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Can I use my Xbox One or PS4 controller on my iPhone?

Posted in Apple, botch, california, game controller, gaming, video game by commorancy on September 16, 2019

XboxOneEliteController-smThis is a common question regarding the two most popular game controllers to have ever existed. Let’s explore.

MFi Certification

Let’s start with a little history behind why game controllers have been a continual problem for Apple’s iOS devices. The difficulty comes down to Apple’s MFi controller certification program. Since MFi’s developer specification release, not many controller developers have chosen to adopt it. The one notable exception is the SteelSeries Nimbus controller. It’s a fair controller, it holds well enough in the hand, has an okay battery life, but it’s not that well made. It does sport a lightning port so you can charge it with your iPhone’s charger, however. That’s of little concession, though, when you actually want to use an Xbox One or PS4 controller instead.

Because Apple chose to rely on its own MFi specification and certification system, manufacturers would need to build a controller that satisfies that MFi certification. Satisfying the requirements of MFi and getting certified likely requires licensing technology built by Apple. As we know, licenses typically cost money paid to Apple for the privilege of using that technology. That’s great for Apple, not so great for the consumer.

Even though the SteelSeries Nimbus is by no means perfect, it really has become the de facto MFi controller simply because no other manufacturers have chosen to adopt Apple’s MFi system. And why would they?

Sony and Microsoft

Both Sony and Microsoft have held (and continue to hold) the market as the dominant game controllers. While the SteelSeries Nimbus may have become the de facto controller for Apple’s devices, simply because there is nothing else really available, the DualShock and the Xbox One controllers are far and away better controllers for gaming. Apple hasn’t yet been able to break into the console market, even as much as they have tried with the Apple TV. Game developers just haven’t embraced the Apple TV in the same way they have of the Xbox One and the PS4. That’s obvious as to why. The Apple TV, while reasonable for some games, simply does not offer the same level of graphics and game power as an Xbox One or PS4. It also doesn’t have a controller built by Apple.

Until Apple gets its head into the game properly with a more suitably named game system actually intended for gaming, rather than general purpose entertainment, Apple simply can’t become a third console. Apple seems to try these roundabout methods of introducing hardware to try and usurp, or at least insert itself into certain markets. Because of this subtle roundabout method Apple chooses, it just never works out. In the case of MFi, that hasn’t worked out too well for Apple.

Without a controller that Apple has built themselves, few people see the Apple TV as anything more than a TV entertainment system with built-in apps… even if it can run limited games. The Apple TV is simply not seen as a gaming console. It doesn’t ship with a controller. It isn’t named appropriately. Thus, it is simply not seen as a gaming console.

With that said, the PS4 and the Xbox One are fully seen as gaming consoles and prove that with every new game release. Sony and Microsoft also chose to design and build their own controllers based on their own specifications; specifications that are intended for use on their consoles. Neither Sony, nor will Microsoft go down the path to MFi certification. That’s just not in the cards. Again, why would they? These controllers are intended to be used on devices Sony and Microsoft make. They aren’t intended to be used with Apple devices. Hence, there is absolutely zero incentive for Microsoft or Sony to retool their respective game controllers to cater to Apple’s MFi certification whims. To date, this has yet to happen… and it likely never will.

Apple is (or was) too caught up in itself to understand this fundamental problem. If Apple wanted Sony or Microsoft to bend to the will of Apple, Apple would have to pay Sony and Microsoft to spend their time, effort and engineering to retool their console controllers to fit within the MFi certification. In other words, not only would Apple have to entice Sony and Microsoft to retool their controllers, they’d likely have to pay them for that privilege. And so, here we are… neither the DualShock nor does the Xbox One controller support iOS via MFi certification.

iOS 12 and Below

To answer the above question, we have to observe Apple’s stance on iOS. As of iOS 12 and below, Apple chose to rely solely on its MFi certification system to certify controllers for use with iOS. That left few consumer choices. I’m guessing that Apple somehow thought that Microsoft and Sony would cave to their so-called MFi pressure and release updated controllers to satisfy Apple’s whims.

Again, why would either Sony or Microsoft choose to do this? Would they do it out of the goodness of their own heart? Doubtful. Sony and Microsoft would ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” Clearly, for iOS, not much. Sony doesn’t release games on iOS and neither does Microsoft. There’s no incentive to produce MFi certified controllers. In fact, Sony and Microsoft both have enough on their plates supporting their own consoles, let alone spending extra time screwing around with Apple’s problems.

