While the portability of mobile phones makes gaming convenient, it isn't a perfect playing experience. With touch controls, small screens, and limited specs, smartphones lack the comfortability of dedicated gaming devices. But with a few tips, you can enjoy games as if you were playing on the Nintendo Switch.
With a few accessories and software features, you can transform your mobile gaming experience to one on par with the Nintendo Switch. With the explosion of smartphones and mobile gaming, OEMs and third-party manufacturers have created tools to improve the gaming experience. With these tips, gaming on your iPhone or Android can have you questioning if you ever need to purchase another console.
One of the easiest ways to improving the mobile gaming experience is with a quality controller. As mobile gaming continues to enter the realm of competitive gaming, touch screen controls won't cut it. On the hierarchy of input controllers, touch screen controls are near the bottom, far behind controllers or a mouse and keyboard.
Thankfully, our smartphones can connect to controllers. Whether via Bluetooth or a wired connection (using the data port), you can enjoy gaming with the precision and accuracy of a controller.
However, controllers aren't perfect. Not all mobile games include native support, rendering your controller useless (a perfect example of this is PUBG Mobile). As of late, this has been changing as mobile gaming starts to enter the e-sports world, but be aware that unlike say an Xbox, not every game will work with a controller.
There are a few on the market that get the job done, depending on your preferred style. One choice is Gamevice, which extends the controller on either side of your phone in landscape. The company makes specific models for the latest Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel models. And for those who don't use those phones, you can also get Bounabay's version which works with any smartphone between 3.5–6.4 inches and has a thickness up to 0.36 inches.
However, we prefer a standalone gaming controller. With a controller such as the Razer Raiju Mobile, you get as more buttons than the Xbox or PS4 controller. With the app, you can remap any button to your liking. And it works either with Bluetooth or via a wired connection (for lower latency).
If you have an Xbox One or PS4, you can save yourself some money by connecting them to your phone. Android users will have no problem connecting, but for iPhones, you'll need some patience. Apple added the feature in iOS 13 which, at the time of this writing, is still in beta. Do note that for Xbox, you will need the newer version of the controller, as it's the only version with Bluetooth.
Will the portability of smartphones, you usually will play games on the go. But what about when you're at home? Why limit yourself to the small screen when you can take advantage of the bigger television screen you're probably sitting in front of. Thanks to AirPlay and Chromecast, you can mirror your display to your television. Once mirrored, you can control your game as if you were playing on a console.
To try this, you need only an AirPlay 2-compatible smart TV or Apple TV (for iPhones), or a Chromecast built-in television, dongle, or set-top box (for Android).
Some great choices here are the Vizo V-Series, M-Series Quantum, P-Series Quantum, and P-Series Quantum X. These TVs are both AirPlay 2-compatible and Chromecast built-in, making them perfect for whatever side of the fence you are.
Another possibility is a standalone box or device. Instead of changing your television, you can upgrade it to include smart features. For Apple, you will need an Apple TV. We recommend getting at least an Apple TV HD, as it is compatible with both AirPlay and AirPlay 2. For Android, things get a bit cheap. All you need is a Chromecast Ultra to get started.
Android users could also get the Nvidia Shield, which runs Android TV. For about $100 more, you can play mobile games on your television without needing your phone. And with cloud saving, you can even play off of the same save file from your phone. Now your phone can rest, cooling down the GPU and using less battery. So when you decide to leave the house again, you can game again with no hiccups. And it also comes with Chromecast built-in for games without a dedicated app.
Sound is just as important as the visuals of games. Audio is a critical component of immersion, as a good soundtrack invokes emotion while playing. Sound also can give you an edge in gaming. Listening for footsteps or the different sounds made by different guns is a common strategy in competitive online gaming.
Phone speakers don't cut it. Not only are they are too quiet, but you can't use them everywhere (such as in a public place). For this reason, for gaming, you want a great pair of wireless headphones.
Wireless headphones offer better audio quality than your speakers and allow you to move your physical body without the hassle of cords. As you travel along your commute, cables can get caught in various places, resulting in your dropping your phone. Wireless headphones remove this risk. Headphones such as Skullcandy Crusher Wireless also come with a built-in microphone so you can coordinate your teammates during a fierce battle.
Probably the single best investment you can make is the purchase of a gaming phone. This subgroup of smartphones has specific features designed to improve gaming.
For example, the Razer Phone 2 has a 120 Hz refresh rate (double the standard screen), which allows for smoother gaming. The ASUS ROG Phone II and ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3 have pressure-sensitive areas that act as buttons (known as shoulder buttons) for easier access to on-screen controls. Usually, these phones will also improve cooling, come with a place to rest your thumb, and offer accessories to enhance the gaming experience.
