iOS 15 is giving the iPhone a big gaming boost — here's how

iOS 15 virtual controller
(Image credit: Apple)

Update: Apple could be developing its own gaming controller, making iPhone gaming even better

If you're an iPhone or iPad gamer, then you'll be excited to know Apple's been working on a unified on-screen gamepad for iOS 15 to make your experience even better.

Apple announced virtual game controls during a "Tap into virtual and physical game controllers" presentation at WWDC (via MacRumors) for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. Combined with the excellent titles available on Apple Arcade and the rest of the App Store, it could make iDevices the premier choice for mobile gamers. Unless you're a Fortnite fan, that is.

The virtual joystick comes with its own API (a software module that developers can use to help its app interact with another piece of software) for both OSes, which means even small or inexperienced developer teams will be able to make use of this feature.

The on-screen controls can be customized, too, with the two halves able to independently support a joy-stick, touchpad or d-pad, and up to four buttons each. These buttons can be adjusted to feature different colors and glyphs, but are made to still fit the look of iOS. Apple says the controls also support haptic feedback for a more immersive experience.

Beyond the virtual controller, Apple's also adding support for the PS5 DualSense controller's adaptive triggers. It's brilliant news for any lucky PS5 owners who want to use the controller for mobile gaming as well as for Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Bugsnax etc.

According to Nat Brown, part of Apple's Game Technologies Engineering team, the controls are "carefully tuned for grip locations across hand sizes and for a great responsiveness and feel." Hopefully that'll mean these controls will work great, whether you're playing on an iPhone 12 mini, an iPhone 12 Pro Max, or the rumored iPhone 13 lineup.

iOS 15 won't be available until the fall, likely at the same time the iPhone 13 launches, which has been pegged as September by various rumors. If you want to try out the developer beta now you can, but it's highly recommended you use a spare iPhone or iPad to download it. That same advice applies to the public beta of iOS 15 coming this July. 

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.