How to connect a gamepad to your iPhone or iPad

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Playing on iPhone and iPad doesn’t mean you have to use onscreen controls. Apple (finally) added the ability to pair Bluetooth controllers in iOS 13, making Apple phones and tablets more than just handheld touchscreen gaming machines.

However, not all games offered on the App Store support Bluetooth controllers. There may be times when you need to use onscreen controls or map their functions to physical buttons. But if you’re playing console games using Steam Link, PS Remote Play, or OneCast, Apple’s support for paired controllers is pure gold.

The following guide shows you how to pair a DualShock 4 and Xbox controller to an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Apple TV. We also show you how to set up a Stadia Controller and use it when playing Stadia in the Safari browser.

How to connect a DualShock 4 controller

iOS and iPadOS

DualShock 4 Bluetooth Controller for iPad

Before you start, swipe down from the top of the screen and make sure Bluetooth is turned on in Control Center.

Step 1: On the DualShock 4 controller, press and hold PS and To share buttons simultaneously until the light bar starts flashing. The controller is now in pairing mode.

2nd step: On the mobile device, tap to open the Settings application.

Step 3: To select Bluetooth.

Step 4: Press the DualShock 4 wireless controller entry on the list to pair the two devices.

tvOS

Of course, it’s not a mobile device, but while we’re here, why not cover Apple’s set-top box? Apple TV owners love games too.

Step 1: On the DualShock 4 controller, press and hold PS and To share buttons simultaneously until the light bar starts flashing. The controller is now in pairing mode.

2nd step: On your Apple TV device, select Settings.

Step 3: To select Remote controls and devices.

Step 4: To select Bluetooth.

Step 5: Select the DualShock 4 wireless controller entry on the list to pair the two devices.

Congratulation! You are now ready to start playing with your DualShock 4 controller. Again, some games in the App Store may rely primarily on touch while others support controllers. You may need to adjust in-game settings to map on-screen functions to physical buttons.

Disconnect the controller

iPad Disconnect the DualShock 4 controller

For when you want to go back to a real game console.

Step 1: On the mobile device, tap to open the Settings application.

2nd step: To select Bluetooth.

Step 3: Press the circle I button next to the name of the paired controller.

Step 4: Faucet Disconnect.

To note: To remove your DualShock 4 controller from the device, press Forget this device.

How to connect an Xbox controller

First, not all Xbox controllers work with Apple mobile devices. Older, incompatible models have a segmented plate around the Xbox button, unlike compatible Bluetooth models. However, here is Microsoft’s official list:

  • Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth (Model 1708)
  • Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
  • Xbox Adaptive Controller

In a nutshell, the controller that came with the first Xbox One unit doesn’t not have Bluetooth, so it only works via a wired connection (with a compatible dongle). The controller packed with Xbox One S and newer Is include bluetooth.

iOS and iPadOS

Xbox Bluetooth Wireless Controller iPad

Before you start, swipe down from the top of the screen and make sure Bluetooth is turned on in Control Center.

Step 1: With the Xbox controller on, press and hold Wireless enrollment button located on the back between the shoulder and trigger buttons, and just above the USB port.

2nd step: On the mobile device, tap to open the Settings application.

Step 3: To select Bluetooth.

Step 4: Press the Xbox Wireless Controller entry on the list to pair the two devices.

tvOS

You might as well associate it with an Apple TV to get the most out of Ocean Horn 2 and Steam link.

Step 1: With the Xbox controller on, press and hold Wireless enrollment button located on the back between the shoulder and trigger buttons, and just above the USB port.

2nd step: On your Apple TV device, select Settings.

Step 3: To select Remote controls and devices.

Step 4: To select Bluetooth.

Step 5: Select the Xbox Wireless Controller entry on the list to pair the two devices.

As before, some games in the App Store can rely primarily on touch while others support controllers. You may need to adjust in-game settings to map on-screen functions to physical buttons.

Disconnect the controller

iPad Disconnect Xbox Wireless Controller

Step 1: On the mobile device, tap to open the Settings application.

2nd step: To select Bluetooth.

Step 3: Press the circle I button next to the name of the paired controller.

Step 4: Faucet Disconnect.

To note: To remove your Xbox controller from the device, press Forget this device.

How to connect a Stadia controller

For now, this only applies to Stadia, which you can play as Safari web app from home screen. The overall process consists of two parts: connect the controller to Wi-Fi, then pair it with your Apple device’s screen.

Configure the Stadia Controller

Google’s controller uses Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth, so the process isn’t that straightforward.

Step 1: Install the Stadia app from the App Store.

2nd step: Open the Stadia app and tap the Controller icon at the top right.

Step 3: Faucet Connect the controller.

Step 4: Faucet Stadia Controller.

To note: Selecting other controllers on this list simply takes you to instructions on how to pair them using Bluetooth.

Step 5: With the controller powered on, press and hold the Stadiums button for two seconds. The device should start to vibrate.

Step 6: Faucet Next on the screen to continue.

Step 7: Faucet Yes, flashing amber if the controller is flashing correctly.

Step 8: Tap the detected controller.

Step 9: Faucet Yes if the controller vibrates as expected.

Step 10: Accept microphone privacy, then share or deny diagnostics and usage data.

Step 11: Tap to connect to Same network like iPhone or iPad, or tap Choose another network.

Step 12: Enter the network password, then press Connect to Wi-Fi.

Step 13: Faucet Next to start binding the controller to a screen by pressing four buttons. This is mainly to link it to a Chromecast Ultra.

Step 14: Faucet Ended to finish.

To note: If you have a Chromecast Ultra, the controller will always automatically connect to the device. To deactivate the automatic link, press and hold down Stadiums for three seconds when you turn on the controller. It will vibrate once upon startup and again after three seconds.

Synchronization with an iPhone or iPad screen

Stadia Controller Icon for iPhone Tap

Now that you’ve established a stable network connection, you can tell Stadia where you’re playing. These instructions assume that you have already created the Home screen shortcut for Stadia.

Step 1: Click to open the Stadiums shortcut or go to Stadiums in your Safari browser.

2nd step: Hit it Controller icon in the upper right corner.

Step 3: Match the displayed link code using the buttons on the controller. The controller should appear as “linked” on the screen.

Step 4: Click on a game and start playing.

Synchronize with another screen

Syncing with another screen is useful if you are switching from an iPhone to an iPad. Here you will need to remove the previous link code first and use a new one shown on the second screen.

Step 1: Press to open the Stadiums shortcut, or go to Stadiums in Safari.

2nd step: Press the Controller icon in the upper right corner.

Sstep 3: Press and hold the Stadiums button until the controller vibrates twice. You should see the status light around the Stadia button blinking white.

Step 4: Match the link code presented using the buttons on the controller. The controller should appear as “linked” on the screen.

Third party controllers also work

When trying to connect other third-party controllers, you should make sure that they are Made For iOS (MFi) compatible and have Bluetooth capability. Apple provides a list of compatible devices, but be aware that there are not many. The instructions for joining and disconnecting these controllers are essentially the same as for the DualShock 4 and Xbox controllers. Check the manufacturer’s manual for how to initiate the Bluetooth pairing feature on these third-party controllers.

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