The Best Bluetooth Gaming Controllers for Android – November 2017
Here’s a secret not many people will tell you: gaming on Android has actually gotten really good. Between in-depth games like MOBAs, console-entries like Star Wars: KOTOR, and deep RPG action like Ys Chronicles or any of the Final Fantasy ports, there are a tong of games to play on Android that straddle the line between mobile and console-level gaming. And let’s not discount the number of amazing emulators supported on Android, including MyBoy! and PPSSPP for Game Boy Advance and PSP games, respectively. Seriously, it’s a great time to move your portable gaming from the 3DS over to the Android phone or tablet you already own.
There is one persistent problem with playing games on Android: being forced to use almost-universally awful touch controls. The number of control schemes that make good use of touch screen controls on Android can nearly be counted on one hand. But just like the rapid improvement of games on Android, there’s good news on this end too—Bluetooth controller support for Android is actually pretty solid, and Bluetooth controllers themselves have gotten pretty great. There’s a controller for nearly every budget, and a lot of the controllers can double with both console and PCS support included, giving an extra benefit to dropping $40 or $50 on a controller for your phone. And we haven’t even mentioned support for VR headsets yet—if you want to game with a Gear VR or Daydream headset, you’ll want a controller.
We’ve gathered the eight best controllers available below, highlighting the pros and cons of each one, as well as whether you should drop your cash on the product. Do you have a favorite controller not listed below? Let us know in the comments below what we missed, and what you’re using to game on all your devices!
Our top recommendation is GameSir’s G3s, which strikes a good balance between price, performance, features, and build quality, making the G3s into a jack of all trades. If you’re not looking to drop a ton on a controller, and you just want it to work—and work well—with your phone, the G3s is one of the best controllers out there for mobile platforms.
For an entry fee of just $30, you get a solidly-built plastic controller that, in addition to Android support, can also connect to a PS3 or PC over Bluetooth, making it a great backup controller for either of those systems. The controller supports both Bluetooth and an included 2.4GHz wireless adapter, so if your PC doesn’t support Bluetooth, you can still use the device to control your Steam library. It also supports several different modes of communication between devices, included a mouse simulator, making the G3s a great choice for connecting to a home theater PC to use for media playback. On Android, you’ll be connecting through standard Bluetooth 4.0, compared to some older controllers that only use Bluetooth 3.x to connect. The G3s has a 600mAh Li-poly battery that, according to GameSir, will last you 18 hours throughout normal use. The controller also supports a sleep mode for when the controller isn’t in use, so if you forget to turn the controller off or it turns on in your bag, you’ll be set to keep gaming once you get to your destination.
Let’s talk about the control interface: it’s solid, especially if you’re coming from the PS3 or PS4 controller. The controller features twin thumbsticks set at the lower levels, similar to the Dualshock lineup from Sony. If you’re coming from an Xbox or Nintendo controller, you’ll have to get used to the difference in layout. On the upper left, you have a solid-feeling D-pad, useful for both platformers and fighting games alike. On the upper right, a standard XYBA button layout that makes the controller feel like a combination between the Dualshock 4 and Xbox One controllers. Each of these four face buttons have a backlight for playing in the dark. The controller supports vibration, with motors built into the bottom ends of the controller. In the middle face of the controller, you’ll find standard Select and Start buttons, as well as a “Clear” button and a button to enable or disable “Turbo” mode, which lets you continue to shoot weapons in FPS games by holding the trigger down. On the top of the controller, you’ll find the standard shoulder buttons and triggers, which look and feel similar to those of the Dualshock 4.
