How To Use a PS4 Controller on the iPad
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. So, is it possible to use with your iPad? It’s a bit more complicated than just yes or no—let’s find out why.
Update: At WWDC 2019, Apple announced that support for both DualShock 4 controllers and Xbox One controllers will come to iOS 13 and tvOS this fall. When those versions launch, we’ll return to this article to detail how to connect your DualShock 4 with your iPad using Apple’s own method. Until then, the original article follows.
A Match Made in Heaven?
To start, it’s absolutely possible to sync your DualShock 4 with your iPad, even without any modifications. As you might expect, the problem comes when you begin attempting to use the controller for games. Though the devices may be paired together, they won’t work together on a standard iPad. Apple does support game controllers on their phones and tablets, and has done so since iOS 7 released to the public in 2013, but just because the support is there doesn’t mean every gaming controller works with your iPad.
Don’t stop reading yet, though. After we explain why the DualShock 4 doesn’t work natively with your iPad, we promise to provide a couple solutions for those who are dying to use their PS4 controller with their iPad. You haven’t run out of luck just yet.
The Made For iPhone Program
If you’ve bought into the iOS ecosystem, one of the main reasons you did so—outside of iMessage—was likely the simplicity and ease of use when it comes to grabbing accessories for your devices. Apple makes some of the most popular technology in the world, which makes it incredibly easy to pick up cases and other supplementary products at almost any store. Part of this comes from the Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod program, which has been around since the 2000s and continues to be popular to this day. MFi products are guaranteed to work with iOS devices, and are granted a badge of honor from Apple when enrolled in the program.
Though iOS added support for controllers in 2013, they require the controller to be MFi-certified, or to be a blank-slate Bluetooth controller. The DualShock 4 is neither of these things. Despite supporting Bluetooth, you do need some form of software support to detect the controller, and not just on iOS. Even on Windows, gamers looking to use the DualShock 4 will need to either sync their controller with Steam (which now supports the DualShock 4 natively) or use a program like DS4Windows, which allows the operating system to pick up on the inputs from the controller. Just like on Windows, iOS requires a piece of software to pick up on the inputs from your controller, and unfortunately, the only way to install this software is by jailbreaking your iPad.
Using Your DualShock 4 Controller on a Jailbroken iPad
If your iPad is jailbroken, you can install an application to turn your DualShock 4 controller into something than a Bluetooth device that does nothing while connected. That app, Controllers for All, is available on the Cydia Jailbreak App Store for download, and if you’ve already jailbroken your device, you can grab that app here.
Jailbreaking in 2019 is, unfortunately, not easy, especially if you’re running iOS 12. With Apple constantly working to keep their system secure and safe from those trying to hack into the system, it’s become harder than ever to jailbreak devices. If you already have your iPad jailbroken, it’s as easy as pairing the DualShock 4 by putting it into pair mode (hold Options and the PS button) then pairing within your Bluetooth settings menu. Add the controller from the Controllers for All app, and you should be able to trick iOS into recognizing your inputs.
Of course, if you haven’t yet jailbroken your device, we recommend not doing so, mainly for security reasons. Jailbreaking leaves your device on older software, opens the chances of you landing in trouble when running certain apps. Generally speaking, we always recommend staying secure rather than opening your device up to insecurities, especially if you’re new to the jailbreaking scene.
What If I’m Not Jailbroken?
You’re about to be really bummed out. Unfortunately, there’s really no way to get a DualShock 4 to work with your iPad outside of jailbreaking, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck on controller support on iOS. Like we mentioned, there are plenty of MFi controllers on the market today—we’ll highlight our favorite in a moment—but if you’re looking to use your PS4 controller on your iPad without jailbreaking it, you’re pretty much out of luck.
DualShock 4 Alternatives
If you can spare around $30, picking up an MFi controller is by far the easiest way to go. 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 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 $4 9.99, 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.
Using PS4 Remote Play
This won’t help you play Fortnite on your iPad Pro, but 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.
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 while it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t just work right out of the box, the good news is that it’s at the very least possible, if unlikely to do.
Between MFi controllers, PS4 Remote Play, and jailbroken iOS devices, using a controller with your iPad is absolutely possible. It might just take some extra work to get there.