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How to use an Xbox controller on Android devices

Got an Xbox controller laying around? Use it to take your mobile gaming to the next level!
July 19, 2021

Mobile gaming has become a unique genre of gaming all on its own. The types of mobile games available vary greatly, from generic puzzle games laden with ads to fun shooters based on classic game series. There are quite a few games you can play with a controller, making the experience so much better.

If you already own an Xbox controller, you can save money and not buy a separate controller for your mobile games. Here’s exactly how to use your Xbox controller on Android devices and enhance your gaming experience.

Which Xbox controllers can you use with Android devices?

You can use two different Xbox controllers with your Android devices: Xbox Wireless Controllers and Xbox 360 controllers. The former are controllers made for Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X consoles.

Newer Xbox Wireless Controllers, particularly the Bluetooth ones, will be the easiest to use with your Android device. With Bluetooth controllers, you have to pair your device to the controller, and you’re ready to go. Google added Xbox One controller support with Android 9 Pie, so Bluetooth controllers work the best; in a pinch, non-Bluetooth controllers will work as well.

If you have an Xbox One controller without Bluetooth connectivity or an Xbox 360 controller, you can still use both with your Android devices; the process is just a little bit more complicated.

Check out: Microsoft Xbox cloud gaming: Everything we know so far

How to use a newer Xbox Wireless Controller on an Android device

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra GameCube Emulation with Xbox Controller in One Hand

To use an Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth connectivity, here’s what you need:

  • An Android device with Bluetooth connectivity and Android 9 Pie or newer
  • An Xbox One controller with Bluetooth

Follow these steps to get your Xbox Wireless Controller hooked up to your Android device in no time:

  1. Make sure Bluetooth is on and open the settings. You can do this in a few different ways. The easiest way is to swipe down to see your quick-access menu items; you can press and hold the Bluetooth button to open up your Bluetooth settings. Or, you can also go to your phone settings and locate the Bluetooth options that way.
  2. Press the Xbox button on your controller to make sure it’s turned on; then press and hold the sync button on the controller (top left) until the Xbox button starts flashing. As soon as the light starts flashing, this means that the controller is in Bluetooth pairing mode. It’s ready to be connected to your Android device at this point.
  3. Go back to the Bluetooth settings on your Android device and pair the Xbox One controller to your device. You should see the Xbox One controller appear in the list of nearby devices ready to be paired. If it does not show up in this list, press Scan to search for the controller. When the device is in pairing mode, the Xbox button will be blinking; it has been paired as soon as it has stopped blinking.
  4. Depending on the phone or tablet you have, you should be able to see the controller working right away. Test it out by using the directional pad and the buttons to navigate your device’s system.
  5. Try out your favorite game! Many games don’t require any special configuration before they’re ready to be played with a controller. Some games might require you to switch from touch screen input to controller input in the settings of that particular game.

Also read: Everything about Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: The best value in gaming?

If you’re not sure whether your Xbox One controller has Bluetooth capabilities, there’s an easy way to tell. Your controller has Bluetooth capability if the area around your Xbox button is part of the same plastic as the rest of your controller. If the Xbox button is part of a separate piece (and color) of plastic, it does not have Bluetooth capability. A Bluetooth-capable Xbox Wireless Controller will look like the one in the image above.

How to use an Xbox 360 controller on an Android device

If you want to use an Xbox 360 controller or a non-Bluetooth Xbox One controller, the process is a bit more involved. Of course, it’s still doable. If you already have the controller, it might be cheaper to configure your current controller instead of purchasing a Bluetooth controller.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it work:

  • A wired or wireless Xbox 360, Xbox One, or Xbox Core controller
  • An OTG, or “on the go,” cable
  • An Android device that supports OTG cables
  • An Xbox 360 wireless receiver (if using a wireless Xbox 360 controller)

For wireless controllers, here are the necessary steps:

  1. Connect your OTG cable to your Android device, then plug the Xbox 360 controller’s wireless receiver into the OTG cable.
  2. Pair the controller as you usually would and start using it. Your Android device should supply power to your wireless receiver, allowing you to pair it normally.

Related: Xbox Series X official accessories include an external controller battery

For wired controllers, here are the necessary steps:

  1. Connect your OTG cable to your Android device. 
  2. Plug your controller into the open USB port of the OTG cable.
  3. Start using it with your favorite games!

The selection of games that support wireless controllers seems to be less than those that support wired controllers typically. Plus, when using Xbox 360 controllers, most games won’t have an option for button mapping; this means you’re stuck with whatever the default button layout is for that game.

Which Xbox controller should I use with my Android device?

xbox series x vs series s controllers
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

You can easily use any Xbox controller with your Android device. But if you’re able to get your hands on a version with Bluetooth connectivity, this would be the best option; it will make connecting to your device much simpler, and you won’t have to deal with pesky cables. A cabled controller will likely save you some cash, though. It might be a better option for those who don’t game as often.

Read next: The best Bluetooth gaming controllers for Android, PC, and more!