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Play games on your iPhone, iPad and Apple TV using Xbox and PS4 wireless controllers

Just in time for Apple Arcade, the iOS 13 update lets you use a real game controller on your Apple device.

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Apple added support for both Xbox and PlayStation 4 wireless controllers to iOS 13, iPadOS 13 and tvOS 13.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple Arcade brings 100 games that you can play on your iPhone ($699 at Apple), iPad ($329 at Amazon) and Apple TV ($169 at Walmart). But tapping and dragging on a glass display isn't always the most satisfying way to play games like Shinsekai Into the Depths or Sneaky Sasquatch -- using a wireless controller is a million times better. Luckily, iOS 13, iPadOS 13 and TVOS 13, add support Sony's DualShock 4 and Xbox One S ($176 at Amazon) wireless controllers, which means that you'll be able to use them to play scores of games on your Apple device.

Apple made the process to connect your controller to an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV simple and easy. PS4 and Xbox One controllers should work with most games. There's no word whether Apple will bring support for the Nintendo Switch ($299 at Walmart) Pro wireless controller like it did for PS4 and Xbox One controllers. 

One interesting detail is that you can connect multiple wireless controllers to a single device. I was able to connect and Xbox One S controller and a PS4 one with my iPhone at the same time. However, games that take advantage of local multiple player gameplay are sparse.

Check out our video below to follow step-by-step through the pairing and setup of an Xbox One or PS4 controller to your iPhone, iPad or AppleTV.

Connect a PS4 controller to your iPhone, iPad, Apple TV

Let's start with the PS4 controllers. The first thing you want to do is to make sure your controller is all charged up. Next on an iPhone, iPod Touch ($219 at Walmart) or iPad go to Settings then Bluetooth. On an AppleTV go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth.

Once there, hold the PlayStation button on and share button at the same time on your controller. You'll see DualShock 4 Wireless Controller pop up in your Bluetooth list. Simply tap on it to connect. Once you're connected, the PS4 controller will turn pink.

If you don't see the controller appear, make sure that you're out of range of your PS4.

Xbox One S and newer controllers work with your iPhone

Now let's pair an Xbox One controller. Here's where things get, to quote Gollum from Lord Of The Rings, "Tricksy." Not all Xbox One controllers will work with your iPhone, iPad or AppleTV. Specifically, you need a model 1708 controller, aka the one that came with the Xbox One S. Newer Xbox One and One X controllers as well as the new Elite Series 2 controller should also work. 

To check which model you have, open the battery compartment on your controller and pull out the batteries. On the label inside you'll see the model number listed right below Redmond, Washington. If you have trouble seeing the tiny number, use your phone's camera and flash to take a photo and zoom in after the fact.

To pair your Xbox 1708 controller, open Bluetooth settings on your Apple device. Next, turn the controller on by pressing the Xbox logo button, then press the Connect button at the top/front of the controller. You'll see the Xbox logo blink quickly, indicating that it's in pairing mode.

Check your Apple device Bluetooth list and tap on Xbox Wireless Controller to pair and connect. The controller should automatically be listed under devices already paired to your device. Occasionally when we tried it, a window would pop up to ask me if I wanted to pair the controller. If this happens, tap Pair.

Apple's support for PS4 and Xbox controllers is a smart move. Now let's hope it also adds the same support to the Mac sooner rather than later.

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