Bottom line: It truly makes playing video games a whole lot more convenient on mobile. The buttons work wonderfully, and the protective case makes it easy to bring on the go. You'll need to handle it carefully when installing and uninstalling your iPhone.
Buttons press in nicely
Comes with a protective case
Lightning port can easily get damaged
Why you can trust iMore Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Mobile gaming has come a long way in the last five years giving us more intensive adventures to experience on our phones. This being the case, many of the best iOS games are better enjoyed when using a dedicated controller. This prevents your fingers from blocking the screen, gives you better controls, and makes it so those nasty smudges don't get wiped everywhere.
I recently tested the GameSir X2 Lightning with my iPhone SE. This is a beautifully designed controller that makes it easier for me to play games, whether on Apple Arcade or Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud). It's a great choice for any iPhone owner.
GameSir X2 Lightning: Price and availability
GameSir offers a few different versions of this controller. This particular one includes a Lightning connection as well as a charging passthrough. It has an MSRP of $70 and can be purchased on the official GameSir website. The USB-C version costs the same, but the Bluetooth version is $60. They are available on Amazon.
GameSir X2 Lightning: What's good
I love the feel of the X2 Lightning in my hands. The device feels a lot like a Nintendo Switch Lite. The design feels sturdy, and the buttons press in satisfactorily. The controller hardly wobbles, unlike like competitor products. There are even four thumb grips in the package if you want to attach them to the joysticks for better control. However, I felt like it worked well enough without them.
I was able to start using the controller immediately after I installed my phone. While playing Sonic Team Racing on Apple Arcade, I was surprised that the controller even vibrates in reaction to things happening on screen. It's weak compared to, say, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller's rumble, but it adds an element of immersion to it.
Some of the buttons don't do anything, depending on the game or service. However, some games do allow you to configure button controls to your preferences. The controller slides to an extended size to install the iPhone securely and automatically tries to pull itself shut. Next, slip the phone over the Lightning dongle and allow the device to hold it in place. There's also a large black rubber padding with soft tooth-like nubs on either side that keeps my iPhone from sliding around. As far as I can tell, it should work with any iPhone.
Texturized rubber grips on the backside make it easier to hold, and the design feels very sturdy. There's also a passthrough Lightning charging port on the bottom left of the accessory so you can charge your iPhone while it's installed.
I also love that this comes with a hard-shell protective case, as many other phone controllers do not. It makes it easier for me to throw in my bag or purse when I run errands or go on a trip. The case also has a small mesh storage pocket for small accessories, like wireless earbuds. However, this case isn't perfect.
There's an elastic band inside the case that keeps the X2 Lightning from sliding around. However, I keep wanting to cut it out as I worry that the Lightning dongle will get stuck on the elastic and thus get damaged as I'm pulling the controller out. The case holds the X2 Lightning firmly in place as it is, anyway.
GameSir X2 Lightning: What's not good
Speaking of the Lightning dongle, I always feel like I have to pay close attention whenever I install or remove my iPhone from the controller to not break the connecting metal. However, on the flip side, you likely won't need to remove and install the iPhone's protective case when putting your phone into the controller since the Lightning dongle sticks out pretty far. That is, as long as you don't have a super thick case.
GameSir X2 Lightning: Competition
If you like the idea of GameSir's controller but are wary about damaging any dongles, you should check out the X2 Bluetooth. It's basically the same thing but doesn't physically connect to your phone's port in any way.
The Razer Kishi is another excellent controller. It closes into a more compact shape when your iPhone is removed, so it doesn't need a case as much, which you'd have to purchase separately.
Lastly, the Backbone One is one of the best controllers out there as it was specifically designed for the iPhone. It feels great in your hands and comes with an impressive app to help you organize your games and access them more easily.
GameSir X2 Lightning: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You frequently play mobile games
- You want something with a protective case
- You want a more sturdy mobile controller
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You'd prefer a Bluetooth controller
- You don't play mobile games very much
- You want an accompanying app
As far as phone controllers go, this one is very impressive. It hardly wobbles at all compared to its competitors and has a very sturdy design. It honestly feels a lot like a Nintendo Switch Lite. It's an excellent option for anyone looking for better control while playing their favorite video games, especially since it comes with that handy hard-shell case.
You'll need to be careful not to damage that Lightning dongle, or else this expensive accessory can suddenly become unusable. In particular, be careful installing and removing your iPhone, so you don't break the dongle off inside your phone.
Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.
As you note, the huge convenience advantage of the GameSir over the Backbone is that you don't have to constantly remove and replace the case on your iPhone. Another advantage is that it isn't tied to a spammy subscription app. And of course the lack of wobble.
Thank you for signing up to iMore. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.