Want to Use Your New Xbox Series X Controller with Your iPhone? Apple’s Working on It

Xbox Series X Controller Credit: MatJC / Shutterstock
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It’s been an exciting year for new console releases, with this holiday season seeing the launch of both Sony’s new Playstation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S, and in a stark departure from days past, Apple has been fairly quick to embrace both of these platforms in various ways.

First there’s Apple’s TV app coming to the PS4/PS5 and the Xbox, and then there’s also the fact that Apple has allowed both Sony and, more recently, Microsoft, to release remote play apps for Xbox and Playstation consoles.

More significantly, however, is that as of last year Apple also began embracing PS4 and Xbox One controllers in iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS, allowing gamers to enjoy Apple Arcade and App Store games with their favourite controller, rather than being limited to specifically Apple-licensed game controllers.

Although there have been rumours that Apple is developing its own game controller, thus far it’s seemed quite satisfied to simply work with Sony and Microsoft to make their full range of controllers work as well as possible with the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, and it’s carrying this forward into Sony and Microsoft’s newest consoles.

We’ve already seen support for the new PS5 controllers in the first iOS 14.3 beta, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that Xbox Series X controllers will soon be joining the party as well, and Apple has quietly announced this in its support document on connecting a wireless game controller to an Apple device, noting that it’s working closely with Microsoft to make it happen.

Microsoft and Apple are working together to bring compatibility for the Xbox Series X controller to customers in a future update.

Apple

While it’s still unclear when it’s going to happen, it could come as soon as next month’s iOS 14.3 release; although no evidence has been found in the current iOS 14.3 betas, that doesn’t mean it can’t still show up, but either way we’d expect it to appear sooner rather than later. Notably, Apple doesn’t make any mention at all of the PS5 DualSense controllers in its support document.

At this point, the officially supported list of controllers includes the Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and the PlayStation DualShock 4 Wireless Controller.

Apple notes that other MFi Bluetooth controllers “might be supported” but ironically stops short of committing to them actually working, despite being “Made for iOS.”

Advanced Game Controller Support

During one of the sessions at its Worldwide Developers Conference back in June, Apple announced even more advanced game controller support coming to iOS 14, including the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 and the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Further, Apple noted that its support for these types of controllers would go beyond simply allowing them to work with iOS and tvOS into actually adding new core OS-level features that would provide for things like full controller button remapping and a new “Core Haptic” framework, along with support for specialty features like motion sensors, controller lights, and even battery level monitoring.

This means Apple is basically planning to do all of the heavy lifting for game developers, making it far easier for them to support these more advanced controllers without having to code all of the support in themselves. For example, rather than trying to issue the specific commands to make a controller vibrate, the game could simply tell iOS to do so, and the new Core Haptic API would take care of it.

Apple has also introduced new APIs in iPadOS 14 to enable full keyboard and mouse support within games, again at the OS-level, allowing for the remapping of buttons on a per-game basis as well as handling multiple simultaneous keyboard button presses.

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