Small tweaks to vastly improve gaming on your phone

Ready, player one?

If you’re a train commuter or a dedicated multitasker, there’s a good chance you use your phone to play games. Below, find tips for leveling up that experience—improving performance and stability, getting the action up on a big screen, and more.

Whether you’re an Android or iPhone user, part-time or dedicated gamer, you should find some useful ideas here for boosting gameplay on your mobile.

Silence notifications

Do not disturb on Android
Android settings for Do not Disturb mode. David Nield

You don’t want an immersive gaming experience interrupted by messages about dinner from your family, so turn off notifications while you’re gaming. On Android, swipe down on the home screen with two fingers, then tap Do not disturb. On iOS, swipe down from the top right corner of the home screen with one finger, and tap the Do not disturb icon (the crescent moon).

Both these modes can be configured further—through Sound and Do Not Disturb in Settings on Android, and through Do Not Disturb in Settings on iOS. It’s possible to allow calls from particularly important people, for example.

If you’d rather block alerts on an app-by-app basis, this can be done through Apps & notifications in the Android Settings app, and through Notifications in the iOS Settings app. Maybe you want to only block certain apps, for instance, or change the types of alerts that are allowed during your gaming sessions.

Reduce the clutter

Google Photos iOS
Removing photos on iOS. David Nield

Clutter can impact the performance of any smartphone, and when you’re gaming, every extra lag and stutter can reduce your chances of winning. It’s a good idea to leave a decent chunk of space free on your phone to give games room to work with, and one way of doing that is to uninstall apps you’re no longer using.

It’s easily done: On Android, tap and hold on an app icon, drag it up to the Uninstall button at the top, then choose OK to confirm. If you’re on iOS, tap and hold on an app icon until it starts to shake, then tap the cross X icon and choose Delete.

Safely offloading pictures and videos to the cloud can help too. In Google Photos for Android or iOS, open the app menu then choose Free up space. If you’re using the iCloud Photo Library on iOS, open Settings then pick Optimize iPhone storage.

Attach a controller

SteelSeries Stratus
The SteelSeries Stratus controller for Android. SteelSeries

Touchscreens simply can’t offer the amount of control a mouse and keyboard or a console controller provid,es and that means your mobile gaming experience can suffer. The good news is there’s a lot of excellent third-party accessories and add-ons out there.

For Android, consider the SteelSeries Stratus ($30 from Amazon), which essentially gives you a console-type controller experience on your phone—you’ll just have to find somewhere to prop your phone up while you’re playing. Another option: the Daqi Wireless Android Game Controller ($36 from Amazon), which attaches to the sides of your Android phone so you can hold the whole system in your hands.

Over on the iOS side of the fence, consider the Gamevice Controller ($80 from Amazon), which clips to the sides of your iPhone like the Daqi controller, giving you easy access to physical buttons, a D-pad, and a joystick. We also like the YF2009 Wireless Game Controller ($60 from Amazon), which has a dock for keeping your iPhone in place.

Boost battery life

iPhone battery
Low Power Mode on iOS. David Nield

The demands of intensive gaming can really suck the life out of your handset, so make sure you’re conserving as much energy as possible elsewhere. If you tap on Battery in the Android Settings menu, you can access the Battery Saver and Adaptive Battery options; both of these will restrict background battery use and ensure you get more time between charges.

iOS offers something similar. Open up Settings then choose Battery, then tap the Low Power Mode toggle switch to turn it on. As on Android, background activity is restricted so apps spend less time pinging device sensors and reporting back to base, which gives your phone more time before the battery dies.

If you’re going to be gaming for extended periods away from home, consider a portable battery pack. The new Mophie PowerStation PD XL ($80 from Amazon) and Anker PowerCore 26800 ($87 from Amazon) can recharge your smartphone several times.

Install another app

Game Booster for Android
Game Booster for Android gives you a number of settings to play around with. Game Booster

On Android, you can find several apps to tweak low-level system settings, freeing up system resources to leave more headroom for your games. There’s no similar set of tools available on iOS however, as apps don’t have the same deep access to the operating system as they do on Android.

Game Booster is a favorite. It costs $1 and can make sure your phone’s internal components are giving all they’ve got to give. GFX Tool, which is free, lets you tweak otherwise hidden graphics settings on your Android device to improve performance.

Those of you running Samsung phones can take advantage of the Game Launcher app that comes included. It blocks alerts while you’re gaming, optimizes handset performance, and can log how you’re doing in your favorite games. It’s well worth setting up even for casual gamers.

Play on the big screen

Casting on Android
Casting from Android through Google Home. David Nield

Both Android and iOS screens cast to a bigger display if needed, though the options vary depending on the model of phone you’ve got. Android phones running Android 5.0 or later can mirror the screen to a Chromecast dongle or device via the Google Home app. Just tap Account (bottom right) then Mirror device.

iPhones and iPads support AirPlay mirroring, so you can duplicate the screen on an Apple TV or an AirPlay-enabled television set. Open Control Center with a swipe down from the top right corner of the display, then choose Screen Mirroring to get connected.

Your phone might also be able to be cabled up to a big screen, depending on the connections you’ve got available: Check the device specifications for details. In the case of an iPhone or iPad, for example, you just need to pick the right cable accessory to create a wired connection to your television.

David Nield
David Nield

David Nield is a tech journalist from the UK who has been writing about gadgets and apps since way before the iPhone and Twitter were invented. When he's not busy doing that, he usually takes breaks from all things tech with long walks in the countryside.