How to use a PS3 Sixaxis controller with your Android phone

Rejoice Android owners, for your gaming woes are over!

Powerful touchscreen smartphones have seen a massive resurgence in the portable gaming market, and a great deal of the lauded sales on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market are made up of people dropping a couple of quid here and there for gaming apps. The big success story here is obviously Angry Birds, the 500 ton behemoth of the iPhone age, but a great deal of other developers have prospered on the unending appetite for five minute diversions.

Tower defence games and puzzles have translated particularly well to the touch interface, but what about more traditional genres like the FPS or RPG? While our smartphones have more than enough power to drive reasonable-looking analogues to modern game mainstays, or even emulate older classic games from previous generation consoles, the control system just doesn’t stand up. Without a physical gamepad, phones force you to rely on inelegant hacks, like displaying a virtual d-pad and buttons on screen. I don’t know about anyone else, but the prospect of twitchy Call of Duty-style gameplay with my fat digits splayed across the action is hardly appealing.

Android SixaxisSo it’s a good thing the geniuses at Dancing Pixel Studios have us covered. Now, with a little hacking, you can pair a Sixaxis Playstation controller with a rooted Android phone, to create the ultimate mini gaming setup (that’s not a 3DS). Plug an HDMI cable from your phone to an HDTV, and you’ve got a home console you call, text and read Twitter messages on!

This hack is not for newbies to Android customisation, but I’m going to assume if you’ve rooted your phone already, you’ll be able to follow these steps to get your controller working:

  • Some HTC and Samsung phones are unable to work with the application, so check your phone’s compatibility before buying anything.
  • Tap the ‘start’ button and wait for bluetooth to initiate. If you get an ‘Error: Missing required protocol’ message, your device is not supported. Try installing a custom ROM, like CyanogenMod.
  • If you’re compatible, buy, download and install the Sixaxis Controller app from the Android Market. Don’t worry, it only costs just over a quid.
  • If not already done, you must manually pair the controller with your phone. This can be done using ‘SixaxisPairTool’, or with ‘MotionInJoy’ or the linux utility ‘sixpair’. Your phones bluetooth address should be shown at the bottom of the main application window and will look something like 1A:3C:13:00:21:C2; you need to enter this number into the ‘SixaxisPairTool’ as shown. This process only needs to be done the first time a controller is used on a different device, so if you only use the controller on one phone, you will only need to do it once.
  • Once paired, unplug the USB cable and press the power button on the controller. If successful, the lights on the controller will stop blinking and a single light will remain on.
  • If you are running the compatibility checker, and pressing buttons on the controller results in button presses showing up in the app, congratulations, you can now download the full app.
  • Tap the ‘Change Input Method’ button and select ‘Sixaxis Controller’. You should now be able to use the controller in any games or applications that support key bindings, such as many emulators.
  • Subsequent controllers can be added at any time by pressing their power buttons.
  • You can change the fallback input method and key mappings in the applications settings.

Here’s a video of the controller app in action:

If you like retro games, I suggest installing an emulator like Snes9x that will allow you to play copies of all your favourite classics from the 16 bit days. As always, remember that downloading ROMs of games you don’t own is against the law. Make your own moral and legal judgement.

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