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Top Christmas gifts for mobile gamers: from smartphones to great controllers

(Image credit: TechRadar)
Christmas gift guides

We're bringing you a tech-focused Christmas gift guide every day up to the big day itself, to help fuel your present buying inspiration.

Day 1: Apple fans | 2: Photographers | 3: Nintendo fans | 4: Xbox fans | 5: PlayStation fans | 6: Retro gamers

Christmas gift guides

We're bringing you a tech-focused Christmas gift guide every day up to the big day itself, to help fuel your present buying inspiration.

Day 1: Apple fans | 2: Photographers | 3: Switch gamers | 4: Xbox gamers | 5: PS4 games | 6: Retro gamers | 7: PC gamers |  8: Lego fans | 9: Music lovers | 10: Mobile gamers | 11: Home cinema dreamers | 12: Home cooks | 13: Smart home starter kit | 14: Tech for kids |  15: Fitness fans | 16: Creatives | 17: Runners | 18: Commuters |  19: Pet owners | 20: Those who have everything

Looking for great Christmas gifts for mobile gamers? Needless to say, but gaming on phones has come a long way since the days of playing Snake on a Nokia 3310. Now mobile gamers can play fully-fledged shooters and racers with graphics and refresh rates that snap at the heels of consoles.

First things first, the mobile gamers in your life need a phone to play on. There are plenty of handsets out there that can handle the latest portable titles – often on the more expensive end of the spectrum – but we suggest the types of phones that specifically prioritize gaming in their style and design, with the specs and features to match.

That said, if the phone gamer in your life already has a top-of-the-line device, we also have other gifts they can enjoy to enhance their experience. We've got the lowdown on Fortnite V-Bucks so they can look the part in battle royale, and a range of phone -specific gamepads, because no touch screen can really imitate the feel and comfort of a traditional controller.

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the best Christmas mobile gaming gift ideas, though. So, let's get started, from top gadgets to in-game presents, here's what you should buy your mobile-gaming loved ones this year.

ROG phone 3

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

Asus ROG Phone 3

Built from the ground up for gamers

Release date: July 2020
Weight: 240g
Dimensions: 171 x 78 x 9.9mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.59-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340
CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM: 8/12/16GB
Storage: 128/256/512GB
Battery: 6,000mAh
Rear camera: 64 + 13+5MPMP
Front camera: 24MP
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic 144Hz AMOLED screen+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-No waterproofing rating-No wireless charging

Most high end smartphones, like the Samsung S20 Plus or the OnePlus 8 Pro, are perfectly capable of playing cutting-edge mobile titles well, but there are few better handsets so targeted at mobile gamers as the Asus ROG Phone 3. This is for the uncompromising mobile gamer, with the specs and features to back it up.

That includes a beefy 6,000mAh battery to keep you in the game even more mammoth sessions, and a gorgeous 144Hz AMOLED, 6.59-inch screen that'll elevate any mobile game experience you could throw at it. It also boasts gamer-friendly peripherals such as a clip-on fan (included in the box) and gamepads (sold separately). Under the hood, it's built-in software is designed to help you squeeze even more juice from its beastly Snapdragon 865 Plus processor.

If none of that means a great deal to you, just know that any discerning mobile gamer will be more than satisfied with the ROG 3. There are gamer-oriented alternatives like the Nubia Red Magic 5G and the Black Shark 3, and you don't get features like wireless charging and water resistance, but for us, the Asus ROG 3 is the complete mobile gaming package.

Read our review: Asus ROG Phone 3

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Fortnite V-Bucks

In-game currency: the best addition to a free game

Reasons to buy
+Cheaper than a new game+Useful for ANY platform - mobile, console, or PC
Reasons to avoid
-Only sold in big denominations $25 and up

The undisputed king of battle royale games on mobile continues to be Fortnite, and the mobile gamer in your life is probably playing it already. Thankfully, you can pitch in by buying in-game currency called V-Bucks - essentially picking up a gift card for use in-game.

This currency won't help them to win, but it does buy weapon skins, character outfits, and months-long season passes - all items (or passes to items) that customize your character. This deal above is for platform-agnostic V-Bucks, meaning it can be redeemed on mobile, console or PC.

(Image credit: DELAM)

DELAM mobile game controller

A controller on the go

Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Customize your layout+Fits most phones
Reasons to avoid
-Analog, not digital-No app support

Gaming peripherals for phones are improving all the time, but we still can't say for certain that this is the de facto best mobile gaming controller out there - but the DELAM mobile game controller has design and feature advantages over its competitors (though it won't work with tablets for obvious reasons). Also, it's inexpensive.