One major problem with a lot of Android controllers is the compromise between standard shapes and styles and allowing room for a clip to hold your smartphone. Many controllers with built-in clips will sacrifice ergonomics and design to be able to support a phone mount, while the better-designed and better-feeling controllers require you to prop or hold your phone, making it next-to-impossible to play on a bus or subway. The G3s makes room for a compromise between the two, but it does so at a premium cost. The standard controller comes without a mount, and purchasing the standard clip-on mount for the G3s costs an extra $13 on top of the $30 base controller. While it’s a bit pricey for what amounts to a piece of shaped metal-and-plastic, the mount works well, doesn’t weigh down the device, and is easy to take on and off as needed. It doesn’t take up too much room, and can be easily discarded of when not in use. The nature of the clip means you don’t have to pay extra if you aren’t going to use it, and it doesn’t mess with the design of the device in the slightest.
Of course, a controller would be nothing if it didn’t work well with your phone or tablet. Lucky enough, the G3s is a great controller, both on Android devices and PCs alike. The rechargeable battery makes it easy to keep playing for days at a time, and there aren’t any major connection issues between the devices. The different modes make it easy to switch between standard game controls and mouse controls, as well as staying paired between multiple devices at once. And the matte plastic keeps up appearances, even after hours of gaming.
Overall, the G3s is exactly what we like to see in a gaming controller. It’s not too expensive, it can support phone clips for holding your phone up while gaming, and it feels good in the hand. There are nicer controllers in all three categories that we’ll mention later on this list, but the G3s is the only one that can strike a balance between these categories, and that’s what makes the product our top pick. It’s good for nearly every use case we can think of, and it’ll make most consumers satisfied for all of their gaming needs.
It might not feel as good in the hand as our top pick, but the Moga Pro Power controller is our top pick for those looking for a controller with an always-there smartphone clip. It’s one of the only controllers we’ve seen that doesn’t sacrifice portability or ease of use to include a clip, and the fold-in design is one of the best we’ve seen. It isn’t quite as good of a controller as the G3s—and indeed, some of our runner-ups feel better in the hand than the Pro Power—but the Power features a number of features not included in anything else we’ve seen on this list, including a huge portable battery pack.
The Pro Power is the more expensive of Power Moga’s controller lineup, coming in at $12 more expensive than the G3s and $20 more expensive than Power Moga’s Hero model. But for your extra cash, the controller features a much better and easier-to-use size and layout, modeled after a traditional Xbox 360 controller. It’s a full-size console-like controller, with the same basic layout when compared to the 360’s own controller. The plastic itself is a bit cheaper than what we saw on the G3s, but it feels good-enough in the hand for daily use. The front of the controller features glossy plastic, though, which is bound to get scratched up and covered in fingerprints during gameplay. We wish Power Moga had chosen to use the same matte plastic that covers the rest of the controller, but instead went with a face-plate for the device.
Along the front of the device, you have a standard dual-thumbstick layout, with a very-clicky D-pad and a XYBA button layout like we saw on the G3s. Between the two sides of the controller, you’ll find a four-LED battery monitor, a pairing button, along with select and start keys for gaming. Finally, between the two thumbsticks, the key feature of the model: a fold-out clip that holds your phone in place while you’re gaming. It’s one of the very-best clips for gaming, with a nice wide handle for holding the phone securely while you’re on the move. The controller and clip are both highlighted in orange; we wish there were some other colors for the device, but the controller doesn’t look bad. The device also ships with a tablet holder, for playing on devices that can’t be held in the controller’s actual clip.
That LED monitor on the front—along with the name “Power” for the controller—hints at the other standout feature for the Pro Power. Unlike the 600mAh battery found in the G3s, the Pro Power has a 2200mAh battery, which is used to power both the controller itself and to charge your phone. The battery size isn’t big enough to fill most modern-day devices, but it can extend your gaming time by at least a couple hours in daily practice, and can be used as an emergency backup source of power if you’re wandering around the city and your phone starts to run out of juice. The controller even comes with a short cable designed to be used for charging your phone from the controller, making it one of the best long-term gaming controllers we’ve seen on the market. And if you don’t want to power your phone from the controller, that huge battery means you can go weeks between charges. Unsurprisingly, the controller trickle charges to your device, so you shouldn’t expect any sort of standard charging from the device. Instead, expect your device’s discharge rate to lower immensely when in use.