That Apple chose to deny the use of the DualShock 4 and the Xbox One controllers on iOS was clearly an Apple problem. Sony and Microsoft couldn’t care less about Apple’s dilemmas. Additionally, because both of these controllers dominate the gaming market, even on PCs, Apple has simply lost out when sticking to their well-intentioned, but misguided MFi certification program. The handwriting was on the wall when they built the MFi developer system, but Apple is always blinded by its own arrogance. I could see that MFi would create more problems than it would solve for iOS when I first heard about it several years ago.

And so we come to…

iOS 13 and iPhone 11

With the release of iOS 13, it seems Apple has finally seen the light. They have also realized both Sony and Microsoft’s positions in gaming. There is simply no way that the two most dominant game controllers on the market will bow to Apple’s pressures. If Apple wants these controllers certified under its MFi program, it will need to take steps to make that a reality… OR, they’ll need to relax this requirement and allow these two controllers to “just work”… and the latter is exactly what Apple has done.

As of the release of iOS 13, you will be able to use both the Xbox One (bluetooth version) and the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller on iOS. Apple has realized its certification system was simply a pipe dream, one that never got realized. Sure, MFi still exists. Sure, iOS will likely support it for several more releases, but eventually Apple will obsolete it entirely or morph it into something that includes Sony and Microsoft’s controllers.

What that means for the consumer is great news. As of iOS 13, you can now grab your PS4 or Xbox One controller, pair it to iOS and begin gaming. However, it is uncertain exactly how compatible this will be for iOS. It could be that some games may not recognize these controllers until they are updated for iOS 13. This could mean that older games that only supported MFi may not work until they are updated for iOS 13. The problem here is that many projects have become abandoned over the years and their respective developers are no longer updating apps. That means that you could find your favorite game doesn’t work with the PS4 or Xbox One controller if it is now abandoned.

Even though iOS 13 will support the controllers, it doesn’t mean that older games will. There’s still that problem to be solved. Apple could solve that by folding the controllers under the MFi certification system internally to make them appear as though they are MFi certified. I’m pretty sure Apple won’t do that. Instead, they’ll likely offer a separate system that identifies “third party” controllers separately from MFi certified controllers. This means that developers will likely have to go out of their way to recognize and use Sony and Microsoft’s controllers. Though, we’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out in practice.

Great News

Even still, this change is welcome news to iOS and tvOS users. This means that you don’t have to go out and buy some lesser controller and hope it will feel and work right. Instead, you can now grab a familiar controller that’s sitting right next to you, pair it up and begin playing on your iPad.

This news is actually more than welcome, it’s a necessity. I think Apple finally realizes this. There is no way Sony or Microsoft would ever cave to Apple’s pressures. In fact, there was no pressure at all really. Ultimately, Apple shot themselves in the foot by not supporting these two controllers. Worse, by not supporting these controllers, it kept the Apple TV from becoming the hopeful gaming system that Apple had wanted. Instead, it’s simply a set-top box that provides movies, music and limited live streaming services. Without an adequate controller, it simply couldn’t become a gaming system.

Even the iPad and iPhone have been suffering without good solid controllers. Though, I’m still surprised that Apple itself hasn’t jumped in and built their own Apple game controller. You’d think that if they set out to create an MFi certification system that they’d have taken it to the next step and actually built a controller themselves. Nope.

Because Apple relied on third parties to fulfill its controller needs, it only really ever got one controller out of the deal. A controller that’s fair, but not great. It’s expensive, but not that well made. As I said above, it’s the SteelSeries Nimbus. It’s a mid-grade controller that works fine in most cases, but cannot hold a candle to the PS4’s or the Xbox One’s controller for usability. Personally, I always thought of the Nimbus controller as a “tide me over” controller until something better came along. That never happened. Unfortunately, it has taken Apple years to own up to this mistake. A mistake that they’ve finally decided to rectify in iOS 13.

A little late, yes, but well done Apple!

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Business Organization Fail: The failure of the sales pipeline

Posted in business, certification, tanking by commorancy on November 4, 2009

In my line of business, purchasing services is part of doing business.  Unfortunately, many businesses fail at sufficiently managing this budding relationship properly.  This time is a crucial in relationship building between the two companies.  If the order process does not go smoothly, is delayed or is slow to process or complete, this can damage the relationship from the start.  A lot of companies pride themselves on their actual services, but how many company’s pride themselves or tout their order entry and completion processes?  Not many.

