Today, Sony released its 6.50 firmware for PlayStation 4 systems. The tentpole feature of the update is support for remote play to iOS devices like iPhones and iPads. The release coincided with the release of a “PS4 Remote Play” app on the Apple App Store.
Remote Play has been around as a feature for years in one form or another—since the PlayStation 3, even. It allows you to stream games from your PS4 to your PlayStation Vita, Windows or Mac laptop, or other supported device, and it lets you control the game remotely, too. The recently deceased Vita had a custom control layout for playing PS4 games, while Windows and Mac users could connect the PlayStation’s DualShock 4 controllers to their computers.
Unfortunately, you can’t sync a DualShock 4 controller with an iPhone at present. You can use a MFi controller, but its layout is generally not optimal—for example, an MFi controller may not allow you to press down on the control sticks as buttons, which is labeled L3 and R3 on the PS4 and frequently used in games. In Apex Legends, L3 is sprint by default, and R3 is for the melee attack—kind of critical.
These buttons are accessible with the on-screen touch overlay that represents a PS4 controller, though, and this overlay is as good as such overlays can be. I found it adequate for controlling most non-action games, even if I constantly had to fight the temptation to tap on UI elements instead of navigating to them with a virtual control stick.
The app offers a range of quality settings for different connections. 360p, 540p, 720p, and 1080p resolutions are available, though the highest of those requires that you have a PlayStation 4 Pro rather than the base PS4. There are two framerate settings: standard and high. The menu doesn’t specify the numbers here, but high is obviously preferable if you can manage it.
On an iPhone XS sharing a local network with my PlayStation 4 Pro (which was connected to the router via Ethernet), I was able to max both of these settings with no issues. Unfortunately, you can’t play over LTE, and I wasn’t able to test playing over the Internet via another WiFi network today. It’s a safe bet that anyone trying that will have a rougher go of it, though.
I tried out a bunch of games and found that the experience was as good as you could expect on local Wi-Fi; it’s adequate for turn-based and slow-paced games like strategy games, traditional Japanese role-playing games like Dragon Quest XI, or walking simulators. But don’t expect to play Call of Duty or Bloodborne this way. There’s just too much input lag. On the other hand, visual fidelity is great.
Sony made this feature available on certain Android devices more than four years ago, but there’s a catch: the device list was limited only to a few of Sony’s phones. Now users of unsupported Android phones are asking for official parity with the iPhone. The iOS app works on any iOS device supported by iOS 12.1.
Sony hasn’t made any announcements about expanded Android support yet (though lackluster support is possible with third-party apps on that platform). But Android support doesn’t seem too unlikely. Meanwhile, Microsoft is planning on making streaming games to a variety of devices a key part of its console strategy for the future.
Listing image by Samuel Axon
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