Connect your Nintendo Switch Controllers to your iPhone or iPad

The video version of this article

It’s a new year, and with iOS and iPadOS 16 comes support for new devices, including game controllers. Let me walk you through how to connect your Nintendo Switch Joy Cons and Pro Controllers to your iPhone or iPad

Before You Begin

Before you get started, you’ll need to be running iOS or iPadOS 16 or later, since that’s when Apple introduced the feature. You can check this by going to the Settings app, hit “General”, and then hit “About” at the top. Near the top will be the name and Software Version of your device. So, long as it says 16.0 or higher, then you’re good.  If not, go back one level and hit “Software Update” and update to the latest version.

Next, you’re going to need to turn on Bluetooth.  You can get to this by going to the ­Settings app and clicking on the “Bluetooth” button near the top of the screen.  In the new window, make sure the Bluetooth toggle is set to on.  Now we can connect the controller.

Connecting the Pro Controller

The Switch Pro Controller from the top, with me pointing to the sync button.  It is to the left of the USB-C port when the sticks are facing you.

On the Pro controller find the little round Sync button on the top of the controller near the charging port. Press & hold this for a few seconds until you see the lights on the bottom bouncing back & forth. You should see the name “Pro Controller” pop up under the “Other Devices” section. Scroll down to it & click it, & after a few seconds you’ll be connected.

If you’re hoping to use this via USB-C, then you’re out of luck.  Sadly I haven’t been able to get that working.

Connecting the Joy-Cons

The left JoyCon from the side view, with me pointing to the sync button in between the 2 shoulder buttons.

Now onto the Joy Cons. Pull out the Joy Con & look on the side that normally is connected to the Switch, where the shoulder buttons are. You should see the little round sync button in there. Press & hold it until the lights next to it start flashing. On screen, you should see “Joy Con (L)” or “Joy Con (R)” depending on which controller you’re connecting at that moment.

The left and right joy cons side by side, with arrows pointing to the Share/screenShot button and the Home button.

If you have 2 Joy Cons actively connected to your iPhone or iPad at the same time, then they’ll work as 2 independent controllers used in the sideways manner like you would on Switch. However, you can use a Left & Right Joy Con as a single set by pressing & holding the Screen Capture button & the Home button on both controllers at the same time for about 3 seconds. You won’t see anything appear on screen or any indication from the controllers, but now you can hold them vertically & use them as a unified controller.

Keybinding & Renaming

The Controller renaming section in iPadOS’ Bluetooth menu

If you plan to connect multiple controllers to your iDevice, it may be helpful to rename them. You can rename a controller by going back to Bluetooth settings, tapping the little information “i” icon next to the controller’s name, and then tapping “Name”, where you can type in a new name for the controller, in case you use multiple controllers and want to be clear about which one you’re using.

The iPad’s Game Controller Screen with 1 Pro Controller and 2 Profiles

New with iPadOS 16 is a key binding function. Once you’ve connected the controller, you’ll now be able to make some changes, including profiles for different controllers and users, by opening the Settings app, then going to General, and scroll down to find the new “Game Controller selected. When your controller is connected, you’ll see them listed at the top and can hit the identify button to make them vibrate. Clicking on the controller, will let you see reset the controllers settings, check what profile and its controls are set to, and also change the profile if you want.

The iPad’s Profile selection and bindings screen.

Going back to that first screen, profiles can be created for different schemes and bound to particular controllers and games. So if I wanted to have a weaker vibration in my controller or reverse the A and B buttons on the controller, then I could do that from here, then go to my controller and select that profile. You can also set profiles per game, but not all games have support for individual profiles, in which case they will only use whatever profile the controller is set too.

Finding Games with Controller Support

So now you want to play some games with your controller. If a game has controller support, then it will pick up those settings nearly automatically when the controller is connected.

If your games are in Apple Arcade, then you probably don’t need to worry because most games there have controller support already.

But if you’re just using games from the App Store, that’s tougher than it should be. Unlike the Apple TV or other game stores, the App Store doesn’t make it clear what apps support controllers. There is a tag Apple provides for games to use, located up there with the genre of the game, age rating, etc. But some games that support controllers don’t have this tab.  Some developers will spell it out in the description, while others may only list it in their version history when they updated the game to add support.  It’s kind of frustrating.

Probably the easiest way to check it is to use a website like GameVice. Since they make controller attachments to work with your iDevices, they also have a good list of what games support controllers. They have lists for Apple and Android games. But once you do find your games, and you have the controller connected, you’re all set to start playing.

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