it allows you to play PS5 games remotely.
If you haven’t got a DualSense controller, Sony’s older DualShock 4 is also fully compatible with iOS and Android devices.
Xbox Wireless controller – A solid wireless controller
Along with Sony’s DualSense controller, the competing Xbox wireless controller from Microsoft is also compatible with iOS and Android devices.
It’s not quite the big redesign on offer from Sony’s option, but the updated controller offers a slightly refreshed look compared to the older Xbox One controller, but the main notable difference is the addition of textured patterns in more areas – including the triggers themselves – for improved grip. There’s also a redesigned concave D-Pad, bringing it more in line visually with the upgraded Elite controller.
Importantly for smartphone users, the updated controller features Bluetooth LE for a low-power connection, which should translate to improved battery life compared to the older Xbox One controller.
The older Xbox One controller is also fully compatible with smartphones if you’ve got one of those laying around.
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