Apple is finally embracing PS4 and Xbox controllers

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Fortnite mobile controller
It’s tempting to update just for better controller support. But you shouldn’t.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

WWDC 2019 bugApple just took a big step toward ditching its lame controller restrictions. Major updates to tvOS, iOS, and iPadOS this fall will finally add full support for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers.

If you game on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, this is an incredibly exciting development.

Believe it or not, Apple devices make for terrific games consoles. Apple’s amazing A-series chips allow for high-end titles with impressive performance, and the selection of titles on iOS keeps getting better and better.

The only problem is that Apple’s restrictions often hold those games back. But one of the biggest will disappear almost entirely this fall.

The problem with Apple controller support

A lot of games work just fine with touch controls, but others really need physical buttons and sticks. Apple devices have long supported game controllers for this reason — but only Apple-approved MFi controllers are compatible for now.

MFi controllers must follow Apple’s controller guidelines, which outline exactly how many buttons each controller should have, and where they should be placed. Some buttons, like analog stick buttons, weren’t allowed until recently.

So, not only do you have to go out and buy an MFi controller (and they’re not cheap), but in almost all cases, that controller won’t have all the buttons and functions you’re used to.

In Fortnite, for instance, the analog stick buttons allow you to sprint and crouch by default on console — and they’re important movements. But if you play on iOS, you’ll have to get used to using other buttons for these things because analog stick buttons aren’t available on most MFi controllers.

This is all going to change this fall.

Gaming on Apple devices will be better than ever

When Apple rolls out iOS 13, tvOS 13, and iPadOS, its devices will support the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers for the first time. You’ll be able to connect them via Bluetooth just like you would with a Mac or PC.

You will then be able to use the controller you’re used to using (and already own) with the same buttons, button layout, and everything else. This also paves the way for custom controller support.

Custom controllers based on genuine PS4 and Xbox One controllers, like the Scuf, should also be compatible because they have the same internals. That means you’ll be able to use paddles, trigger stops, and other things on iOS.

Other controllers aren’t supported

Apple hasn’t mention support for other controllers, like the Nintendo Switch Pro controller, so we’re assuming those aren’t supported for now. It’s also likely that some third-party PS4 and Xbox One controllers won’t work, either.

Nevertheless, this is a massive step in the right direction for gaming on Apple devices. And it won’t just make the experience more enjoyable for gamers; it will also make it more worthwhile for developers to add controller support, since more people than ever before will be using controllers with their Apple devices.

iOS 13, tvOS 13, and iPadOS will be available to everyone this fall. Apple has released its first developer betas today and has promised public betas will arrive in July.