At the time of this writing, the best gaming phone available is the ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3. For under $500, you get a phone with a 5,000 mAh battery, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, shoulder buttons, 90 Hz AMOLED display, and front-facing stereo speakers. Another great option is the Razer Phone 2, which has 120 Hz LCD panel and one of the best stereo speakers on the market. Soon, however, the ROG Phone II may usurp them both, but it won't be released until this fall.
- Don't Miss: The 5 Best Phones for Mobile Gaming in 2019
When it comes to gaming, any hiccups can be the difference between victory and anguishing defeat. One place where hiccups can occur is your internet connection. While you have the option to use 4G LTE data, we would strongly recommend against it due to its high latency (that should change with 5G).
So just use Wi-Fi, right? Wrong. Not all Wi-Fi is created equal. IEEE, the entity behind LAN protocols, has created several standards for Wi-Fi. Currently, the fastest standard that is also widely available is 802.11ac, which is also the highest protocol your smartphone supports. To take advantage of 802.11ac, you need a compatible router. A great option is the ASUS AC1900.
If you happen to own a Samsung Galaxy S10, S10+, or S10e and want the very best, you can opt for an 802.11ax router. Also known as Wi-Fi 6, this is even faster than 802.11ac and offers a reliable connection for less latency.
No matter which standard you use, connect using the 5 GHz signal and not the 2.4 GHz. 5 GHz has a shorter range but has much more bandwidth than 2.4 GHz. For example, the ASUS AC1900 supports 1.3 Mbps on its 5 GHz band, but only 600 Mbps on its 2.4 GHz network.
That said, the very best option is a wired connection. By taking advantage of your phone's support for USB OTG (not all phones supports this) and using a device such as the Anker Ethernet Portable Network Hub, you can connect your phone directly into your router or switch for lag-free performance. iPhone users can also take advantage of this feature using a Lightning to RJ45 Ethernet adapter.
While mobile games are great, there are thousands of games you can also take advantage of outside the App Store and Play Store. I'm talking about PC games that you can stream to your phone.
Now I know you're thinking, is my phone powerful to play PC games? No, but it doesn't need to be. With apps like Steam Link and AMD Link, your PC does the heavy lifting.
The actual processing takes place on your computer, then it remotely streams its display to your phone where you can control them game using the touch screen or a controller. While AMD Link is limited to your home network, Steam Link lets Android users play on the go, wherever they are. Ideally, you still want to use Wi-Fi, but with a strong enough connection, you can play thousands of Steam games miles away from your computer.
- More Info: How To Stream PC Games to Your Phone Using AMD Link
- More Info: How To Play Your Steam Library Anywhere
Probably one of the hottest apps for gamers is Discord, a messaging platform that allows you to communicate with your online friends. Using a new feature known as Game Detection, Discord can inform your friends what games you are playing.
This way, instead of having to tell them, they can jump in the same game with you, and you can play together. And for most games, playing together improves the overall experience.
Various Android OEMs have added a Game Mode option that reconfigures the phone whenever it detects you are playing a game. Each OEM implements this mode differently, but common features include the ability to block notifications during games, boost RAM for better performance, disable auto-brightness, and answer calls using the loudspeaker. These modes are designed to help maximize your gaming experience without the distractions of using a smartphone.
Mobile gaming is a battery-intensive activity. Between the long hours of your display being on, constant use of a data connection, and heavy use of RAM, GPU, and CPU, your phone's battery can drain in no time. But gaming shouldn't be limited to a few hours. You should be able to game all day if you want, only stopping when your eyes get tired. That's where a battery pack comes in.
With a battery pack, you can recharge your phone multiple times when you are away from the charger. Ideally, you want to get one which supports fast charging for your phone, which for both sides of the aisle means USB Power Delivery (PD). All Quick Charge 4.0 devices and new Apple devices support USB Power Delivery, letting you charge your battery as quickly as possible. Power banks such as the Aukey 20000 mAh Power Bank will let you charge multiple times during the day. However, for more serious gamers, look into getting the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD. It is capable of 27 W via PD, so you'll charge your phone in no time.
With these few tips, you can improve your mobile gaming experience no matter what games you play. Whether you're enjoying the AR world of Hogwarts in Wizards Unite or playing more competitive games such as Fortnite and Arena of Valor, these tips will help you enjoy the experience more. Each of these tips by themselves will make a huge difference, but together, you will question if you need to game on anything else.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' special coverage on mobile gaming. Check out the whole Gaming series.