Connect PS5 and Xbox controllers to your iPhone and other Apple devices

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We’ll show you how to use your Xbox and PS5 controllers to play Apple App Store and Apple Arcade games on your iPhone and more.

Chris Parker / CNET

In April, Apple released a series of operating system updates that added support for Sony’s PS5 DualSense and Microsoft’s Xbox wireless controllers. This means that I can now connect the PS5 and Xbox controllers to my Apple TV, iPhone 12, iMac, and MacBook Pro. It will also work with the latest iPad Pro that I expect to receive later this month. And the good news: Setting up wireless console controllers to play games on Apple’s range of displays is incredibly easy to do.

A few months ago, I found out that a lot of Apple Arcade games aren’t that much fun to play with the Apple TV remote, so naturally I tried to figure out how to use my PS5 controller instead. The first thing I learned was that the PS5 DualSense controller was not compatible with the version of TVOS I had installed. I had to dig up my DualShock 4 controller, which was working fine.

But now with TVOS 14.5 I can now use both my DualSense controller and Xbox Wireless Controller for much smoother and more natural gameplay than using the Apple TV remote.

Before going any further, I recommend that you update the operating system on any of the devices that you plan to connect with the Xbox and PS5 controllers. Just look in your device’s settings for a Software update option.

It should also be noted that not all games are compatible with external controllers. Many games from the App Store, Apple Arcade, or other sources are designed to be used with traditional keyboard and mouse controls, or the touchscreen of a mobile device. But there are also titles that let you choose different controller options.

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Press and hold the PlayStation button and the Share button to enter discovery mode.

Chris Parker / CNET

First, put your Xbox or PS5 controller in discovery mode

When it comes to connecting a controller to your Apple device, Bluetooth will be your best friend. This means the first thing we need to learn how to put our controllers in discovery mode.

For the DualSense controller, with the power off, hold down the PlayStation and Share buttons for a few seconds until the lights around the touchpad flash.

For Xbox Wireless Controller, press and hold the Xbox button to turn it on, indicated by slow flashing. Then press the Pair on the front of the controller until the Xbox logo flashes.

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The pairing button is located near the USB-C port on the Xbox Wireless Controller

Chris Parker / CNET

To connect your controller to an iPhone or iPad …

iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 now support DualSense and Xbox controllers.

To connect your controller to your iPhone or iPad, go to Bluetooth settings.

When you put your controller into pairing mode, it will appear under Other devices. Select the controller and it will change to My devices when it is successfully connected.

You will undoubtedly find that some games are best played on the phone or on the tablet itself. However, if you want that controller experience, an iPad or keyboard cover would probably come in handy. There are also a number of companies that offer phone holder for both controllers, like the Orzly PS5 Controller mobile game clip.

Connect your controller to a Mac

When it comes to connecting to a desktop or laptop computer, you actually have several choices when connecting these controllers.

Both the DualSense and the Xbox controller have a USB-C port, so it’s easy to plug it in with a cable. The Mac should recognize the controller when it’s plugged in, but it can be difficult to notice it until you open a game that uses controllers.

The other choice for connecting controllers to your Mac is to use Bluetooth.

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The MacBook Pro showed me key prompts for the Xbox controller when using the DualSense

Chris Parker / CNET

Open the Bluetooth control panel in System Preferences, put the controller in pairing mode and select your controller.

When I use the Xbox controller, it first shows showing its MAC address. It looks like a strange string, like “44-16-22-de-9b-87”. But when I hit the Connect , the name becomes Xbox Wireless Controller.

When I connect my DualSense controller, my Mac does not identify it as a Sony device, but it connects without issue. I’ve noticed that sometimes a game gives me prompts that go with the Xbox controller, like the A and B buttons, but the DualSense still works great.

Connect the controller to Apple TV

Using a controller to play games on Apple TV lets you sit back and enjoy the big screen experience from a comfortable distance.

To pair a controller with Apple TV, go to Settings> Remotes and devices> Other devices> Bluetooth

Once you’re there, put the controller in discovery mode. It should appear on the list of available devices. Select it and when it’s ready it will show as connected. Play on!


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