The controller is supposed to pair using a companion app, but the app hasn’t seen an update for about a year. You should be able to pair the controller over Bluetooth for standard usage, but it’s worth downloading the Pivot app just in case. The controller’s two modes of use—A and B—are used for the application and standard Bluetooth usage, respectively. Since the controller uses standard Bluetooth, you should be able to pair the controller over Windows to use with your Steam library, but since the controller doesn’t support PC use natively, your millage here may vary.
Overall, the Moga Pro Power is a great buy if you’re looking for something with a little more functionality over the G3s. Though the G3s has a better build, the built-in clip, included tablet stand, and huge battery make the $12 additional cost over GameSir’s output worth the extra cost for most consumers. We don’t love the look of the device—the orange highlights and glossy plastic face aren’t our favorite style—but if you don’t care about the design, the Pro Power is a great-feeling controller with a ton of extra features that make the $42 cost more than worth it.
If you’re looking for a premium-feeling device above all else—along with a well-known name brand—the SteelSeries Stratus XL is one of the best controllers we’ve seen in both build quality and design. This is a good-looking controller, with its gunmetal-gray plastic and metal finish one of the best we’ve seen out there. SteelSeries typically makes accessories for PC gaming, so you shouldn’t be surprised that this gamepad works great for both Android and Windows devices, and it a great choice if you’re looking for something to play through your Steam library with. Everything on this controller—from the buttons to the joysticks to the D-pad—feels great, built for precision in any kind of game. The controller is big, measuring in similar size and style to the Xbox One controller, but with the thumbstick layout of the Dualshock series. The device uses two AA batteries to connect, which could be a benefit to some and a hindrance to others, but it’s worth noting the battery life is more than solid, promising over 40 hours of gameplay between batteries. The controller is also one of a few specifically mentioned by Oculus for supporting Gear VR, so if you’re looking for something to support VR games, this is a great buy. The two major downsides to the Stratus XL? The controller lacks any kind of phone mount, accessory or otherwise. If you’re interested in using this for on-the-go gaming on your phone, it might not be the controller for you. Finally, it’s a bit expensive, coming in at a console-standard $59.99, though you can pick up refurbished models for half that price.
The successor to our top pick, the GameSir G4s is a great pick for those looking at the G3s but wishing for something a little more modern. Though the design is a bit of a step-back in our opinion, the grip added to the controller looks and feels great in hand, and makes it harder to drop the controller by accident. The button layout has also bit adjusted to fit the standard Xbox layout over Sony’s, so if you prefer your left thumbstick being on the upper-left of the controller, you’ll want to check out the G4s. Another major upgrade: the clip is now standard inside the G4s, using a similar fold-out design to the Moga Pro Power controller that placed as our runner-up above. The G4s is still compatible with both Android and Windows, making it a great buy if you play on both systems, and the battery has been upgraded from 600mAh to 800mAh. The rest of the controller is pretty similar to the former model: vibration motors are included, and the face buttons have glow options for playing in the dark. The controller is a $20 upgrade over its predecessor (and doesn’t offer Prime shipping at the time of writing), but if you include the price of the detachable clip, it’s only an extra $7 upgrade—not bad, if we do say so ourselves.
The Beboncool gaming controller is a pretty decent offering from an unknown company, with a near-identical fold-out design to the Moga Pro Power. For $29, it’s a decent controller for the price, with an Xbox-like layout and a smaller, yet no-less ergonomic design to make travel easier. But the device falls in a couple different ways. First, the actual build of the product isn’t quite up to the G3s, G4s, or Steelseries offerings we reviewed above. The plastic is matte and doesn’t attract fingerprints, but it’s slightly cheaper than what we’ve seen on other products. Second, the battery is small, coming in at a slim 400mAh which, while good enough for about five hours of gaming, will leave you charging the controller every night. Finally, some users have reported problems using the triggers in FPS games, with the triggers “sticking” in game during use. Still, it isn’t a bad buy, with the controller striking a good balance between portability and ergonomics. Overall, however, you’re better off looking at some of the other controllers on this list and paying just a little more for a better build, longer battery life, and better triggers on the actual controller.
