iOS 18 Game Mode: What is it and how does it work?

WWDC 2024
(Image credit: Apple)

Typically, iPhone features find their way to other Apple platforms. But during Apple’s WWDC 2024 keynote, the company announced a reversal in that direction, with a feature previously found on MacOS Sonoma winding up on the iPhone. Apple's Game Mode is coming via this fall's iOS 18 update.

Apple only made brief mention of Game Mode, which felt overshadowed by the other iOS 18 features and Apple Intelligence rollout announced at WWDC. And that's a shame, since Game Mode figures to be a welcome arrival on the iPhone, whether you try it out in the fall or before then with the iOS 18 public beta expected by July.

To put it briefly, Apple's Game Mode is designed to give you the best experience when running games on your phone. But how well that work? 

Looking at Game Mode on the Mac gives us some clue. The Mac version of this feature gives the game you're playing the highest priority access to the CPU and GPU, reducing background activity. The approach should be the same with the iPhone and its system-on-chip.

On top of this. Game Mode doubles the Bluetooth Sampling rate, which reduces the input latency and audio latency for any wireless accessory such as game controllers or Apple AirPods. Again, we'd assume that the feature will work the same on the iPhone as it does on the Mac.

WWDC 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

When you activate Game Mode, your games should run smoother for longer, controllers will be more responsive, and the sound on your headphones will get a boost. So what's the downside? Any background activity will take longer or stop altogether, so don’t expect to do any major downloading while playing. Thankfully, Game Mode has to be turned on, so you can choose when it takes effect.

Game Mode's inclusion on iPhones will especially benefit those who recently decided to check out the Apple Arcade subscription game streaming service. Alternatively, Game Mode will make it easier than ever to stream Xbox games on the Game Pass app at a similar quality to the consoles, even on older devices.

Overall, WWDC 2024 offered a surprising focus on gaming. with mentions that both Assassins Creed Mirage and Assassins Creed Shadows will be playable on Macs and iPads. While the iPhone didn't get quite the same gaming focus, there's no doubt that Game Mode could help Apple's phones, including the upcoming iPhone 16, score high in our best gaming phones list.

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.