If you are browsing for gamepads to play games like Fortnite or PUBG on your iPhone, you might have noticed that a lot of the available alternatives are called "MFi controllers". What does that mean? Do these gamepads have a special feature or characteristic that makes them stand out from regular wireless controllers?
Well, not exactly.
What are the MFi controllers?
MFi controllers are gamepads that have been approved by Apple for use on iOS devices with their "Made for iPhone" program. This means that these controllers will always work with every iPhone, Ipad, and Apple TV regardless of the software version the device has. A "normal" wireless controller, by contrast, might stop working after a couple of updates.
These controllers don´t have a special feature in common, nor do they share anything else but their compatibility with Apple´s products and the company´s license to put the MFi logo on their products.
What does MFi mean?
MFi stands for "Made for iPhone", which is a long-running Apple program dating back to 2010 that ensures that third-party accessories are compatible with iOS devices. All manner of accessories can be certified by Apple and given the stamp of approval; headphones, chargers, and gamepads of course.
Being MFi certified means that the product has undergone a process to make sure that it fits Apple's quality standards and has compatibility with whatever part of the iPhone it comes into contact with, like the Lighting connector, dock connector or AirPlay. To ensure this quality, the participant's companies have access to confidential information about the specs of the iOS machines.
In short, by going through the process of getting licensed into the program, the company ensures that its accessories are compatible with the iOS ecosystem and gets inside information on how to best integrate with Apple´s technology.
That said, this is not a program that every iPhone third party product goes through. For example, devices that connect using only Bluetooth don´t need to have the Mfi standard, and so you will also find a great number of wireless controllers that don't have the certification.
So, is it worth it to buy a Mfi controller?
If you want to play games on an iPhone, a Mfi controller is better than the alternative simply because it will always be guaranteed to work. That is not to say that other controllers aren´t compatible, because they are, but they might stop working out of the blue if Apple decides to update its software.
It´s important to remember, however, that not all games have controller support even if you have an MFi controller. If the gamepad is not working, it´s probably due to the game and not the device. For example, all shooters like the aforementioned Fortnite, PUBG mobile, and even Call of Duty will be compatible with any kind of gamepad, but if you want a comprehensive list of compatible games, check out this page.
If you are interested in a good Mfi controller, check out the Steel Series Nimbus, it´s a great all-around gamepad that works well with Apple machines. We also have a page listing controllers for smartphones and computers on our page here.
If you already own a gamepad but don´t know if it´s Mfi certified, you can find out on this page here. If it´s not, don´t worry, connecting a Bluetooth controller to an iPhone or Android phone is not complicated, our guide here can show you how, you can even connect Joy-cons. In fact, if you are using Steam Link to stream games to your phone, a Mfi controller might be the only ones that will work.
If you are interested in the opposite, in turning your phone into a controller for PC games, check out our other guide over here to learn to do just that.