Here’s How Google Stadia Performs on iPad and iPhone
Over a year after Google launched its cloud streaming service, Stadia is finally offering iOS support. Players can now use the service on iPhone and iPad, and play games like Destiny 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 on Apple’s mobile devices.
Digital Trends practically tested the new update prior to its introduction, testing the service with a phone and a tablet. The experience is largely the same as what Android users tried last year. That means the iOS version doesn’t address any of the platform’s longstanding issues, but it does make it a generally accessible service that is vital to the continued growth of cloud games.
Setting up Stadia almost feels like faking it. To do this, players must navigate to the Stadia website in Safari and pin it to their device’s home screen. This workaround is likely due to Apple’s restrictive rules for all-in-one gaming apps, which have challenged the industry’s tentative leap to cloud gaming.
The advanced web app solution is a contact point for services that want to bypass Apple’s strict rules. It’s a smart piece of problem-solving, but admittedly imperfect when compared to a proper app. In one case, I somehow managed to highlight my Destiny 2 screen in blue with the Copy and Select All prompts on the screen. I had to fumble around menus to find a way to deselect the gameplay.
Such little quirks are something of a necessary evil at the moment. So make it a scenario where “beggars can’t be a choice” for players who are initially at the mercy of Apple.
After playing around a bit to sync a DualShock 4 to my iPhone, I was able to quickly launch and start playing games. For those who don’t need to try a cloud gaming service just yet, the initial shock of seeing a game like Hitman 2 on a phone screen is truly unforgettable. While the Nintendo Switch normalized it to bring console-quality games to a handheld device, it is still impressive to see an iPhone 8 run Destiny 2 in a fairly stable manner.
During my testing, I completed a few full missions in Hitman, played some online matches in Dead By Daylight, completed quick Super Bomberman R online rounds in between jobs, and even managed to land in a positive K / D on one round of Crucible Destiny 2. Meanwhile, I was jumping back and forth between devices, controllers, attachments, and wireless headphones. The configuration I eventually ended up on had my iPhone in a Razer Kishi and connected to the Hammerhead Wireless Pro earbuds, which convincingly turned my phone into a full handheld.
Much of the more fundamental frustrations I’ve experienced, like pain while pairing devices or browser crashes, felt like they came from Apple, not Stadia. This underscores an important point that must be considered with any cloud streaming platform. To a certain extent, they’re only as good as the device they’re working on. With a dedicated console like the PlayStation 5, Sony has full control over its hardware and can update it accordingly to better optimize the gaming experience. Services like Stadia don’t have the same advantage, so Apple’s problems become Google’s.
Despite these complications, it was still exciting to see my outdated and inoperative iPad become a legitimate gaming device. It won’t replace anything in my home, but it’s easy to see how anyone without a powerful PC or laptop can benefit from the service. The name of the game of cloud games right now is Access, and it’s critical that Apple users now even have the opportunity to see what’s possible with Stadia.
Stability vs. Convenience
The big pain point with cloud gaming is still stability, and that applies here as well. For the most part, the games ran smoothly for me, with a few noticeable graphics drops and quick freezes. Impressively, this was the case even with online games like Dead By Daylight. Granted, I’m in New York City and have access to the internet necessary for Stadia to operate effectively. The experience will certainly vary elsewhere.
Even with relatively fluid graphics, I still had a lot of sub-ideal hiccups. The typing delay wasn’t as noticeable in slower games like Hitman, but it became a bigger problem when I tried to play a competitive round in Destiny 2. It wasn’t enough to stop my game but it’s hard to see Stadia I’ll be my go-to for games that require precision.
More troubling were some of the audio issues, where the sound often diverged from the gameplay. In Destiny 2, the sound delay was a full pulse rifle that was shot apart, making it difficult to tell when I was hitting enemies. Sometimes I was killed before I even heard the shot that did it.
This is certainly not new information to those who have used the platform before, but it is a refresher on what Stadia has to offer players and what is lacking. Cloud gaming offers convenience at the expense of stability and that is not an unfair equation. Even the Nintendo Switch thrives on that balance, letting people play games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on the go when they’re ready to face a tougher experience.
As an added complication, it doesn’t help that most of the games available on the platform were not designed for mobile use. It’s almost impossible to read Hitman’s already tiny text boxes on an iPhone without an external magnifying glass. The only game I tested that felt right was Super Bomberman R Online. This makes sense when you consider that this is a Stadia exclusive game that appears to have a mobile focus. The more enticing, large-budget titles feel especially tight and unlikely to change until cloud gaming becomes more commonplace.
Despite its kinks, Google Stadia on iOS is perfectly suited for what it is supposed to achieve: Accessible gaming on the devices that players already own. But those looking to sign up for Stadia on iOS need to understand what they’re getting into. An iPhone doesn’t suddenly become a replacement for a PC. It just means that players don’t have to lug around to play a game while on vacation.