How to use an Xbox Adaptive Controller on iOS 14

Example of an Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) set up with an iPad with peripherals connected for joysticks and button inputs. These peripherals include an XAC Flat Thumbstick from Evil Controllers, a Logitech Medium Switch and a Specs switch playing Sonic the Hedgehog Classic.
Example of an Xbox Adaptive Controller set up with an iPad using peripherals from Logitech, AbleNet and Evil Controllers for joysticks and button inputs to play Sonic the Hedgehog Classic.

The release of iOS 14 now enables the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) to be recognised as a compatible game controller. This means that game apps that include gamepad controller input as an alternative to touch, such as with an MFi (Made For iPhone/iPod/iPad), Dualshock 4 or Xbox Wireless gamepad controller, can now also be played using the XAC.

This post will talk through how to connect the XAC to your iOS 14 device.

Step 1. Turn on Bluetooth

Once your compatible iOS device has been updated to iOS 14 (go to Settings>General>Software Update to do this), open Settings, navigate to Bluetooth and turn On.

Screenshot highlighting the Settings app on iOS and a screenshot highlighting how to turn on Bluetooth within the Settings app on iOS.

Step 2. Turn on and sync your XAC

Turn on your XAC using the Guide button on the top of the controller (the button with an Xbox ‘X’ icon on it) and press the Sync button to the right of the Y switch port on the back of the XAC. The light on the XAC should flash rapidly and you should see Xbox Adaptive Controller listed in the Devices list on your iOS device:

Photos showing where the sync button is on the XAC and which light will illuminate when pressed.

Step 3. Pair your XAC

Select the discovered Xbox Adaptive Controller listed on your iOS device under Devices to pair it. Depending on your settings, you may need to enter your password to pair it and add it to My Devices.

Screenshot of the Bluetooth settings showing how to select the XAC and what it states when sucessfully connected.

Step 4. Set up your controls

Once paired, and if you haven’t already, plug in the combination of joysticks and buttons you require to play and open a compatible game. You should be able to play the game using the inputs on the XAC itself alongside your external joysticks and buttons connected to the XAC. Many games will require additional inputs alongside those found on the XAC itself, so joysticks and switches will need to be added for these. Different games will require different inputs. An online search may help to discover what these are, or you may need to install and open a game to find out.

Top down view of a potential set up using the XAC, Ultrastik joystick and buddy buttons to work with controller supported games.

Step 5. Finding compatible games

Apple now has the Apple Arcade, a subscription service which includes access to a range of games that support gamepad controllers. If you have Apple TV, the app can stream your game to your TV screen (when you have the necessary accessories) to enable a more relaxed or shared gaming experience, such as with console gaming. Games in the Apple Arcade which have controller support will have this listed on their page in the app store, both at the top of the page alongside other features and also further down in the ‘Supports’ section:

Screenshot highlighting where in the app information you can find whether a game is Controller Supported.

Outside of Apple Arcade there are paid for and free games which can be played using the XAC. However, the rest of the app store beyond Apple Arcade games doesn’t have a fixed way to list whether controller support is available for games. As a starting point, we’ve listed below some games we’ve found that do have controller support and included links (unaffiliated) to their pages on the App Store:

For more information as to what joysticks and buttons can be used with the XAC, see our posts about the XAC joysticks we use at SpecialEffect: https://gameaccess.info/how-to-use-joysticks-with-the-xbox-adaptive-controller/ and also the switches we use: https://gameaccess.info/how-to-use-switches-with-the-xbox-adaptive-controller/. 

If you have any questions, do contact us.