Why iOS is the best way to play Fortnite on the go

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Fortnite on iPad with SteelSeries Nimbus
There's a big problem with Fortnite's new matchmaking system.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

If you want to play Fortnite when you’re away from your console, do it on an iPhone or iPad. The mobile version of the game now offers the best portable experience by far.

The recent addition of controller support makes Fortnite better on Apple devices than it is on Nintendo Switch. Here’s why you’re missing out if you’re not playing it.

Fortnite’s arrival on iOS last March was a landmark event for mobile gaming. It was the first time a hot console game (not a 10-year old port) had been made available on smartphones and tablets without being significantly watered-down.

The game continues to deliver the same experience on mobile as on PlayStation, Xbox, or PC — and with almost every update, it gets better. Controller support has been one of its biggest improvements so far, and it has changed everything.

Fortnite’s rise on mobile

It’s not often I get chance to sit down in front of a console. I’m always busy with work, looking after a house, and raising children. A lot of my gaming is done on mobile devices, mostly the Nintendo Switch, because I can play it anywhere when I get some free time.

I was incredibly excited, then, when Fortnite made the leap to iOS last year. I was one of the first to bag an invite to the beta, and I played it a lot. I even wrote about how terrific it was to play the game on mobile and enjoy exactly the same experience.

No matter how much I played Fortnite on iOS, though, I was being held back by the touch controls. They make everything more difficult, and it’s just not possible to play with the same speed and accuracy as you can on a controller or mouse and keyboard.

As soon as Fortnite arrived on the Switch last summer, I all but ditched the iOS version altogether.

The Switch’s physical controls instantly made the game more enjoyable on the go — so much so that I’ve now sunk (wasted?) more than 375 hours into it on the Switch alone.

I’ve continued to play Fortnite quite regularly since the first version 7.30 update was released in late January, and yet my Switch has been sat in its dock collecting dust. I’ve moved back to iOS, and there are several reasons why.

Fortnite is better on iOS

Believe it or not, Fortnite on a modern iOS device is much closer to the console version than the Switch release. It offers better graphics and, more importantly, 60 frames-per-second gameplay. This is hugely important in a fast-paced game.

Just a couple of frame drops during a gunfight can cause you to lose track of an opponent and get eliminated. On the Switch, you’ll get a maximum of 30 frames-per-second — often even less than that — and it can be incredibly frustrating.

The iOS version of the game also offers better sound, and it seems more stable than the Switch release. Epic seems to have put more resources into mobile, so issues are fixed quickly, and you’ll rarely encounter the kind of glitches the Switch version throws up.

It was easy to ignore all these things in favor of physical controls before Fortnite for iOS offered controller support. Now, it makes no sense to play the game on Switch if you have an iPhone or iPad. You may not need a console at all.

Fortnite with iPhone XS in Gamevice controller
The Gamevice is the best controller for iPhone.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

It’s not quite perfect yet

Having said all of that, you should know that controller support inside Fortnite for iOS isn’t perfect yet. It’s held back somewhat (but not much) by Apple’s controller guidelines, and there are some kinks that Epic still needs to work out.

Sometimes button presses don’t register — especially when you attempt to reload a weapon or build quickly. Other times buttons presses seem to get stuck. For instance, weapons will sometimes continue to fire after you’ve released the fire button, and you’ll need to tap it again to stop them.

It feels like there’s some hangover from the touch optimizations Epic has made inside the mobile version that need eliminating altogether when a controller is used. These aren’t hardware issues; I’ve been using two different controllers to play Fortnite on an iPhone XS and an iPad Pro — specifically the Gamevice and a SteelSeries Nimbus — and both suffer the same problems.

Even with these teething troubles, playing Fortnite on iOS with a controller is the best way to play Fortnite portably.

Get an MFi controller

If you’re already playing Fortnite on iOS, and you don’t have a controller yet, you’re missing out. The game is easier and much more enjoyable with real buttons and sticks.

You’ll have to buy an MFi controller — others don’t work with iOS — but even if you only use it to play Fortnite, it’ll be worth every penny. I highly recommend the two I’ve been using so far, and I’ll be writing up full reviews for both very soon.