controllers for Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) on iOS
Mobile gaming has gotten a whole lot better recently with the release of Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) on iOS. The only problem is that many of the games available on iOS require you to have a controller of some kind to play. There are hundreds of options to choose from, but only a select few provide the conveniences and comfort you need. These are the best controllers for Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) on iOS.
Best overall: Backbone One for iOS
Source: Joe Wituschek / iMore
You really cannot beat the Backbone One when it comes to convenience and iPhone compatibility with Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) on iOS. It was created specifically for iOS devices, after all, and doesn’t even work with Android. The best part is that it holds your iPhone in place at the center with a controller on either side, making it look very similar to a Nintendo Switch. That way, you can always see the buttons and screen at a glance while easily holding your phone in your hands. There’s a lightning dongle inside the controller, and you can connect a charger to an outside port for passthrough charging while you play.
When you first connect the Backbone to your phone, a notification will pop up asking you to download the Backbone app. This software isn’t needed to use the controller, but it creates an interface that allows you to easily jump between your various games. In many ways, it operates like the home screen on a console and really enhances the experience. The app also lets you adjust settings, voice chat options, and connect with other Backbone users. A growing number of the great iOS games running through Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) do feature touch controls, but for those that don’t, this device is fantastic.
There are really only two downsides to be aware of, the most glaring being that this is a very expensive device, though I consider it well worth it if you play xCloud regularly. Secondly, due to the nature of how it connects to your iPhone, it will be a bit wobbly. This is pretty standard for phone controllers of this kind, but something that might bother you nonetheless.
- Created for iPhones
- Comfortable design
- Compact size
- Incredible software
- Pass-through charging
Best value: Razer Kishi for iOS Controller
Source: Rebecca Spear / iMore
The Razer Kishi is actually the controller I myself use. All I have to do is slip my iPhone into the center, and then the dongle and controller sides keep it in place. I really love the layout and the feel of the buttons in my hands. There are removable rubber inserts on either side, which I swap out to fit my specific device. It’s compatible with many iPhones, but in my limited experience, I have noticed that it fits some phones better than others.
There is also a compatible Razer app, but it’s not that great. You’ll be able to interact with Apple Arcade and xCloud menus without problem, though. I love that this controller features passthrough charging, so I can continue to play and have it charge if the battery gets low. As with any mobile controller that attaches this way, it is a bit wobbly, but nothing out of the ordinary. When not in use, the controller reduces to a more compact shape and easily fits in bags or large pockets for transport. So, I can take it with me anywhere.
The Razer Kishi came out a few years ago and has become one of the most popular mobile controllers on the market. Because it’s no longer a new product, most stores have lowered the price a bit. Just make sure you purchase the iOS version and not the Android one, as this determines what kind of fit and inner dongle you receive.
- Attaches directly to iPhone
- Buttons and joysticks feel great
- Passthrough charging
- Easy installation
- A bit wobbly
- App isn’t great
Best compatibility: Xbox controller
Source: Rebecca Spear / iMore
Considering that the same company makes the Xbox One controller, you can expect it to work really well with all xCloud games. Plus, Microsoft will be able to assist with both controller and game troubleshooting if necessary. The buttons press in smoothly, and it pairs easily with just about any gaming device. The back is textured, and there’s a good weight to the controller too. However, it does run using two AA batteries, so you’ll need to be ready to replace those when the time comes.
Many people think this is the best console controller ever made. In fact, many other controllers are believed to have gotten their design by copying this one. It’s often said that this is the best option for people with larger hands, so if that’s you, it might be worth going for. You’ll need to purchase a phone clip or iPhone stand to use it more conveniently. Otherwise, you’ll be staring down at the screen uncomfortably for hours.
One of the biggest perks to the Xbox One controller is that it comes in several gorgeous colors, so you can choose the look you like best. The Xbox Series X/S Controllers also work, but while they have new features such as a slightly different grip and a share button, the differences between these controllers and the Xbox One controllers are minimal.
- Beautiful color options
- Great feel in your hands
- Created by Microsoft
- You’ll need to buy a phone clip
- Uses AA batteries
Best built-in battery: PS4 DualShock Controller
Source: Rebecca Spear / iMore
Microsoft has done a lot to make Xbox Game Pass available to more players, including making the PS4 DualShock controller compatible with xCloud. There’s a heated debate over whether the Xbox controller or the PS4 controller feels better in your hands. But really, it just comes down to preference. Once you have it, all you have to do is connect your iPhone to the PS4 controller, and you should be good to go.
