How to turn your phone into a gaming console: the best controllers for Android and iPhone

The long-awaited launch of Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) means that you can now use your smartphone to play Xbox games even when you’re not in front of your TV. Wherever you have a fast internet connection, all you need is a compatible device – but it gets even better with a gaming controller made just for your phone.
Campbell Simpson · 30 March 2022 · 5 minute read
The Razer Kishi controller for iPhone and Android phones being used to play an Xbox Cloud Gaming title

Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) bursting onto the scene in Australia gives you an all-access pass to the library of games that you already know and love if you’re a Xbox Game Pass fan, without even having to think of downloading games or updates – just open the app and dive right in. Over 100 incredible Xbox and PC titles are available from day one and more are on the way, including some fully touch-enabled titles.

Your phone, when it’s teamed up with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and a solid Wi-Fi, 4G or 5G connection, will let you jump into a game of Forza Horizon 4 or Gears of War at a moment’s notice. There’s one other piece of the puzzle for maximum fun, though – a quality gaming controller.

Of course, you can use the standard Xbox Wireless Controller with your iOS or Android device by pairing it over Bluetooth – which is handy if you’ve got a spare controller that you keep for whenever friends come around, or if you don’t mind nicking your Player 2’s.

But truly portable gaming means a truly portable controller – one that you can carry around, clip your phone into and just start blasting. So here are two of our favourites!

Razer Kishi – iOS & Android controller

The Razer Kishi comes from the gaming peripheral experts at Razer, and it’s been a tried-and-tested favourite of mobile gaming fans for years now. If you’ve got an Android phone with a USB-C port, then the Kishi will almost certainly fit it – it’s one of the most universally compatible phone controllers we’ve used.

Any recent Samsung Galaxy S or Google Pixel device will fit snugly, and you can check any other device’s dimensions to see if it will fit. The iOS variant, which replaces USB-C with a Lightning port, has a universal fit for iPhone models since the iPhone 6s, including the newer plus-sized Pro Max models.

What we love about the Kishi is how straightforward it is – just pull the two tabs at the back of the controller and it extends to a size large enough to make sliding your phone in easy. Once your phone is securely connected to the Kishi’s port, gently squeezing the two controller halves together locks your phone into place. When you’re done gaming, slide your phone out and clip the two halves back together – the Kishi will even fit into a pants pocket for travel.

It also has a USB-C charge-through port (or Lightning for the iOS model), so you can keep your phone charged while you’re playing whether that’s from a power bank or from your normal wall charger. And because it’s hooked up to your phone directly, there’s no extra lag from a wireless controller. You can equally happily set it up for just a quick game or two, or settle in for a long gaming session with the Kishi.

The Razer Kishi is great fun to use. Its control scheme is perfect for Xbox games, with two joysticks, a D-pad and four main buttons, as well as extra buttons that map to the Xbox’s Menu, Xbox Home and View buttons. Two bumpers and two triggers complete the ensemble – you couldn’t ask for anything more! The joysticks are well damped and click satisfyingly, and the buttons feel great to press. It makes a spin around the track in F1 2019 more fun than it has any right to be.

Backbone One – iOS controller

The Backbone One is another great choice if you’re looking for a sleek, slim portable controller to turn your iPhone into a Xbox Cloud Gaming powerhouse. With an adjustable width that will fit iPhones from the 6s onwards, you can drop almost any iPhone into the Backbone One and get gaming straight away. (Backbone has a solution on the way for iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max users – these phones have a slightly larger camera bump.)

Like the Razer Kishi, the Backbone has a relatively flat profile which means you can easily slide it into a bag or pocket. The Backbone One has a Lightning charge-through port on its lower right side, so you can plug in your iOS device charger and keep playing without burning through your iPhone’s battery life.

Where the Backbone One differs to the Kishi, and why you might prefer it as an iPhone user, is that there’s no clips to press to unlock the Backbone from its compact position – instead, all you have to do is pick up the controller and pull its two halves apart.

Since it’s spring-loaded, it’ll naturally settle back into place and clamp your iPhone tightly once you’ve placed it into the controller and plugged it into the Backbone’s iPhone connector.

The Backbone is a little more sleek and streamlined than the Kishi, which might make it more appropriate for smaller hands, and its two hand grips are easy to hold onto for long periods of time and during those tricky boss battles.

It has the same mix of two joysticks, D-pad, four main buttons and all the bumpers, triggers and extras you’ll need for playing Xbox Gloud gaming titles on your phone, wherever you have a strong internet connection. We like the fact that the Backbone has a 3.5mm headphone jack, too, so you don’t have to use a pair of wireless earphones if you don’t want to.

Whichever phone gaming controller you choose, it’ll open up a new world of gaming on Xbox – so get up off the couch, hit the road and start playing!


By Campbell Simpson

External Editorial Lead

Campbell is our External Editorial Lead and manages the Telstra Exchange website. He came to Telstra with over a decade of experience in technology journalism at websites like Gizmodo, CNET and PC World, and has a long-time love of tech and gadgets of all kinds. When he's not writing, Cam spends his downtime outdoors whenever possible.

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