The price is a bit steep, but this wired controller accurately reproduces the feel and functions of the Xbox controller with a simple built-in iPhone holder. And pass-through charging keeps your iPhone alive longer.
Price at review
Best Prices Today: RiotPWR Xbox Cloud Gaming Controller
The most popular iPhone games are made for touch, with an interface that you can read on a small screen. That’s not a secret. But there’s a big market for games that don’t just work with a controller, but actually do referred to to play with one. The new Amazing Bomberman on Apple Arcade is a great example – there are touch controls for sure, but it’s a completely different experience with a controller. There are also all game streaming services: Xbox Cloud Gaming, Stadia, Luna, and so on. Apple may make it harder than it needs to be to use these services by banning them from having apps in the App Store, but the web apps offer a pretty good experience once you’ve got them set up.
Today, Apple has made it much easier to use a good game controller with your iPhone. You used to have to buy an MFi-certified controller, but since iOS 14 added Xbox and PlayStation 4 controller support, a steady stream of iOS updates has expanded the list to include many different Bluetooth game controllers. Just pair the controller in Settings > Bluetooth and you are ready to play.
Still, there may be some benefit to a dedicated iPhone game controller. The Xbox Cloud Gaming Controller from RiotPWR tries to offer the best of both worlds: well-known Xbox design and features, and a built-in phone holder and Lightning cable connections to minimize latency and keep your iPhone charged. It’s a good idea, but limited in focus – this controller is real nothing but for iPhone gaming, as it has no wireless capabilities at all and requires a Lightning port.
An Xbox controller (sort of)
Physically, the RiotPWR controller is an Xbox controller. The shape, size, buttons, sticks and D-pad all mimic those of the Xbox Series S/X controllers, with only the slightest differences. There’s an Xbox button between the View and Menu buttons – shifted down and made smaller to make room for the slot where you place the phone holder. There’s also a share button to the left of the D-pad (double tap it to take screenshots).
While the layout is definitely Xbox, the functionality is not. The controller has no USB connection and no wireless support of any kind. You can’t use it with your Xbox, or Mac, or PC, or Android phone. The iPhone holder is a simple plastic clip with a hinge that plugs into the top of the controller. It looks clunky, but the placement is actually quite nice when you’re in a game.
While the lightweight plastic feels a bit on the cheap side, especially the D-pad, you really do get an authentic Xbox controller feel. The sticks and buttons feel like those on an Xbox controller, and the layout, placement and dimensions are just right.
The lack of batteries and wireless makes the controller wonderfully light, but it means you have to plug in your iPhone to use it. A permanently attached Lightning cable comes out of the back of the controller, just plug it into your iPhone (or an iPad with a Lightning connector) and you’re in business. No cumbersome installation or pairing.
The cord is about 60 cm long, while it only needs to be about 15 cm long, leaving a lot of annoying dangling at the back. I suppose the idea is that it’s long enough to plug into an iPad or an iPhone on a desk or something rather than the cradle, but if you really want to do that, I’d recommend a wireless Bluetooth controller.
The wired connection has a number of advantages. It has lower latency than Bluetooth, and while that’s not a problem for local gaming, the game streaming services are laggy enough without introducing more controller latency. It also passes audio through the audio jack on the bottom of the controller, allowing you to use wired headphones.
Speaking of pass-through, you’ll find a Lightning connector next to that audio jack on the bottom. If you do not mind Lake cables if you’re gaming, you can plug in a USB-to-Lightning cable there to power your iPhone. Gaming drains your battery quickly, so that’s useful, if not a little clunky. Unfortunately this is only for power. You can’t connect the controller to a Mac or PC (or console) with a USB to Lightning cable to use it (we tried!).
Should You Buy a RiotPWR Xbox Cloud Gaming Controller?
RiotPWR’s Xbox Cloud Gaming controller is a good solution, but limited in scope. And at a price of $70, you have to rest assured that you want exactly these features.
An official Xbox controller costs about $50 and can be used with your iPhone, iPad or Mac via Bluetooth. It works with PCs, Android phones and of course Xbox consoles. There are many clip-on phone holders for $15 or less.
For most users, that will be a better solution. The value of the RiotPWR is that the wired connection shaves off a bit of latency, going through audio to a wired headphone jack, and going through power when you plug in the controller. You really have to want those features to pay more and give up the much greater flexibility of a regular official Xbox wireless controller and clip combo. But if you do, it’s a great solution for iPhone gamers.