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Forget Apple Arcade — this is the best gaming experience on iPhone now

Xbox Game Pass on iPhone 13 Pro
(Image credit: Future)

When Tom’s Guide first tried Xbox Cloud Gaming on iOS, senior editor Marshall Honorof was left thoroughly unimpressed, describing the whole experience as mediocre

But news that Microsoft has improved Xbox Cloud Gaming on iPhone and iPad by reducing input latency and optimizing video output and network data transmission, drew me to give the game streaming service a go on my iPhone 13 Pro

I’ve tried Xbox Cloud Gaming on Android via the Xbox Game Pass app and on an Xbox One X. And I've been impressed by both, though not blown away by the former; however, that could have been done to the 5G reception in my apartment. So I was in two minds as to how the iOS experience might fare. 

So on a sunny afternoon I popped out to the little green patch of East London I occupy, iPhone and Xbox Wireless Controller in my hands and a 5G connection on tap. And I was impressed. 

First off, it’s worth noting that Xbox Cloud Gaming isn’t enabled in the iOS Xbox Game Pass app. Rather you need go to xbox.com/play, ideally in the Safari browser, then log into your Game Pass Ultimate subscription. After that you’ll be prompted to put a form of bookmark on your iOS home screen. But while it’s a Safari bookmark, it looks like the streaming section of the Xbox Game Pass app and does a very good impression of being an app. 

After a few taps I had loaded up Frostpunk, which has console controls translated retroactively added to it and reworked for a touchscreen. While playing a strategy game on a relatively small screen with touch controls isn't ideal, the streaming performance was suitably impressive without much lag. 

Xbox Game Pass on iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

I then connected my Xbox Wireless Controller to the iPhone 13 Pro using Bluetooth, which was dead easy, and was immediately picked up by the Xbox Cloud Gaming app-not-app. From there I booted up Halo Infinite, which Microsoft has enabled for cloud streaming.

I wasn’t hopeful that it would run well, but I was lowkey blown away. 

While it was never going to look as good as it does on my 4K LG C1 OLED, given the streaming quality is limited at 1080p, it still looked pretty impressive. There was a good deal of clarity and detail, plus the solid OLED display on the iPhone 13 Pro certainly helped with the colors and contrast.

Xbox Game Pass on iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

And I was expecting latency to be a major problem, but was very impressed with how smooth the experience was. I do feel the nippy 5G connection facilitated by being outside in the open did some of the heavy lifting. But playing one of the best Xbox Series X games while sitting outside on a log in the sun, was seriously impressive.

As a final quick test I decided to give Forza Horizon 5 a spin. Now this is one of the most graphically sumptuous Xbox Series X games around, so understandably there was a little more latency when it came to accurately modulating the acceleration and braking, as well as handling subtle steering changes. 

Xbox Game Pass on iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

But again, the idea of playing one of the most gorgeous looking games that could challenge some of the best gaming PCs and best gaming laptops, on a phone feels magical at times.

So in conclusion, if you’re on the fence about getting Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — and do bear in mind the subscription can often be found at a serious discount — and Xbox Cloud Streaming on iOS 15, now’s the time to give it a spin.

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.