Since it’s always in your pocket, purse, or hand, there’s no question that an iPhone is a much more convenient gaming platform than any PlayStation or Xbox could ever be. But that convenience comes at a price, especially for those of us too old to have grown up using touchscreens.
Simply put, some games are just plain better with a controller. You can play Fortnite with a touchscreen, and many people do, but come on. That can never be as precise as aiming with analog sticks, which itself is admittedly not as precise as a mouse and keyboard. But something is better than nothing, and if you have a wireless Xbox controller lying around, you can connect it to an iPhone with almost no effort. Here’s how.
Make sure you have the right controller first
This may seem obvious, but you need an Xbox controller that’s actually compatible with iOS if you want to use it for mobile games. Apple’s support website lists the four Xbox controllers that fit the bill, but unfortunately, this actually isn’t quite as simple as it should be. If you’ve got one of these, you’re golden:
You might be wondering about the “Model 1708” designation on the first option. That distinction exists because the controllers that shipped with the Xbox One console at its launch in 2013 didn’t have Bluetooth functionality. Microsoft didn’t build that into Xbox One controllers until the Xbox One S revision came out in 2016, so if you have an older Xbox One controller, it won’t work with your iPhone.
As demonstrated by the photo above, you can tell which is which by looking at the plastic that surrounds the Xbox logo button at the top of the controller. If it’s the same plastic texture as the part with the face buttons and the analog sticks, it has Bluetooth. If it shares a texture with the plastic surrounding the shoulder buttons and triggers, it does not.
Put simply, if you got an Xbox controller after 2016 or so, you’re fine. If not, it’s time to upgrade. The good news is that this is, by far, the most confusing thing about connecting an Xbox controller to an iPhone.
As easy as pairing headphones
Credit: Jakub Porzycki / NurPhoto via Getty Images
By now, you’ve probably gathered that Xbox controllers connect to iPhones via Bluetooth. If you’ve ever connected anything to your iPhone with Bluetooth, you already know how to pair an Xbox controller, even if you don’t think you do. It’s the same as connecting a Bluetooth speaker or a pair of headphones.
Hold the Xbox logo button to turn the controller on. From there, hold the Bluetooth pairing button (situated between the two shoulder buttons on the top side of the controller) to put the controller into pairing mode. Open the Settings app on iPhone, navigate to the Bluetooth menu, and scroll down until you see the controller on the list of available devices for pairing.
Tap it and, God willing, it should pair with your phone. See? Easy. You can do the same thing with a PlayStation controller too in case you were wondering. Whether or not your favorite games will actually support the controller will vary from game to game, but if they do, congratulations on entering a world of more precise controls for your mobile games!