Choosing the best smartphone controller depends on several factors. Most Bluetooth controllers only work with Android devices. However, there are a few controllers on this list that support iOS.
Read on for the best smartphone controllers for playing smartphone games – or cloud gaming services.
SteelSeries Stratus XL | Credit: newegg.com
The SteelSeries Stratus XL controller works well with PCs and Android smartphones. It's designed to pair through a Bluetooth connection and features a software engine on PC.
The controller itself resembles the PlayStation configuration for analog sticks. However, the button layout A/B/X/Y follows the Xbox style. Two AA batteries power the Stratus XL. It also features a micro USB port for updating the firmware using a PC.
SteelSeries says the Stratus XL offers 40 hours of gaming on its two batteries. One downside, though – the controller doesn't have an automatic sleep function. You'll need to remember to turn it off to conserve those batteries.
The SCUF Prestige borrows much from the Xbox One gamepad, but with unique modifications. It has an internal battery and a unique texture on the controller's grips. The controller uses a micro USB port to recharge the battery.
The SCUF Prestige is much lighter than the Xbox One Elite controller, about 9.5 oz vs. 12.5 oz. SCUF's signature paddle inputs are in place on the back of the controller to replicate the face buttons. Those paddles allow players to press face buttons without losing control of the camera.
The Prestige controller's paddles can replicate any button on the controller – aside from the triggers. The Prestige is also ultra customizable, with extra faceplates and trigger customization. Switchers on the rear of the controller allow you to reduce travel by up to 75%.
Designed for a variety of Android smartphones, the GameSir F1 is a grip controller. It wraps around the device and introduces a stick-on joystick for analog control.
The GameSir F1 is stretchable and can accommodate from 5.5" to 6.7" phones. It features EVA pads on the backside of the grip to protect the device from scratches. It may work with some thinner TPU-style cases still attached, but hard phone cases aren't compatible.
The GameSir F1 is ideal for those looking for a battery-free controller solution for mobile games. The grip fits most modern phones, and the analog thumb pad can be repositioned as necessary to suit the gamer.
If you already have an Xbox One, the Xbox One wireless controller makes a great smartphone controller. The timeless design is familiar to most gamers, and it works out-of-the-box with most mobile games. The Xbox One wireless controller is only compatible with Android devices, however.
The SteelSeries Stratus Duo is another dual-purpose controller that works on both smartphones and PC. It pairs with Android devices using Bluetooth, but you'll need a USB cable or the included wireless receiver for PC play. The biggest downside to this is the controller features nowhere to store the wireless dongle.
The Stratus Duo features the PlayStation layout for analog sticks, with Xbox-style face buttons. The internal battery charges using a micro USB cable. Using the controller on PC requires downloading the SteelSeries engine to manage button mapping.
The design of the controller closely mimics the Xbox One controller, making it a joy to hold. It's perfect for anyone looking for a PC/smartphone controller, despite the wireless dongle required for PC play.
The DualShock 4 is an excellent Bluetooth controller for Android out of the box. It works with all major emulators and supports button remapping programs. The DualShock 4 touchpad will even bring up a cursor while using Android.
The controller recharges with a micro USB, but the battery life isn't great. You'll want to keep a battery pack on hand if you plan on having long mobile gaming sessions with the DualShock 4. The D-Pad is also okay, but the separated design makes it hard to hit diagonals.
Sony is releasing their next-gen console, the PlayStation 5 this holiday season. The DualShock 5 should include all the bells and whistles of its predecessor.
8BitDo SN30 Pro | Credit: 8bitdo.com
8bitdo takes the familiar and classic SNES controller design and pairs it with modern controller design. The result is a SNES-inspired controller with triggers and analog sticks. The SN30 Pro can pair with PC, Mac, Android, and even the Nintendo Switch.
One downside to the controller is its small size. It nearly mimics the SNES controller, which is small by modern standards. A refreshed version of this controller design called the SN30 Pro+ features a more PlayStation-inspired design.
The controller also ships with a smartphone clip for playing games on Android. The SN30 Pro is also available in two color schemes – rainbow buttons or purple buttons. The controller also features Screenshot and Home buttons, making it compatible with the Nintendo Switch.
The Razer Raiju Mobile gamepad features an Xbox One-inspired design with a built-in smartphone clip. The controller is geared exclusively toward mobile games since the smartphone clip is permanently attached.
The Raiju Mobile also features some design inspiration from the Xbox One Elite controller. Those include hair-trigger locks, remappable buttons, and thumbstick sensitivity settings. The controller itself recharges via USB-C, which is refreshing.
A switch on the bottom of the controller allows it to pair with two Bluetooth devices at once. The Raiju Mobile is rather bulky, making it one of the least portable smartphone controllers listed. The Raiju Mobile is excellent if you want to play emulators at home, though.
Most of the best smartphone controllers on this list so far have been Android only. The SteelSeries Nimbus works with Apple TV and the iPad. It's also compatible with iOS devices, but it does not feature a clip to hold a phone.
The Nimbus gamepad uses the PlayStation layout and feels like a console controller. Bluetooth pairing with iOS/tvOS devices only takes a few seconds. The Nimbus offers 40 hours of playtime before it will need a charge.
The only downside to this controller is the D-Pad feels a bit mushy for games that rely on it – like platformers and Metroidvanias. Making diagonal movements is harder because the D-Pad itself is so large.
The Razer Kishi grip controller is the ultimate controller to transform any smartphone into a Switch-like experience. It connects via USB-C, so you'll need a recent smartphone to use it. The hardware connection also removes the lag of Bluetooth. The Kishi grip controller also doesn't need to be charged, for that reason.
The controller's foldable nature makes it perfect for tossing into a bag for gaming on the go. The Kishi expands to accommodate most large smartphones, though the Razer Phone 2 is a tad too large. The Kishi follows the Xbox-style layout, though reviewers complain about the analog sticks feeling mushy.
As you can see, there are a variety of smartphone controllers to suit your needs. Whether you want the full-fledged console experience of a travel-ready grip controller, there are more options than ever.