Take Your Mobile Gaming to the Next Level With a Phone Controller

Take Your Mobile Gaming to the Next Level With a Phone Controller
Gaming on smartphones has gotten signficantly better over the years as the internal components of our devices grow ever stronger. The Nintendo Switch is a testament to just how much power we can get out of a handheld device, and our iOS and Android phones are no slouches when it comes to offering vast libraries of enjoyable games. But, tapping around wildly on the screen without any tangible or tactile controls can make for a frustrating experience that would be easily remedied with a controller.Lucky for us, iOS and Android smartphones support a whole host of excellent gaming controllers. Some controllers are supported over the nearly universal Bluetooth connection, while others rely on USB-C or Lightining connections while delivering extra fast response times. With these gaming controllers, you can have a much richer gaming experience while also seeing more of the games you’re playing, since you won’t be covering up half of the screen with your fingers. So, if you’re ready to get your game on, here are our picks.

TL;DR – These are the Best Phone Controllers:

  • Razer Kishi
  • SteelSeries Stratus Duo
  • SteelSeries Nimbus+
  • DualShock 4 controller
  • 8BitDo SN30
  • Razer Raiju Mobile
  • Xbox One Wireless Controller

1. Razer Kishi

Best Phone Controller

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  • See it on Amazon

You can pair a lot of standard controllers with a phone, but few will feel as perfectly built for mobile gaming and portability as the Razer Kishi. This controller effectively turns your Android phone into a Nintendo Switch-like handheld, as it clamps controls onto each side of your phone’s display. This controller supports a wide array of Android phones as long as they use USB-C and are between 145.3mm and 163.7mm tall, 68.2mm and 78.1mm wide, and 7mm and 8.8mm thick. There’s also an iOS version that’ll support everything from the iPhone XS or newer, except the iPhone SE 2. Razer also has a Microsoft xCloud specific model.

The Razer Kishi provides dual, clickable analog sticks, as well as AXBY buttons, triggers, shoulder buttons, a D-pad, and a few navigation buttons. Don’t worry if you need to charge your phone while you’re playing either, as the controller can pass charging power through. And, when you’re not gaming, the sides of the Razer Kishi can squeeze together into a more portable form factor.

2. SteelSeries Stratus Duo

A top Android all-rounder

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  • See it on Dell
  • See it on SteelSeries
  • See it on Walmart
  • See it on Newegg
  • See it on Best Buy

Another well-rounded controller, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is absolutely loaded with buttons: two joysticks, a four-way directional pad, four action buttons, two shoulder buttons, two triggers, and three front-facing buttons.

It’s a superior controller to the Status XL thanks to the new, more comfortable design and the rechargeable battery, which the XL doesn’t have. Best for Android phone and PC users only – for iPhone, check out the SteelSeries Nimbus below.

3. SteelSeries Nimbus+

A great choice for iPhone users

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SteelSeries already had a great controller for iPhone users in the Nimbus controller, but the company decided to make it even better for the modern gamer. The newer SteelSeries Nimbus+ keeps the original design mostly intact, but it has turned what was once a battery that could last 20 hours into one that can last for over 50 hours of gaming. That’s sure to last a lot longer between charges than your iPhone. And, when you do need to top it up, you can use the same Lightning cable that you use for your phone.

The controller will feel natural in the hand for PlayStation fans with its symmetrical analog sticks, and its controls match those found on most gaming controllers. You’ll get clickable thumbsticks, triggers and shoulder buttons, a full D-Pad, and your standard fair of buttons for your right thumb. This controller also includes a mount for holding your iPhone. And, if you ever want to keep using it on bigger screens, it’ll work with iPads and Apple TV systems as well.

4. Sony DualShock 4

For Team Sony

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  • See it on Amazon
  • See it on Adorama
  • See it on Kohls

It would be remiss of us to include the Xbox One controller and not mention Sony’s DualShock 4, which also works with both iPhone and Android devices. If you’re a PS4 player at home, you’ll probably already have one of these PS4 controllers hanging around; pairing it with your mobile device is nice and easy.

While we personally prefer the comfort of the Xbox One controller, the DualShock 4 is still a fantastic gamepad. In fact, those who find the Xbox One’s a little too chunky are more likely to prefer Sony’s alternative. It does, however, have a far inferior battery life. You can also pick up a phone mount from one of the many PS4 accessory makers.

5. 8BitDo SN30

Best for retro appeal

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  • See it on Newegg

If Nintendo’s SNES is a major feature of your childhood memories, then this one’s for you. The 8BitDo SN30 is both a great mobile controller and a shameless appeal to nostalgia. And sure, you could actually use it on your Nintendo Switch for the ultimate throwback, but it also makes a great retro accessory for your Android phone (sorry iPhone users, but this one’s not compatible).

Better still, the controller’s color options are based on variations of Nintendo’s original Game Boy Pocket. The price is good, too.

6. Razer Raiju Mobile

The everything package

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  • See it on Razer
  • See it on Walmart

As another of the more established names on this list, it’s no surprise to see Razer turn in one of the more “elite” mobile controllers on our list. It can connect over Bluetooth or wired via one of the USB-C cables that Razer bundles in the box.

The controller also has a built-in dock for your phone, which slides upwards and should have no problem handling most Android handsets. Our favorite bit is the companion app, which lets you map buttons and adjust the sensitivity of the analog sticks. The downsides: it’s an expensive controller, one we’d only recommend for the most ardent of mobile gamers. Android only.

7. Xbox One Bluetooth Controller

Best Ergonomic Phone Controller

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Xbox One Wireless Controller

  • See it on Newegg
  • See it on Walmart

The mobile controller market is filled with unknown names, but you’ll certainly recognize this one. The Xbox One controller gained Bluetooth support in 2016, making it compatible with PC, Android and iOS devices. And we’re thrilled, because Microsoft has fine-tuned the Xbox One controller to perfection.

The controller runs on two AA batteries, which is a good or bad thing depending on your preference, but personally, we like having one less thing to charge. The controller doesn’t have a grip, so you’ll need to supply your own – or find something to prop your phone/tablet up against.

What You Need to Know About Mobile gaming controllers

Compatibility: First things first, make sure the controller works with your mobile device. A lot of mobile controllers are Android-only, but there are plenty of iPhone options too. And pay special attention to the version compatibility, especially if you’re running an old version of Android or iOS, as some controllers will need newer versions to work.

The games: Some games are better suited to specific control types, so you need to think about the types of games you tend towards. More of a touchscreen puzzle player? A mobile controller might sooner find itself in a draw collecting dust. But if you play a lot of first-person shooters or find yourself longing for more precision in your platformers, then chances are your gaming experience will improve vastly with something more tactile.

Mounting: If you’re playing with a mobile controller, then you’ll need something to hold up your phone or tablet. Some controllers come with a mount, some don’t. You could also get a stand for the phone, which is great if you have a surface to play it on, but less helpful when you’re trying to cram in a quick game of Fortnite on the bus. A mount, either built-in or attachable, is recommended.

More Expert Tech Roundups

Hugh Langley is a tech journalist who’s fascinated by wearables, health tech, the smart home, and more. You can find him tweeting (often nonsense) over at @hughlangley.

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