Want to step up your Android gaming experience with a proper Xbox controller but aren’t sure how? This is the guide for you: from 360 to the Series S/X, Xbox controllers are easily compatible with Android devices, as well as many emulators and games. Let’s dive into it!
What You Need and A Quick Note on XInput
The following Xbox controllers are compatible with Android and should be easy to connect to your phone:
- Xbox 360 Controllers
- Xbox One Controllers (including Xbox One S/X refresh design)
- Xbox Elite Controllers
- Xbox Series S/X Controllers
The single Xbox controller that IS NOT compatible with Android is the original Xbox controller. This isn’t an Android-unique issue, though, since that controller also doesn’t work with Windows or modern Xboxes in the way that the controllers listed above do.
The reason is simple: XInput. Flash back to December 2005 – the Xbox 360 had just released, Windows XP SP1 was just around the corner, and Windows Vista was only two years away.
Microsoft wanted to extend its gaming dominance to Windows just as much as they were doing so on Xbox, so they introduced XInput as an API for the Xbox 360 controllers. Every Xbox controller since has used XInput, as well as many derivative gamepad designs from companies like Logitech. After XP, later versions of Windows came with XInput support built in to the point of plug-and-play compatibility. The rest is history.
While XInput does end up leaving the original controller in the wind, it makes sure that every Xbox controller since the original 360 will be compatible with your modern PC or Android device.
Note: The Xbox 360 controller, wired or wireless, requires an OTG cable it uses a proprietary signal, (not Bluetooth).
Connecting a Wireless Xbox Controller on Android
First, swipe down from the top of your screen to open your quick menu. Long-press the Bluetooth icon to enter your Bluetooth configuration menu or navigate to your Bluetooth configuration menu from your phone settings.
Once you’re in your Bluetooth menu, it’s time to click “Pair new device.” While you do this, power on your Xbox controller by long-pressing the Xbox button and hold down the sync button at the top to put it into searching mode. Once the light is blinking rapidly, let go.
Your controller should show up in your list of available devices. Tap its name to pair it.
If the pairing is successful, you should see the controller appearing under the “Currently Connected” section.
Connecting a Wired Xbox Controller on Android
If you’re using an Xbox Series S/X controller or an Elite Series 2 controller, you’re in luck! These controllers come with USB-C cables that should make it easy to directly wire your controller to the vast majority of modern Android devices, which can be useful if you want to use them temporarily with your phone without manually unpairing and re-pairing them to your main PC or console.
For wired Xbox controllers going back to the Xbox 360, you’ll need to first confirm which version of USB the charging port on your phone or tablet uses. For instance, if you have a micro USB connector on your phone or tablet, you’ll want to get a USB OTG (On The Go) adapter to use a wired Xbox 360 controller with the device. (Find out all the things you can do with an OTG adapter.)
Your Controller Is Ready!
Now you know how to connect your Xbox controller to your phone. What’s next? Well, play some games, obviously! You can even sync your game progress between Android devices.
RetroArch and PPSSPP both come with built-in Xbox controller support, with zero controller configuration required before you can start hopping into your games. Steam Link is the same deal and allows you to stream your games from your own PC (ideally on the same home network) as long as you have Steam Remote Play properly configured on your system. Also check out this guide on how to connect an Xbox Series S/X controller to Windows.