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How To Use a PS4 Controller on the iPad

Posted by William Sattelberg on September 27, 2019

The DualShock 4 is the fourth iteration of the DualShock line of controllers, and the first since the original to change up the design, while still holding onto what makes the controller recognizable to gamers everywhere. Sony released the original PlayStation in 1994, bundled with the PlayStation Controller, complete with four directional buttons (instead of a D-Pad) and four face buttons, but was missing the dual-analog sticks that are now commonplace on every gaming controller from the DualShock 4 to the Xbox Elite controller to the Switch’s Pro Controller. In 1997, three years later, Sony released the Dual Analog Controller, but was pulled off the market by 1998 in favor of a refined version: the Dualshock. Now on its fourth iteration, the Dualshock 4 has proven to be one of the best controllers ever made by Sony.

The DualShock 4 didn’t completely change how the controller looks or feels, but it was the biggest upgrade to the design since the original shipped with the PlayStation. The grips were redesigned to be more comfortable in the hand, the bumpers were changed to actually function like triggers, the joysticks added back the inverted grip to keep your finger on the stick without slipping, the start and select buttons were removed, and a large touchpad and light were added to the unit. For many, however, the biggest, most important change in the DualShock 4 is the inclusion of Bluetooth, making it possible to use the controller on more devices than ever before. And thanks to iOS 13, you can finally pair your DualShock 4 with your iPhone or iPad. Let’s look at how.

A Match Made in Heaven?

It’s always been possible to pair your DualShock 4 with an iPad via Bluetooth, even without modifications. Unfortunately, once paired, you couldn’t actually use the DualShock 4 with anything on your device. It would appear in the settings menu, allowing you to see that your devices had connected, but because the DualShock 4 wasn’t part of the Made for iPhone program, it didn’t work.

That’s changed with iOS 13 and its spin-off, iPadOS. The two devices can now fully sync with one another just by pairing them in the Bluetooth settings. To get started, make sure your DualShock 4 is charged, then head into the settings menu of your iPad and select Bluetooth. Press and hold the PlayStation and Share buttons on your controller until the LED on the back of the device begins to double-blink white light. Your controller will appear in the “Available Devices” menu, and a simple tap is all it takes to complete pairing.

While you can’t use your DualShock 4 to move around the actual system settings of your iPad, once you jump into a game that supports controllers, you’ll find the two work without any additional settings menus needed. We jumped into Oceanhorn 2, one of the Apple Arcade launch titles, to try out controller support for the Zelda-like game. When we originally played the title without a controller synced, the display was gave us all the buttons and actions necessary to move around the screen. But with the DualShock 4 paired, all of those action buttons disappeared, leaving us with a wide expansive display to play on.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that not every game has built-in controller support—even in Apple Arcade. What the Golf? is one of our favorites from the Apple Arcade launch, but as a game that is so reliant on touch controls, trying to use a controller with it simply doesn’t do anything. Thankfully, controller.wtf has put together an incredibly long list detailing hundreds of games that support MFi controllers, and with iOS 13, that support now extends to the DualShock 4 as well. You can view a full list of highlights here, or use the search box to see if a game you like is supported by the DualShock 4.

What If I Don’t Have a DualShock 4?

Though the black version is often on sale for $39.99, the DualShock 4 is not a cheap controller, and if you’d rather not shell out that up to $65 for mobile gaming, there are alternatives you can pick up today. You’ll just need to make sure the controller you pick has the MFi (Made for iPhone) branding and you’ll be good to go.

If you can spare around $30, it’s easy to pick one up. We recommend the SteelSeries Nimbus, since it’s got a great battery life and is designed to work with all iOS devices around, including your iPad. 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 any iOS device you have around, 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 DualShock 4 controller,  complete with an identical thumbstick layout. The device uses Lightning to charge too, 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 two major downsides to the Nimbus? 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, at full price, it’s a bit expensive, coming in at a console-standard $49.99, though you can pick up refurbished models for half that price.

There’s other MFi controllers as well, including the GameSir lineup, the Bounabay Grip for iPhone, and many more. Just make sure you check the reviews for buying into a device; you’ll want to ensure it’s MFi compatible and works for the game you want to play.

Can I Play PS4 Games on My iPad?

Mobile games are great, but what if you could replicate the experience of having a Nintendo Switch with your PS4 and iPad? If you’re looking to stream PS4 games to your iPad, you’re in luck. The new PS4 Remote Play app for iOS allows you to do just that, and though it normally has virtual controls, using a small hack discovered by ResetEra user Skyfireblaze, you can actually use your DualShock 4 with your Remote Play. You can use Remote Play for an off-TV experience by making a second user on your PS4, then using the second user account to connect to Remote Play. After that, you can log into your normal account using your Dualshock 4 and can watch the gameplay right on your phone or tablet.

Of course, make sure you know the limitations of Remote Play on iOS. Though not absolutely required, for a good experience, you’ll need an iPhone 7 or higher, as well as a sixth-generation iPad or higher, to run the app efficiently. That said, we tested the app on slightly older hardware, and found that, as long as your internet is fast enough, it will run on your device. If you’re having trouble streaming your titles, you might want to dive into the settings menu, accessible from the start screen. There, you can adjust the video quality for remote play, choosing both resolution and frame rates.

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Considering the DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers we’ve seen in the 2000s, it’s unsurprising that people would want to use the device as their main controller on other platforms. Whether you’re looking for a controller for your new iPad, or you happen to have some extra DualShocks lying around the house for your friends to use when they come over for multiplayer games, using your PlayStation 4 controllers on your iPad is a natural thing to try out on your device. And thankfully, with iOS 13 and iPadOS, you can finally make that dream a reality.

One thought on “How To Use a PS4 Controller on the iPad”

rachel rush says:
Hi, thanks for the article! Do you know how well this app runs on an ipad pro first gen? I have scoured the internet and not found a thing!
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