You can use an Xbox One without a controller but you won’t necessarily get all of the functionality out of it. You can control elements of your console, chat and share updates with an app, connect a standalone mouse and keyboard or use a third-party adapter to connect a mouse and keyboard.
You won’t be able to play many games and certainly not the faster or twitchier games unless you use that adapter. Neither the app or mouse and keyboard option is ideal but can work after a fashion. The adapter is the best option but is also expensive. If you don’t have your controller, it breaks and you’re waiting for a replacement to arrive or something else, you can Xbox One without a controller with one of these solutions.
Use the Xbox app
The Xbox app has been around a few years and is a viable way to control your Xbox One. You can chat to friends, look for groups in games, update your activity feed, watch videos and promos of games, buy games to be delivered to your Xbox and use it as a media controller for watching movies or TV.
The app and your Xbox will need to be on the same WiFi network but should find each other without a problem if they are.
Using the app to play games is much more limited. You can play basic games as the app can use the keyboard to control but it takes some getting used to and is nowhere near as exact as an Xbox controller. I think game support is limited so you would have to check before using it if you wanted to use it instead of a controller.
The app is available for Android and iPhone and works okay on each. The app does have a tendency to crash and error though so is far from perfect. It works better as an addition to an Xbox controller rather than a replacement for it.
Use a mouse and keyboard with Xbox One
PC gamers and Xbox One gamers are often prevented from playing the same matches as mouse and keyboard can give PC players an advantage. So what if you could use a mouse and keyboard with an Xbox One? You can after a fashion.
You can use a USB mouse and keyboard to navigate your Xbox One already. There is mouse support built into the console and keyboard shortcuts already configured. Only some games are compatible with this form of control though.
This page on the Xbox One support website tells you exactly what you currently can and cannot do with a mouse and keyboard on Xbox One. The page does not tell you what games currently support mouse and keyboard but I know Fortnite and War Thunder do as I tested them.
Use a third party dongle with Xbox One
There are a couple of good third party dongles that let you connect and use a mouse and keyboard to an Xbox One. They include the IM Apex and IOGEAR KeyMander. Both of these dongles translates mouse and keyboard input into the Xbox for use in games. This is the only viable way I know of right now to use an Xbox One without a controller to play games.
They aren’t cheap though. Both adapters are $99.99 and don’t include the mouse or keyboard.
These dongles connect to your Xbox via USB and the mouse and keyboard connect to the dongle. The dongle translates input from the mouse and keyboard into native Xbox language so it can be used for all of the control schemes you would typically use in a game. You can also create specific profiles so you can use your favorite shortcut keys or mouse buttons for specific commands within a game.
These dongles are very effective but are also expensive. They are more suited to gamers who prefer to use mouse and keyboard than an Xbox controller than as a stand-in while your replacement controller arrives. A replacement controller can cost less than $20 so there would be no point paying $99.99 for a dongle until it arrived unless you had it already.
With Google Stadia and the rumored arrival for Xbox games playable on PC, the console’s time is limited. So while there is life in the old box yet, I wouldn’t consider investing too heavily in any console hardware until we know whether these two technologies will make it redundant. If you’re addicted to your Xbox, you may feel differently and if your controller breaks, you now know all is not lost and you will still be able to use your console until a replacement arrives.