Should You Use the Xbox One or Playstation 4 Controller with iOS 13?:

Why You Want to Ditch MFi

Apple did us all a favor when they created the MFi, the made-for-iOS standard for game controllers. It meant that game developers and gamepad makers could all work around the same standard. That’s completely unlike the situation with Android, where some games will only work with certain controllers and not others.

Unfortunately, Apple should really have added official support for Xbox and Playstation controllers years ago. There was no technical reason to exclude them, so we have to assume it was a legal issue or thanks to certain business decisions. Now the MFi standard has been extended to these two incredibly popular premium controllers. If you are a gamepad gamer on iOS, there are plenty of reasons to ditch those MFi controllers and whip out that tried-and-trusted gaming weapon.

First of all, the build quality of MFi controllers averages far below the big boys. The market just never grew to a size where companies could justify spending development time on these controllers. Most of the ones I have tried myself feel plasticky and imprecise compared to the two big dogs. In a world where MFi controllers were your ONLY choice when it came to gamepads on iOS, anything is better than touchscreen controls.

It also makes sense to use a controller that’s widely compatible. Either of these controllers will work with a computer, their respective consoles, and Android devices. MFi devices ONLY work with iOS, and are often pretty expensive.

The support for mainstream controllers also means that people who didn’t want to buy a specialized MFi controller can now simply use the gamepad they already have.

Given the choice between the Xbox and Playstation controllers and the typical MFi device, most people are going to be happier with the brand name devices. I will make the case for MFi controllers a little later in this article, but for now the takeaway is: from a purely gaming performance and experience, the mainstream console controllers are the superior choice.

So let’s look at the actual controllers themselves and decide which one might be the right choice for you.

The Xbox One S Controller

The latest controller for the Xbox is a big step up from the Xbox 360 controller and the first-generation Xbox One controller. First of all, this is now a proper Bluetooth device, so you can use it with Windows without a dongle. Incidentally, the dongle version won’t work with iOS, so don’t buy that one if you somehow still have the opportunity.

The controller itself uses hard, smooth plastic for its shell, so getting a silicone grip is almost a must. The analog sticks are asymmetrical, which I don’t like but plenty of people swear by.

The analog sticks on this controller feel good, but the caps aren’t very grippy, which means aftermarket stick caps are recommended. I would say, however, that the triggers on the Xbox One controller are clearly superior. They are precise with more travel, so for games like Grid Autosport, they absolutely make for a better experience.

In terms of actually playing with this controller, there are no significant complaints. The Xbox Controller has also become the standard for PC games and all MFi games support its button layout and labels. So if you are a PC gamer as well, you can now seamlessly share your controller between systems.

For people who are looking to buy a controller specifically for their iOS device, this is the better choice on average. If you already own a PS4, the argument turns in favor of the DS4. However, the DS4 has plenty going for it on its own merits, so let’s turn our attention to the Sony contender.

The Sony Playstation 4 Dualshock 4 Controller

iOS13 and its variants also now include support for the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller. This generation has seen the PS4 significantly overtake the Xbox One as the most popular console. Ergo, there should be many more DS4 controllers out there.

The problem is that the Xbox controller layout has proven to be more popular overall. Almost all modern PC games, for example, support the controller natively, whereas the DS4 often needs quite a bit of legwork to get it going on a PC.

Oddly, iOS has inherited some of these issues. Since the MFi controller standard was essentially just the Xbox layout everyone knows, most MFi games come with Xbox button prompts. Now, I must emphasize that the DS4 works PERFECTLY with every MFi and Apple Arcade game I have played, but only Apple Arcade games have native support for the DS4 button prompts. This means you will either have to wait for the developers of your favorite gamepad game to patch those new UI elements in or simply do the mental remapping, remembering that the “A” button is now “X”, and so on.

If you can put up with this mild inconvenience, let’s talk about the merits of the DS4 compared to the Xbox One Controller.

The DS4 has a rubberized grip and overall feels more premium and comfortable in my hands. The sticks are also very comfortable, but the caps wear out pretty quickly thanks to their soft texture. If you’re a frequent gamer you’ll probably have to replace them in two years or so. Installing new sticks is pretty simple and you can hit up YouTube for instructions.

