Google Stadia launched last fall, and when it came to streaming games on your phone, things were kind of limited. Not only did you need to have a Pixel phone, you also had to connect a Stadia controller via USB. However, thanks to an update this week, gaming with Stadia on your phone just got a whole lot easier.
The first major change is that after adding native support for a handful of other Android phones (including the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Asus ROG Phone 2) post-launch, this week Google is adding official support for practically every OnePlus phone since the OnePlus 5.
But more importantly, Android phones (sorry iPhone owners) that aren’t on Google’s list of officially supported phones can now stream games on Stadia—all you have to do is be able to install the Stadia app from the Google Play Store. Once you’ve installed the Stadia app on your phone, you can simply navigate over to the Experiments tab and select the setting that says Play on this device, or hit the button on the pop-up menu that appears when you try to launch a game without having a physical controller already connected.
While running Stadia on “unsupported” phones is still considered a test, when I tried it out on my Galaxy Z Flip (which isn’t officially supported), I didn’t run into any issues or hiccups. And while my experience may not hold true for every Android phone, it’s definitely encouraging to see a much wider range of phones get access to mobile game streaming, and as users provide feedback after using a wider range of handsets, Google says it will continue to add more phones to its list of officially support phones.
Meanwhile, the other major feature that should help simply mobile gaming on Stadia is the addition of on-screen touch controls. Previously, in order to play Stadia on your phone, you would need to connect a Stadia controller via USB or use one of a limited selection of supported third-party controllers. But thanks to new support for mobile touch controls, you can leave the controller at home, which is nice for anyone trying to pack light.
Now I have to admit, I have a general disdain for touch controls, and given the choice will almost always gravitate towards a physical controller with buttons. But these controls aren’t bad. After testing out Stadia’s touch controls in Panzer Dragoon and Superhot, I compared them to games with built-in touch controls like Fortnite or Call of Duty Mobile and found that Stadia’s touch controls are pretty solid!
Stadia uses a relatively standard layout with virtual analog sticks on either side, along with a d-pad, four face buttons, and two shoulder buttons on either side. Touching the screen causes the outline of Stadia’s touch controls to appear, but if you’re watching a cutscene and don’t want to be distracted, that outline fades away after a couple of seconds. There is also a row of Stadia settings and menu buttons along the top.
As in other apps with touch controls, if you’re playing something that demands great accuracy, you’ll probably want to stick to a real controller. But for RPGs or slower paced games, I really appreciate how Stadia’s touch controls let you hop in and out of the action super quickly. And for the generation of kids that have grown up with touch controls, I suspect they’ll be able to switch over with very little need for adjustment.
Also, in order to give Stadia users a bit more control over their graphics, Google is giving people the ability to adjust their game resolution across a number of devices including Chromecast Ultras, laptops (in Chrome), and phones. The only caveat is that you’ll have to restart the app for any changes in resolution to take effect.
Finally, for current Stadia subscribers, Google is also giving everyone a $10 discount on their game purchase, and has also added Superhot, Get Packed, Little Nightmares, Power Rangers: Battle for the Gird and Panzer Dragoon: Remake to the library of free Stadia Pro games.
While these new changes may not be a big help for people with slower internet connections, the ability to use a wider range of devices and leave your physical controller at home when streaming games on Android devices is welcome. It feels like Stadia has taken another important step towards becoming the ever-present video game platform Google promised back in 2019.