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
iOS & Android support
No charging required
Separate USB-C & Lightning variants
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
Official Xbox accessory
Great build and feel
Accompanying iOS app
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
Traditional controller experience
Built-in phone clamp
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
Rotating USB-C/Lightning port
The GameSir X2 offers a similar package to the Kishi with a plug-and-play USB-C enabled X2 controller. We’ve used the Android variant, but there is also Lightning variant for iPhone users.
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.
Nacon MG-X – An official Xbox controller for Android
Official Microsoft Xbox accessory
Compatible with a range of Androids
No iOS support
The Nacon MG-X is another Switch-style mobile controller, but in fact it’s an official Microsoft Xbox accessory, built with Game Pass Ultimate cloud streaming in mind, so you can be confident in its compatibility.
As you’d expect from that, the controls are modelled on an Xbox pad, so you get asymmetric clickable joysticks, ABXY face buttons, a D-pad, and four shoulder buttons (though the triggers are a little mushy – my only real complaint about the pad). There’s also an Xbox-branded power button, and the same ‘menu’ and ‘view’ buttons you find on the official controllers.
Battery life is rated at up to 20 hours, and charging is over USB-C when you do need to top it up.
Unlike some similar rivals this uses Bluetooth 4.2 to connect to phones, which means there’s a touch more input lag – but that’s less important if you’ll be mainly using it for cloud gaming anyway. Besides, it also means that the pad is more universal, so will work with any Android phone – though there’s no iOS support.
On that note, Nacon only lists support for screens up to 6.7in, but I used it comfortably with the Xiaomi Mi 11’s 6.81in display, so there is a little leeway on the company’s size estimates. The grippy, textured back holds devices securely too, and when there’s no phone in the controller is small enough to be portable but still a comfortable size to use on its own, so it can double as a Bluetooth pad for a tablet or PC – or even an actual Xbox.
Sony DualSense – Great for PS5 players
Compatible with PS Remote Play
iOS & Android connectivity
No way to attach smartphone
No access to advanced DualSense features
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
iOS & Android support
No way to attach smartphone
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.
Gamesir F8 Pro Snowgon – Best for phone cooling
Keeps your phone cool
Fits a variety of phones
As well as offering the Switch-like Gamesir X2, Gamesir offers a more simplistic mobile controller with a slightly different aim: keeping your phone cool during extended gameplay sessions.
Overheating is a problem faced by most mobile gamers during long gameplay sessions – even those with gaming phones sporting dedicated cooling systems – usually resulting in a hot spot on the rear of the smartphone, and a knock-on effect on performance and battery drain too.
The Gamesir F8 Pro Snowgon looks to solve that problem by attaching a literal fan-powered cooling system to the back of your smartphone. The six-part system, including a cold plate and superconducting silicone pad, helps keep your smartphone cool, and it’s toggled on via a switch.
The fans are lit by RGBs to add to the gamer look, and there’s even a built-in kickstand, making it the perfect companion to the Xbox Wireless Controller or Sony DualSense Controller.
It’s a good companion because, compared to other controllers in our chart, the F8 Pro Snowgon is devoid of triggers and buttons, only offering a single touch-powered analogue stick in the box.
You can buy additional extras, including triggers that attach to the top of your phone and a thumb sleeve to help response times in touch-based gaming, but it’s not a complete solution like others mentioned in our chart.
Still, if you’ve already got an Xbox or PlayStation controller handy and suffer from smartphone overheating issues, the Gamesir F8 Snowgon is a solid choice.
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