How to use your smartphone as a brilliant games console

PS4 Remote Play
PS4 Remote Play is just one way to improve gaming on your phone

You might think that gaming on a smartphone is all about smashing jewels or playing fiddly first person shooters - but they're actually capable of rivalling the console, whether that's by bringing your mobile games to the TV or streaming console games to your phone.

While the Xbox One and PS4 are leagues ahead in terms of power, the phones we're leaving idle on the sofa are more than capable of playing brilliant games or streaming high-end graphics to much sharper screens than the one on your wall - and here we'll even show you the easy steps you need to do it too.

Can smartphones match consoles?


In some ways yes. We spoke to Qualcomm, responsible for delivering the chipsets in most phones offering high-end gaming, and spokesperson told us "we believe that the latest high tier Snapdragon processors are already able to deliver sufficient performance to render the graphics, audio and video for console quality games."

That doesn't necessarily mean you'll always be getting a console quality experience however

"The very highest end games will likely remain on consoles for the foreseeable future, but the vast majority of other games are coming to mobile, where the mobile form factor and memory makes them appropriate to do so."

As an alternate way to experience your favourite smartphone games a proper controller and TV output are great options that won't break the bank, but if the smartphone is going to be a genuine alternative for the console for those people who crave a powerful gaming experience on the go there needs to be a change in perception for the technology.

The key thing is making the smartphone a platform that warrants the same fanfare for a new game that a console or PC gets. Right now, we're lucky to get a basic offshoot of a larger game, but with phone capacity, graphic processing and power growing all the time, the ability to port better titles over is finally here:

"Last October Activision launched Skylanders Trap Team on mobile. It was the first time a full AAA console game launched day-and-date on both console and tablet," said the Qualcomm spokesperson. "The tablet version of the game was developed alongside the console versions and contains the same cut scenes, voice overs, and game play as the console versions.


While for smartphone exclusives the spokeperson also pointed to Godfire: Rise of Prometheus by indie developer Vivid Games as a title that's really starting to take advantage of the power and processing on offer.

A brief look at the games shown off every year at Apple's WWDC conference, where the brand tries to show off the power of its new software, confirms that we're getting some impressively good graphics from a small handset.

High-powered handsets

Galaxy S6

If you're serious about gaming on your phone, well, you're going to want a serious phone. While all smartphones can run some level of gaming there are a few that are a lot more accomplished than others.

A powerful handset is obviously crucial if you want to play high-end games. The Samsung Galaxy S6, HTC One M9, Sony Xperia Z3+, LG G4, iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus would all be ideal options, but you should be safe with most recent flagship phones from lesser brands.

Many of these have 64-bit octa-core processors and 3GB of RAM, so they've got a lot of grunt. The Snapdragon 810 chipset which powers a number of recent high-end phones, such as the One M9 and Xperia Z3+, is also designed to allow for online 3D gaming.

Apple is a big player in the mobile gaming space now too, thanks to the creation of Metal, a new technology found in recent versions of iOS (which makes more effective use of recent hardware, with the iPhone 6 Plus particularly shining), which allows the CPU and GPU to work together for more detailed graphics and impressive visual effects.

Gaming is already a key focus for top of the line phones and handled well...and it's only going to get better as newer handsets and technologies emerge.

So while you do need something decent right now, there's good news for the more budget-concious gamer. We spoke to Qualcomm, which creates the high-end Snapdragon 810, and they told us a change is coming.

"We're typically improving our performance by roughly 30%-40% a year on average.

"Even the next generation of low tier smartphones, based on Snapdragon, will be able to support very advanced graphics APIs, full HD, responsive capacitive touch displays, and a level of performance that's not very far from what the highest tiers of smartphones were able to support last year.

"Game developers need to get a maximum return on their investment, so it is raising the feature support and performance bar for the entirety of mobile devices that will bring about better games, rather than just raising the bar on the most capable, but lowest volume, products."

In short, the cheaper devices will be able to handle really high-end graphics as the industry looks to enable a wider range of smartphones rather than just the expensive flagship devices.

Tools of the trade

Moga controller

There are a variety of controllers available that are compatible with, or in some cases even designed specifically for smartphones.

Some of them, such as the Moga Pro controller, include a cradle for the phone so that you can essentially turn your handset into a true handheld console, complete with the necessary buttons and sticks.

Others, such as the Nyko Playpad Pro, are just standard controllers, which don't clip to your phone, so they're no good for gaming on the move, but will be ideal if you stream or output your games to a television or monitor through a dedicated MHL cable or mirroring device.

Some phones, such as the Sony Xperia Z3 and many other Xperia handsets, can even be made to work with Sony's DualShock 4 pad via Bluetooth, giving you the comfort of a familiar controller.

These aren't overly expensive either, if you want to upgrade your gaming experience. A controller is likely to cost at least £15 and in many cases you also need a cable to link your phone to a television, which will also cost at least £10 for a half-decent option, while a console comes with everything you need out of the box. But if you're serious about smartphone gaming they're worthwhile investments.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.