iPhone 12 will lose out on Xbox Game Pass — here's why

Xbox Game Pass iPhone 12
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has pulled its testing of Project xCloud on iOS due to Apple’s restrictive App Store policies, reports The Verge. But it’s full steam ahead for the Xbox game streaming service on Android. 

Project xCloud had been undergoing very limited testing on iOS through the beta Xbox Game Streaming app, which only allowed Halo: The Master Chief Collection to be streamed on iPhones and iPads. On Android, a whole slew of games is available to test as part of the beta. 

Other streaming services such as Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now have seemingly had trouble making it onto iOS, and now it's become clear why. Speaking to Business Insider, Apple claims that game streaming services such as Xbox Game Pass go against the App Store policies since Apple can't individually review each title that comes to them. 

"Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers," an Apple spokesperson told Business Insider.

Apple’s notorious for having a "walled garden" approach with its software ecosystem, with it being pretty strict with what’s allowed into the App Store. While Apple Arcade is Cupertino’s game service, giving access to exclusive iOS mobile games for a monthly subscription, it doesn’t have its own game streaming service. So it’s a little odd that other game streaming services seem blocked from the App Store. Streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix don't appear to get the same scrutiny on iOS, which makes Apple's statement seem a little odd.

Because of these restrictions, the iPhone 12 won't to be able to stream Xbox games once it arrives later this year. That makes the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which have xCloud optimizations and come with three months of Xbox Game Pass access for free, more compelling options for gaming fans over Apple’s upcoming smartphone. 

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Android's big Xbox Game Pass advantage

(Image credit: Samsung)

Come September 15, all modern Android phones will be able to access Xbox Game Pass and get xCloud game streaming, effectively giving them one rather large ace in the hole over iPhones. 

Microsoft has committed to bringing all of its first-party games to Xbox Game Pass, and a $15-per-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription allows you to play them across the Xbox One, Windows 10 PCs, and soon via Xbox Series X and the cloud. That means you’ll be able to start a game of Halo Infinite on your Xbox Series X and pick up where you left off when you're on the go on your Android phone. 

And speaking of the Xbox Series X, this partnership will likely give you access to a few years worth of next-generation games without ever having to pick up an expensive new console. That’s one heck of a compelling reason to get a phone such as the Galaxy S20, OnePlus Nord, or Pixel 4a over an iPhone. 

Given the vast amount of Android phones in the world, Microsoft has a huge audience to target with Xbox Game Pass. And since you don't need an Xbox One or Xbox Series X to access Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft is set to make its next-generation of games success even if it doesn’t actually sell many units of the Xbox Series X compared to Sony’s PS5

It's understandable why Apple might want to keep iOS gamers drawn towards Apple Arcade, which gets you more than 100 high-quality iPhone, iPad and Mac games for just $5 a month. But while Arcade has some great titles that include Grindstone, Sayonara Wild Hearts and What the Golf, they don't quite carry the big AAA name recognition of Game Pass games such as Halo, Gears and Forza. 

In short, it’s a pretty exciting time to be an Xbox fan and an Android user. And the pressure is on Apple to either step up its Apple Arcade offerings or embrace Xbox streaming for its huge install base on iOS. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

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.