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Apple arcade: iOS game controllers, compared

Thinking about buttoning up your iPhone or iPad? iOS 7 game controllers are finally here, and we've reviewed them. Figure out which one, if any, is best for you.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read
Scott Stein/CNET

Whether or not you want them, iOS game controllers have arrived. What do they do? Unlike previous novelties such as the iCade, MFi game controllers are specifically made for iOS 7 according to specifications provided by Apple, and work with a growing list of compatible games that tap into that MFi controller spec, so all future accessories can work.

Great iOS controller-ready games (pictures)

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That's the plan, but in practice, there are still lots of games that haven't updated to take advantage of these controllers. And the controllers themselves come in a variety of flavors: some connect directly with an iPhone or iPod Touch via Lightning, and others work wirelessly via Bluetooth. Some have a limited number of buttons, and others have a more extended set of analog sticks and triggers that match what you'd find on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.

These controllers are also expensive: at $79.99 to $99.99, they're hardly disposable novelties. But, for the games they work with, they offer better control than just using a touch screen. It's early, early days for iOS controllers, and more are certain to arrive soon, but for now here's our review roundup. We'll update this as more controllers become available.

Sarah Tew/CNET

SteelSeries Stratus ($79.99)
The Stratus is the first Bluetooth MFi controller, meaning it'll work wirelessly with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch (but only recent models that are Lightning-compatible) to deliver a full set of game console-like controls, like dual analog sticks, two sets of shoulder/trigger buttons, and a d-pad. All the buttons are analog and pressure-sensitive, and the controller feels comfortable and portable, but it's tiny. A full charge via Micro-USB keeps the Stratus going for up to 10 hours.
Read the full review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Moga Ace Power ($99.99)
The first iOS 7 game controller to hit the market last November adds a full set of analog pads, a d-pad, buttons, and triggers and shoulder buttons to a split-apart case that slips over an iPhone 5/5S, fifth-gen iPod Touch, or iPhone 5C. The plastic construction sometimes feels cheap, but a built-in battery pack and comfy button layout makes the Ace Power a solid pick for iPhone gamers desperate for all the extra buttons they can handle...but it mutates your little iPhone into something with the bulk of an Atari Lynx. Read the full review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Logitech Powershell Controller + Battery ($99.99)
Logitech's first iOS 7 game controller case only works with the iPhone 5/5S and fifth-gen iPod Touch, and it has a "standard" set of buttons versus the "extended" layout of the Moga and SteelSeries pads. That means just a d-pad, four face buttons, and two top shoulder buttons, with no dual analog sticks or extra triggers. Still, all the buttons are pressure-sensitive, the buttons are responsive, and a battery pack offers some extra recharging. Don't expect anything like a Mophie, though. Read the full review.