The DS4 has an internal battery as standard, so no messing about with AA batteries or having to buy a third-party pack. For iOS gamers, the big touchpad and front LED lights are a waste, of course. Still, the price of the DS4 is pretty much the same as for the Xbox One controller and I feel you get a bit more for your money. I have also personally found that drift and stick wear is faster on the Xbox One controllers. Both of my DS4s are four years old and have only required new sticks and batteries; all the electronics are A-OK. My Xbox One controller has seen much less use, but has drift already. Your experience might be different, but overall I like the DS4 more, especially since I am not a fan of asymmetrical analog sticks.

If you actually own a PS4, this is also the perfect controller for PS4 remote play using the Sony app. Of the two, I have a preference for this one; if you don’t play on the PC or have an Xbox, it makes a lot of sense to buy a DS4.

Phone Mounts

If you are an iPad or Apple TV gamer, then using one of these controls is a plug and play affair. For iPhone users it’s a different story. iPhones are generally not equipped to stand up by themselves. Besides, iPhone screens are too small for comfortable play at a distance.

The good news is that there are already a range of mounts that marry the gamepad to your phone so that you can have a proper handheld experience. You can use similar products with full size MFi controllers as well, but I would suggest using mounts that are specifically designed for the Xbox or DS4 controls. After all, the last thing you want is an ill-fitting mount that ends up dropping your thousand dollar baby.

Let’s look at a few examples of mounts that can make the experience better for iPhone users. Please double check that the phone size range each mount supports will work for your particular model of iPhone.

Icepring PS4 Wireless Controller

I really like how solid this grip from Icepring looks; this is one of the most popular options in its product class, so clearly I’m not the only one who has shown an interest. It’s a little more expensive than most of the other mounts that I have seen, and the clear plastic clamp clashes a little looks-wise with the standard black controller, but clearly this is precisely molded to fit that DS4 body.

As with most of these holders, this currently refers to itself as an Android phone accessory. After all, iPhones didn’t support this controller out of the box before. However, there is no standard Android phone size or shape, so there should be no reason this can’t grip onto an iPhone as well.

I like the 270-degree adjustment ability, so you can get perfect angle whether sitting in a chair or lying in bed.

This supports phones with a width of up to 88mm; the iPhone 11 is only 75mm wide, so it should work just fine.

In use, few people have any serious complaints. Some say that it holds the phone too tightly, which is good or bad depending on your view. The clamp goes on snugly, but the build quality suggests that you shouldn’t constantly put it on or take it off. So if you go with this mount, leave it on the controller. It might look goofy, but it should not get in the way of using your PS4. If you are getting a PS4 controller just for iOS, then it’s a non-issue anyway. Treat this one with some care and it’s a cheap and effective way of getting your DS4 and iPhone to get along.

Dainslef Xbox One Foldable Phone Mount

This holder from Dainslef takes a more elegant approach to connecting your phone and controller together. It’s a simple, solid clamp that holds snugly onto the Xbox One S controller body. It doesn’t have the wide angle of adjustment we got with the Icepring, but 135-degrees should be enough for most people unless you game in a really weird position. It’s even cheaper and can handle phones larger than any iPhone I know of, so its easy to recommend.

The Benefits of MFi

Does support for these two titans of the gamepad world mean that MFi controllers are dead? Not quite. There are still plenty of reasons to opt for the MFi options. If you want to look at some of the best MFi controllers out there, do check out my MFi controller reviews.

So why would you want an MFi controller instead of using the premium options?

The first big reason is, of course, mobility. MFi controllers come in a variety of form factors that are easy to throw in a bag. The Xbox and PS4 controller were designed for home console use, which makes them a little awkward for mobile use. Many MFi controllers are relatively tiny, can fold up, or come with a carry bag solution or case. This means you might want to keep using that controller when you are out and about and opt for the premium controllers back home.

The second reason is that there are some MFi controllers with truly innovative forms. For example, the various models of Game Vice controller.

These controllers integrate with your device almost like a Nintendo Switch, making for a much better overall mobile experience. You can even get them for the iPad! So it seems that MFi and the premium gamepads joining the support family can live side-by-side after all.