Who among us does not have an old smartphone in a drawer? At a modest cost, this phone can be turned into a great portable Xbox console that lets you play hundreds of games without the need for a full-fledged Xbox.
Here’s how to turn an old phone into a portable Xbox console that costs a fraction of the price of a Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch.
What will you need
- iPhone or Android smartphone with USB-C connection
- Dedicated controller – I recommend the Razer Kishi V2, which has iPhone and Android versions, but see below for more information on controllers.
- A subscription to the console version of Microsoft Game Pass, which costs $9.99 per month.
How it works
With a controller like the Razer Kishi V2 (pictured above), the phone slides between the two sides of the controller. The Kishi has almost every button you’ll find on a standard Xbox controller, including triggers and shoulder buttons. The only thing missing is tactile feedback.
By the way, there’s nothing stopping you from using your current phone for this project. The phone slides in and out of the Kishi controller easily, allowing you to use your phone normally when you’re done playing.
However, I prefer to use an old phone for several reasons. Firstly, this means that a phone call cannot interrupt your gaming session, especially if you are playing an online game. This means you don’t drain your main phone’s battery with a long gaming session. And that means you don’t have to put the controller and phone case on and off all the time. But if you don’t have an old/compatible smartphone, your current phone can do it too.
If you are using an old phone, I suggest that you reset your phone to factory settings and start over so you don’t have app notifications and other things that have been slowing down your phone. After updating your phone, install the Xbox Game Pass app from the iPhone App Store or Google Play Store.
Once you install the app and sign up for an Xbox Game Pass account, you can stream any of the hundreds of Xbox games available for cloud gaming. There is a huge selection of games available, from Fortnite to Forza Horizon 5, from Halo Infinite to High on Life, from Disney Dreamlight Valley to Dishonored 2. There really is something for everyone, though some games might work better on a smaller PDA. screen than others. I will return to this later.
For optimal streaming performance, connect over Wi-Fi rather than a cellular network. If you have a choice on your network, connect to the 5GHz or 6GHz Wi-Fi band for the best performance. If you need to connect to a cellular network, you’ll probably need a 5G connection or a strong 4G connection to get reproducible performance.
I’ve been streaming games for hours this week on my old Samsung Galaxy M31 phone and it’s been an almost flawless experience. Okay, you don’t have the offline play options that Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch gives you, but you also don’t have the big upfront hardware costs, and the range of games available to stream is huge. Trust me, you won’t be bored.
The Razer Kishi V2 ($99) is a great controller. It’s comfortable to hold, holds the phone securely, and the triggers are especially well weighted for a mobile controller. Note that there is a USB-C connector at the bottom of the right controller if you need to charge your phone’s battery while playing, though it doesn’t have enough pass-through power to fast charge on my phone, which is disappointing.
However, there are other options. The Backbone One has a very similar design to the Razer Kishi, and this controller includes a headphone jack, which means you don’t rely on (sometimes slow) Bluetooth headphones if you don’t want to annoy others with gaming noise. telephone.
In addition, you can connect almost any wireless game controller to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. The latest Xbox and PlayStation controllers are Bluetooth compatible, and you can buy a cheap clip for the top of the controller so you can mount your phone on it, like this one from Orzly. I’ve tried this approach before and didn’t find it extremely satisfying, but your mileage may vary. And it’s much cheaper than buying a dedicated mobile controller.
What Xbox games work well on mobile devices?
Console games are mostly designed for the big screen, and not all games translate brilliantly to the much smaller mobile screen.
For example, first-person shooters like Fortnite, where you might have to shoot at a small target from a distance, are often difficult to play on portable devices. Not to mention, cloud streaming can introduce additional latency, which isn’t ideal for competitive online shooters.
In my experience, games that work well on handhelds are more laid back games like the turn-based RPG Chained Echoes or Stardew Valley, or the brilliantly original adventure game As Dusk Falls.
This does not mean that action games cannot run on mobile devices. For example, I’ve had a lot of fun on the tracks in Forza, but I prefer these games on the big screen.