Another no name controller, the Obecome T3 is, put lightly, a “homage” to the PS3 controller. In harsher terms, it looks like an identical copy, but for smartphones. The T3 even uses nearly identical colors for the face-buttons, albeit with the same XYBA interface we’ve seen in nearly every controller on this list. The controller features cheap plastic along its edges and for the rubber coating along the thumbsticks, as well as a patterned grip on the edges of the device. Overall, the device looks and feels cheap, like something you would pick up at the dollar store. The clip-on accessory is a good way to highlight this: instead of folding into the device, it just clips on and off when needed, and can easily break as a result. The device charges over the decade-old mini-USB, meaning if you don’t have a spare cable lying around the house and you lose the bundled cable, you’ll probably have difficult finding a replacement. The good news here is the price. For $16, it’s one of the cheapest controllers you can buy for Android that is still what most would consider a “good” controller, even if the build and features of the T3 are both flawed. If you need a cheap, entry-level controller for your phone or tablet, and you can’t upgrade to the $30 items on this list, the Obecome T3 is your best bet. It’s not the best controller by a long shot, but it’s one of the greatest cheap ones you can buy.
The SNES30 is actually a fantastic little controller for the right audience, though if you aren’t part of its niche, you’ll want to look elsewhere for your controller needs. 8bitdo’s controller is styled to look as close to a SNES controller as possible, with a near-identical D-pad, select and start buttons, and the same XYBA layout Nintendo controllers have been using since the SNES originally came out. For anyone looking to accurately recreate the experience of playing games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past or EarthBound, this is exactly the controller you’ll want. It supports both Bluetooth and wired-USB connections, supports compatibility with Android as well as iOS, Windows, and MacOS, and lasts up to 20 hours on a single charge. The keys can be programmed to support both combos and turbo modes, so if you’re looking to play something like Street Fighter 2, it’s perfect for that kind of setup. 8bitdo’s controller is well-received by the gaming community; it’s one of the highest-rated controllers on Amazon making an appearance on our list. It falls apart in just two spots: first, the simplistic controls are great for retro emulation, but if you’re looking to play more recent games on your device, you’ll want to look elsewhere on this list. Second, with the limited capabilities of what will feel comfortable with this controller, the $35 entry fee is a bit steep compared to some of the other $30-40 controllers on this list. But if you’re looking for something that’s perfect for emulating classic 90’s RPGs, you can’t do much better than the SNES30.
IPEGA makes a wide variety of Bluetooth controllers for smartphones, but overall reviews on them are lukewarm at best. The PG-9023 might seem like an odd consideration, considering the 3.2 rating on Amazon, but we want to highlight the pros of buying something like this. First, if you’re looking for a controller that can fit a tablet in its grasp, the PG-9023 is one of the best options. Unlike most devices that clip the phone or device above the controller, IPEGA’s offering puts the tablet—we’re not sure a phone could fit in the device—between the two sides of the controls, almost like a proto-Nintendo Switch. It’s an interesting design, one we hope IPEGA or someone else will iterate on down the road, especially considering the popularity of the Switch. But on this version, the quality just isn’t there. There’s reports of dead zones in the joysticks, a major problem if you’re trying to game competitively. The controller uses Bluetooth 3.1, a much older version of the traditional and more reliable Bluetooth 4.x we like to see on these controllers. The construction of the controller means some tablets will have their speakers blocked by the device, though if you’re using something like an NVIDIA Shield Tablet or anything with front-facing speakers, you’ll be fine. Finally, users have reported the membranes of the device’s buttons falling apart and being assembled incorrectly, making the device difficult to use. Overall, IPEGA’s controller is a good idea for tablets, but we’d love to see a newer, refined version—from them, or from someone else.