The smartphone is probably the most versatile gadget in use today. Not only you can make calls and browse the web with it, but with the right apps, you can measure your pulse, turn on your TV and even control games on your PC.
So, that's what I´m going to show you, how you can use your Android phone to connect to your PC and use it as a makeshift gamepad for your games or as a remote controller for the computer itself.
How to use your Android Phone as a controller for the PC
On its own, your Smartphone isn´t capable of interfacing with your PC the way we want, you need to download a special app before anything else.
If you want to use your phone to have some sort of remote control over your PC, the app you are looking for is either Unified Remote or PC Remote. As a bonus, both these apps work on the iPhone as well.
First, download the server software of the app you want on the computer that´s going to be remotely controlled, either the Unified server or the PC remote server. After the file has been downloaded, install it on your computer.
Once that´s done, it´s time to download the app from Google Play, choose whichever one you prefer and download it to your cellphone. With both the app and the server in place, you should be able to remotely access your computer via Bluetooth or Wi-fi by having the program running on both devices at the same time.
Now, what exactly can you control on your PC varies slightly depending on which app you decide to use and whenever you are using the paid version or not. If you are interested in using your controller as a gamepad, PC remote is the app that will give you that functionality.
It is not the only app that lets you do that, however, ...
How to use your Android Phone as a game controller on PC
If you don´t care about remotely controlling your PC and are only interested in using your phone for gaming, there are more specialized apps that focus on turning your Android into a gamepad. The aforementioned PC Remote has this function, but it is not the only app to do so.
First, you need to download a server from the webpage of whichever app you prefer into the computer you are going to play with. You install the server and then you download the app onto your phone.
With the server running on your computer, you can connect you cellphone to the PC via Wi-fi or Bluetooth. When you launch a game (and the app), your phone should work as an alternative controller for it.
The advantage of using this app is that they already customize themselves into a gamepad, so you don't have to do much tinkering with the controls (unless you want to).
Which brings us to...
Limitations of using your smartphone as a gamepad.
Sure, you can use your smartphone as a gamepad, but would you want to? What are the pros and cons of doing so?
The first limitation is obvious, anyone who played games on their phones with a virtual gamepad can tell you what it is. A smartphone is simply not as responsive or comfortable as a "real" controller is. The touch screen can fail tor register your inputs and the phone itself is a bit too small for a lot of people.
If you have big hands, then I can´t recommend turning your phone into a controller, and there aren´t many ways to make it more comfortable short of buying an actual gamepad. If you have a tablet, however, you can skirt around this issue, as they are big enough to be held comfortably with both hands.
In short, there is little reason to choose a smartphone over a gamepad. If you are worried about price, there there are a lot of alternatives that are sold quite cheaply. Gyro controls aren´t a good reason to try them out either, as third party controllers also have them.
So, they might not be better than gamepads, but are they better than keyboards? I would argue that under most circumstances they aren´t.
Unless you can´t stand gaming with the mouse and keyboard combo or want to control driving games in a way that's simply not possible by pressing the WASD keys, your smartphone will always be the most clunky way to play.
Now, that´s not saying that a smartphone controller will not work, it will, and they are handy if you don´t have any other choice. For some laptops, for example, they are a practical option, as the trackball doesn´t offer the same quality of control as the mouse.
Moreover, they are a free way to play games, as everyone has a smartphone nowadays. That's something that no gamepad can offer.
Does this work on iPhone too?
All the apps mentioned here are on the App Store too, so you can use them to turn your iPhone into a gamepad or remote control for your PC.
The installation and way you use them are pretty much the same, so you can follow the aforementioned steps with your iPhone.
And that's it.
Turning your android phone into a gamepad or remote control for your PC is relatively easy, you just have to install the right apps on both your PC and smartphone. After that, it´s just an issue of connecting them to the same Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network.
If you are interested in more uses for your Android, you can connect a PS VR headset to Steam and then use your phone as makeshift motion controls. Or if you want to stream PC games directly to your phone, you can use Steam Link Anywhere to do so, just mind the data use.
That said, a smartphone is not a substitute for a good gamepad, and pairing them up with your phone is quite easy, as we showed you before, even on iPhones! If you are looking for a gamepad to play with Steam Link, then here you can learn which ones are compatible.
If you were instead searching for gamepads to use with your Android and iPhone, check out our list at the bottom of our page here. And don´t forget to join our mailing list so that we tell you when these gamepads go on sale.