All too often, you place an order for a service and the order does not complete as you expect.  At first, you think this operation should be simple.  However, when installation day and time passes without a peep, this leaves you wondering what happened.  So, you call the sales and/or customer support line only to find out they don’t have a record of your order.  Unfortunately, this is a sign of disorganization.  A sign that this company fails to manage the order entry and order pipeline system properly.   This is a company that should leave you with the question, “Do I really want to do business with them?” Rightly, you should be asking yourself that question.  In some cases, however, this may be a cable company or some other company where you are over a barrel.  Defacto monopolies exist in society and there’s little we as consumers can do about that.  So, if you want that service, you must purchase it from that company or you don’t get it.  But, even with all of that in mind, you should still ask the question, “Should I do business with this company?”

Disorganization is nearly always a sign of things to come.  If there is this much disorganization surrounding the installation  and the order process, that does leak into other parts of the business including the actual service itself. So, you may find your service affected in random ways throughout the life of the service.  These problems may include, unintentional service disconnection, incorrect billing and invoicing including double billing and inaccurate billing to sporadic service quality and uninformed service outages and even installation issues resurfacing months or years later.  Disorganization affects far too many businesses.  Worse, most businesses don’t even recognize that they are affected, let alone do anything about it.  Bigger businesses are more prone to disorganization than smaller companies, but business of all sizes can and are affected.  With large companies, the departments and staff get more and more disconnected.  As the departments get bigger and more disconnected, employees adopt a ‘not my job’ mentality and once something reaches the limit of their job description, they push it off their desk with no thought to the customer’s relationship.  Once it’s pushed off their desk, they don’t really care what happens.  This can leave holes that let customers’ orders fall through the crack and not be serviced.

With small businesses, disorganization happens from immature processes and/or constantly shifting priorities. Also with small businesses, these companies are usually understaffed and that leaves the employees overworked.  So, instead of the service order falling into a black hole like a larger company, the order simply gets buried on the desk (or in email).  This results in lack of order tracking.  Effectively, big or small company, the problem is the same: a lost order.

Organizing: Documentation and Communication

Order taking doesn’t have to be a complex process.  It does, however, need a process.  In large companies, each department needs to be on the same page.  So, that means sales, billing, customer support and technical support all need to use the same system to reference order numbers.  Having multiple order tracking systems is ripe for failure in the order process.  There’s nothing worse than need three or four reference numbers to discuss an order. Worse, though, is when you call and they can’t even look up any of the order numbers and they resort to company names, service addresses and phone numbers.  Sometimes these don’t even work.   When nothing works to look up your account, that indicates either an incompetent service representative or fractured systems.  If you get a service rep who can’t seem to find your order, ask them for their name, thank them and call back.  When you get a new representative ask them to look up your order or company.  If they immediately find it, you should report the previous representative to their supervisor.  Representatives can sometimes intentionally prevent finding the company to get you off the phone faster.  These need to be reported.

Companies must recognize disorganization in order to fix it. Without recognizing this issue, the company cannot change their internal processes.  The processes must be streamlined from start to finish.  This is why many businesses adopt and use ISO 9000 standards certifications.  These certifications, while rigorous and somewhat costly to obtain and somewhat costly and rigorous to maintain, ensure a high quality customer experience from start to finish.  These certifications require that every department follow a blueprint each time they interact with customers.  A set of steps that always lead the customer through the same experience.  It sets quality standards from services and products and, again, it overall ensures a high quality customer experience.

Many larger companies require ISO certifications of their vendors.  This certification process ensures there is a commitment of quality and a level of organization associated with a company’s service offerings.  In other words, ISO certification immediately tells would-be buyers that they can expect a certain level of quality.  ISO certifications require each employee to write their processes down of how to properly work through their daily jobs.  Once these processes are documented, it’s easy to hand the documentation to new staff and have them follow these standards.  Standards set by a company ensures that products and services are efficiently provided.  Without any standards in place, this quickly leads to disorganization and haphazard and random methodologies in placing and managing the order process.   Without standards and processes in place, a company cannot provide high quality services as easily or consistently.

Communication with prospects is key to an order’s success.  If there is an issue with an order, there needs to be someone in the organization to manage these delays.  Someone should be tasked with keeping track of orders and managing (by contacting the customer) when there is to be a delay or an unexpected issue that may prevent an order from completing properly.  So, on top of the processes in place to make sure orders always take the same path, there needs to be a person to manage the order fully from start to finish.  Additionally, systems need to be interlinked properly so that Sales, Customer Service and Billing can be on the same page at the same time. There is nothing worse than calling in and asking about the progress of an order only to find out the order was cancelled from lack of communication.

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