What You Need to Know About Game Controllers on Android

Get more control over your games in ways you never expected

SteelSeries Android video game controller

 SteelSeries

If you're a gamer, one of the big advantages Android has over iOS is more plentiful support for game controllers. While iOS has an official controller standard, most gamepads are expensive and support is often limited. But, on Android, controller support is much more widespread. Here's what you need to know about using game controllers on Google's operating system.

Android Controller Standards

One reason for this market dynamic is that official support for controllers was established in Android in version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. The support is so well-integrated you can control your phone or tablet by using a compatible controller.

There's no particular sanctioning body requiring that a controller works with Android, such as with Apple's Made for iPhone licensing. This means controllers can be cheaper, as anyone can make an Android-compatible controller.

Device Options

One of the cheapest iOS game controllers by MSRP is the $49.99 SteelSeries Stratus. You can buy many cheaper ones for Android. In fact, Android Bluetooth controllers work over the Human Interface Device protocol, so they can work with computers as well, though you may find compatibility a little suspect. Many Android Bluetooth controllers don't work with their analog joysticks on desktops. But still, you can generally expect them to work on Android.

If you have a wired Xbox 360 or Xinput-compatible controller, you can generally use it with your phone or tablet. For most Android devices, you need what's known as a USB host cable in order to plug a full-size USB-A plug into the micro-USB port on your phone or tablet. But many, if not all, of the best PC gaming controllers should work on Android if you have the right adapters.

Android's chaotic nature, where manufacturers often apply different tweaks and functions to the OS that Google didn't program, means any individual device may or may not work. But many devices that comport closely to Google's standards should work.

Devices for Other Platforms

Android's open nature means you can even use gamepads like the Wii remote, DualShock 3, and DualShock 4 with your Android phone or tablet.

If you have a DualShock 4, consider buying a smart clip so you can easily use your phone on top of the controller.

SteelSeries makes high-quality controllers, including the SteelSeries Stratus XL for Windows and Android. If you're a multi-platform gamer, this device might be worth checking out. Not only does it support Android, but it also supports Xinput on Windows, giving it widespread compatibility with controller-capable games there. The Stratus does not have a clip to hold it to a phone, so you need to use it with a tablet or TV box.

If you're looking for a good budget option, iPega makes several controllers that work well. They also have some exotic options, including ones with touchpads for mouse control on the controller. There's also a particularly rare option: a controller that actually supports a tablet and allows you to hold it in your hands instead of propped up on a table or hooked up to a TV. It may be a bit wide, but if you're used to the Wii U tablet controller, this should work fine for you.

Games Supporting Controllers

While there are hundreds of games that support controllers, including first-person shooters such as Dead Trigger 2, action-RPGs like Wayward Souls, and racing games like Riptide GP2, support is occasionally limited. Often times, mobile developers are focused on iOS and less aware of Android's capabilities.