You’ll want some kind of iPhone stand or phone clip to make it more convenient to use, though. Otherwise, you’ll have to prop your phone up or stare down at it from above, which isn’t the most comfortable angle for long stretches. It can last four to eight hours on one charge and gets recharged with the help of a micro USB cable.
You should note that xCloud also works with the PS5 DualSense controller. It’s also worth bearing in mind that because the DualShock 4 is no longer being produced by Sony, DualShock 4 controllers are harder and harder to get ahold of.
- Buttons and joysticks work reliably
- Great feel in your hands*
- Plenty of colors
- Internal battery
- You’ll want to buy a phone clip or stand
Best for retro games: 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro+
Source: Andrew Myrick / iMore
Retro gaming is all the rage right now, and nothing beats playing classic titles like using a controller with a classic design. The Sn30 Pro+ has that light grey casing with purple and black buttons, reminiscent of the SNES. However, it also features modern conveniences like analog sticks, triggers, and hand grips.
The buttons can be remapped to fit your preferences, and the Bluetooth makes it easily able to connect to your iPhone and thus to Xbox Game Pass (xCloud). It features a USB-C charging port and will last up to 20 hours before needing a recharge. Note that a mobile gaming clip is not included and will have to be purchased separately.
- Classic design
- Mapping software
- USB-C charging port
- 20 hours of battery life
- Must buy gaming clip separately
Best for console owners: PowerA MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip
Source: Richard Devine / iMore
In our PowerA MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip review, we stated this is the phone clip to get for xCloud, and we meant it. It is officially licensed for use with the Xbox One Controller. This means it fits perfectly onto it and is easy to uninstall when you’re done. Plus, it’s compatible with a large range of iPhones.
There are plenty of other gaming clips out there, like the Otterbox Mobile Gaming Clip. Still, PowerA’s option is affordable and fits the Xbox One better than many others do. That means that it will hold your iPhone more securely without wobbling about nearly as much. You’ll need to tilt and adjust the screen positioning for the best experience. However, since the controller is under the phone, it might obscure your view of the buttons from time to time.
If you have a different console in your house already, like the PS4 or Nintendo Switch, there’s likely a phone clip out there that you can use with those controllers. However, this one is specifically only designed for Xbox One.
- Large compatibility
- Ability to tilt screen
- Works with Xbox One Controller
- Might obscure view of buttons
- Doesn’t work with other controllers
Best for PS5 fans: DualSense controller
Source: Samuel Tolbert / iMore
If you’ve made the jump over to Sony’s latest gaming console already, then you may just want to consider using the DualSense controller with Xbox Cloud Gaming. This refinement of the DualShock 4 design introduces multiple new features, with a form factor that’s closer to an Xbox controller while still retaining the symmetrical sticks.
The battery is improved over the one in the DualShock 4, so play sessions should last longer. There’s no more fiddling with a micro-USB cable anymore, as the DualSense uses USB-C to charge the internal battery now.
While it works perfectly well with Xbox Cloud Gaming, it’s worth remembering that the DualSense haptic feedback and adaptive triggers don’t work with Microsoft’s Cloud gaming service, and for that matter aren’t guaranteed to work on PlayStation Remote Play. These two core features are the reason the DualSense is slightly more expensive than other controllers.
- Similar to Xbox controller
- Improved battery life compared to DualShock 4
- Available in a range of colors
- Haptic feedback and adaptive triggers won’t work
- Slightly more expensive than DualShock 4
Control your gaming experience
If you want the very best controller for Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) on iOS, you really ought to get the Backbone One. It was created specifically with iPhones in mind and has gotten the approval of thousands of mobile gamers. You can pack it up and take it with you anywhere or even charge your iPhone while it’s installed.
If you’re looking for more of a traditional gamepad, you can’t go wrong with the Xbox One controller. After all, Microsoft created it for Xbox and should have the best compatibility of any options available to you.
For those of you who already have an Xbox One console in your home, the PowerA MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip will let you attach your favorite Xbox One controller to your phone. It makes mobile gaming incredibly easy and is a lot cheaper on the wallet than other options out there.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Rebecca Spear Loves playing video games on every platform, including Xbox Game Pass (Cloud), and knows what makes for a good controller. You can follow her on Twitter @rrspear.
Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Nintendo on iMore. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.
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