That's partially because, unlike other mobile game controllers, this device is unpowered. It's really more of a frame with clever internal levers that pair around-the-back trigger buttons with touchpads hanging over the top of your phone. You'll have to customize your layout and fiddle around with which buttons (fire, reload, tilt, etc) correspond to which of the four triggers, but it works in theory. 

That could mean the DELAM may not be as fast as controllers that are linked over Bluetooth or hardwired in, but it also doesn't need to link up to your phone to work, theoretically making it compatible with any phone - or at least those that fit. The controller expands to accommodate phones 2.75 inches to 3.75 inches wide and 4.7 inches to 6.5 inches long, according to its specs (which is most phones these days).

If you want to try out a mobile controller but don't want to risk a big spend, the DELAM is a decent first pick.

(Image credit: SteelSeries)

SteelSeries Nimbus

A proper gaming controller

Reasons to buy
+Familiar button layout+Up to 40 hours of playability
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't prop up phone or tablet

If you're buying for a more serious gamer, the SteelSeries Nimbus is a decent pick for a completely separate controller (assuming they don't already have a PS4 or Xbox One controller, which are compatible with the latest iOS and Android). You'll need to find some way to prop up your smartphone or tablet, and - an even bigger caveat - the Nimbus only works with iOS and Mac devices. 

If you're an Android main, there is the cheaper SteelSeries Stratus, though that model runs on AA batteries and requires a discrete Bluetooth adapter (sold separately).

The Nimbus packs everything inside a familiar DualShock-style (both control sticks in the lower-middle) controller, with 4 LEDs that 'display your player status during multiplayer gameplay' - an unclear designation - but they will show charge progress in 25% chunks while the controller is plugged in. Thankfully, it's a Lightning port, so iOS devotees won't have to buy a new cable.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Poké Ball Plus Pack

Catch Pokémon for real (kind of)

Reasons to buy
+Works with Android and iPhone+Catch Pokémon without using phone

Everyone knows someone who still plays Pokémon Go. The smash-hit game from 2017 is still going strong more than two years later, and for the avid Poké hunter the Poké Ball Plus is a must-have accessory.

It can be paired to both Android handsets and iPhones, it allows you to play Pokémon Go without checking your smartphone. When a Pokémon appears nearby, the ball lights up and vibrates. A button press lets you throw a virtual Poké Ball, and different LED light patterns will let you know if you’ve caught the Pokémon.

Plus, is you have a Nintendo Switch, the Poké Ball Plus is also compatible with its latest games; Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! (and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!).

 Image Credit: Anker

 Image Credit: Anker

Anker PowerCore II 10,000mAh power bank

The one to slip into your pocket

Reasons to buy
+Super slim design+Very portable
Reasons to avoid
-No cables in the box

If you're gaming on the go, you're probably using up your device's battery faster than normal. That's where the Anker PowerCore II comes in with 10,000mAh of extra juice in a crucially compact package that's easy to slip into a pocket.

We love this little guy. The Anker PowerCore II 10,000 power bank is perhaps the most portable option on this list and allows you to have at least two full charges for your phone in your back pocket ready to go.

At only 209g and 1.5cm thick, you'll be able to take this around with you and not feel weighed down while still having 10,000mAh of extra power for any of your devices. Plus it comes with Anker's own fast-charging tech that should mean you won't be plugged into it for too long.

Like a lot of the chargers on this list, it doesn't come with a cable attached so you'll need to take your own out and about with you, but that does mean it works with both iOS and Android phones.

(Image credit: Future)

Money for games

Gift cards for the App Store and Google Play store are excellent gifts

Reasons to buy
+Different values available+Let them choose their gift
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

Give the gift of new games, unlimited lives or a range of in-app purchases and upgrades with a gift card for either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store this Christmas.

Any mobile gamer will value additional funds to add to their library of games, or inventory in one particular title. These gift cards can be purchased at various different price points, and all you need to know is which device the person you're buying for has.

If they have an iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch), then they'll need an Apple App Store gift card, while those with Android phones and handsets (including devices by Samsung, Huawei, Sony, HTC, LG, OnePlus, Oppo, Motorola and Nokia) will need a Google Play Store gift card.

David Lumb

David J Lumb is Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, covering phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made.