About iOS 8 Bluetooth Disconnects
I’ve been spending some more time researching and experimenting with the bluetooth MFi controller disconnect issue, and I’ve come away with some interesting conclusions.
First of all, to be clear, the problems I was describing are very real. If you use a MOGA Rebel on iOS 8, you will notice frequent disconnects in affected games, seemingly getting better or worse depending on the hardware you use. The SteelSeries Stratus disconnects significantly less frequently, but often was plagued by lag and “stickiness” to the analog sticks, severely impacting gameplay. These problems have been confirmed and tested by a variety of people on Twitter and on this site, and notably by MFiGamer, who runs a forum about these controllers.
What’s more, lightning-connected MFi controllers exhibited absolutely none of these issues, working as well under iOS 8 as they did under iOS 7.
From this testing, we all concluded (reasonably I think) that iOS 8 introduced some sort of bluetooth bug that was interfering with MFi controllers. Coupled with the fact that there are widespread reports of bluetooth incompatibilities on iOS 8, I chalked this one up to Apple screwing something up and started the long wait for a fix.
The thing is, I no longer believe that’s entirely true.
Enter Mad Catz
While I’m still awaiting review units of the C.T.R.L.i from Mad Catz (or for the thing to be available at all), I did manage to obtain a Micro C.T.R.L.i of my own. I quickly discovered that the controller doesn’t disconnect on iOS 8. Ever. No matter how hard I try – and believe me, I tried.
I ran the same test on an iPad Air 2, iPhone 6, iPhone 5, and even a first-gen iPad Mini: Connect the controller, enable Airplay and download a huge file (to tax the ram and CPU to the limit), launch a game with known BT incompatibilities, play for a bit, and switch to game controller tester app and see if anything lags or disconnects.
Thus far, I have not been able to get the controller to drop it’s connection or lag out a single time. Not once, not even with the first generation iPad Mini. I’m going to keep testing the heck out of it leading up to my review, and I’ll immediately report any issues I discover, but the fact is, I can’t make it disconnect on iOS 8 at this time.
Retesting the MOGA Rebel
This situation piqued my curiosity. I’d been using the Rebel regularly to play retroarch and Jet Set Radio on an iOS 7 device, and I’d never experienced any disconnects. But I also never tested it all THAT thoroughly on iOS 7. I decided to change that.
I ran through the test procedure listed above, this time on my old iPad 4, still running iOS 7, and the results were surprising: I was able to consistently get the Rebel to drop it’s connection. Not as frequently as on iOS 8, and mostly when taxing it hard with background tasks, but still – the BT disconnect bug is NOT exclusive to iOS 8.
This re-frames the situation somewhat, I think. Apple may still bear some blame for this – they changed something in iOS 8 that broke products they’re still selling on Apple Store shelves. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but I do know things got worse.
But at the same time, Mad Catz made their controller work. MOGA bears some responsibility here as well. They had access to iOS 8 betas like the rest of us, there is no reason for them not to be have been aware of this problem. Barring some sort of low-level incompatibility with their Bluetooth chips and Apple’s Bluetooth driver implementation, there should be nothing stopping Apple from patching this out in firmware. If Mad Catz can do it, I don’t know why MOGA can’t. The same goes for SteelSeries – they just pushed out an update today that doesn’t fix the controller lag, they certainly have a team working on updates. Let’s hope they make it happen.