While we still don’t know exactly how emulators will work on the iPhone, Apple’s play here would put its App Store in a better place to compete with alternative app stores in the EU. Assuming that means you can actually play games from the consoles they emulate, it could be a huge deal for retro gaming fans. As great as the Steam Deck and Switch are, the embiggening of portable game consoles has come at the crucial cost of portability (unless you have cargo pants and don’t mind them banging against your knees while you walk).

I’ve always felt the Game Boy Advance was peak handheld design, thanks to its clamshell form factor, and the Nintendo DS Lite wasn’t bad, either. Andrew Webster said similar things while waxing nostalgic about the PlayStation Vita for The Verge this morning.

Of course, the iPhone has no face buttons, and virtual buttons, while okay in a pinch, are a poor substitute for anything that demands quick reflexes. Thankfully, your options are plentiful on the iPhone.

The ideal situation will be a controller that attaches directly to your phone, like the Backbone One. It’s kind of like Switch Joy-Cons, in that it clamps onto either end of an iPhone in landscape orientation. But it connects via Lightning or USB-C, depending on which version you buy, so you don’t have to futz with Bluetooth pairing. Just slap it on and go. Of course, if you have an iPhone 14 or below, it’s harder to commit $100 to it if you’re planning on updating to a USB-C iPhone soon. There’s also the iPhone’s ever-growing camera bump, which caused the company to address with a 3D-printed adapter for the Lightning version, to consider.

But you might not need to buy Backbone’s controller at all if you already have a Switch. Nintendo’s controllers work with the iPhone also, and there are adapters out there that let you physically attach Joy-Cons to your phone. I haven’t tried them, so your mileage may vary, but they exist.

These are just a few of the many options that exist for iPhone controllers. There are plenty more, but despite Apple’s phone’s status as a mobile gaming powerhouse, third-party controllers haven’t made a big splash on their own. With emulators allowed in the App Store — a change perhaps sparked by regulatory pressure from the United States’ antitrust lawsuit against it, and regulatory pressure in the European Union — maybe we’re in for a future where the iPhone is actually an ideal handheld gaming platform.

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