Being able to control things quickly and easily on your livestream is one of the most important skills you’ll need to develop as a live streamer, whether it's changing scenes, muting your microphone, swapping camera angles, or just keeping up with your chat and alerts, there are many different balls that you'll need to juggle as a live streamer while still trying to be engaging with your audience. That is why tools like the Stream Deck and Stream Deck XL from Elgato have become almost essential for streamers as it makes controlling and managing your live stream that much easier, but these tools don't come cheap.
At the time of recording this video, the Stream Deck, the original 15 key variant, costs almost $150 and the Stream Deck XL, I think costs almost $250 and that's even if you can find them in stock. But thankfully there are some alternatives, instead of investing in a completely new piece of hardware, most of you will already have something in your pockets that you can use instead. Yes, your smartphone. Today we'll be testing and comparing the three best apps that you can install on your iPhone, your Android phone or even a tablet that will help you control all the different aspects of your live stream, let’s go!
The first app that we're going to be diving into is Touch Portal, which has quietly become one of the most popular choices for live streamers looking to use an app to control their live streams. Touch portal has two different versions, a Free version and a Pro version.
The Free version is just limited to two different pages each with eight buttons on. So it's useful to test out the app but it's definitely too limited if you're going to be using it as your controller app of choice. The upgrade to the Pro version costs $12.99 and that is a lifetime license. So you just pay that once and you'll get all the updates to Touch Portal in the future.
It completely removed that restriction of just two pages. You can have unlimited number of pages and you can customize how many buttons are shown on the screen all the way up to 110 buttons per page. Touch Portal has a decent number of integrations and apps that you can control in its library. From a streaming app perspective, this includes OBS Studio, Stream labs OBS and Xsplit.
Changing scenes, muting microphones for enabling and disabling sources are of course amongst the actions that you can add to your phone or tablet with Touch Portal but there's also some more advanced OBS controls that you get with Touch Portal that you don't see from other apps, things like setting specific source volumes or enabling and disabling filters on different scenes or sources. It is worth noting though that to get that extra level of OBS control you will need to install a web socket for getting into OB. There’s also a really detailed integration for those of you that are streaming to Twitch. We can do basic things like sending a message in chat, running an advert for a certain amount of time, or creating a clip all the way to more advanced things that can trigger based on when somebody takes an action on your channel like subscribing to you or redeeming some channel points.
For example, you can have your background lights change when somebody subscribes to your channel, or you could even have chat control with scene US streaming through some chat commands. Something I see implemented incredibly well on Mr.Gregles drumming stream that his viewers can apply effects and change camera angles through his chat. These extra controls and deep integrations that you get with both OBS Studio and Twitch through Touch Portal is one of the biggest selling points.
However, one of the biggest negatives is probably the UI of the desktop app. This is where you actually set up all the actions for your device and it's not necessarily hard to use but for a first-time user, it can be a bit overwhelming jumping in, getting connected and creating your first few pages. Touch Portal uses what they call the Spider Web navigation between each page that you create which basically just means that any one page that you create can be linked to any other page, you just need to create a button that links those two pages together. This is useful because you can quickly customize exactly where each page takes you to but this definitely does take some getting used to and if you're not careful, you can easily end up creating a page, forgetting to put any navigation controls onto it and then you're stuck there.
Thankfully, there is an option in the settings that we'll always add a navigation button to each new page that you create which will take you back to the main page. One thing that I like to do with navigation especially if you're on a bigger device like a tablet is reserving a whole row just for navigation where you can have buttons that link to various different pages that way you're only ever really one click away from any action that you need whilst you're live streaming.
One negative that all apps will suffer from over a physical Stream Deck is it's hard to always know when you've pressed the button. You don't get that tactile feedback that you do off a physical Stream Deck. Touch Portal have aimed to solve this issue with the option for some haptic feedback, which basically vibrates the device when you have clicked a button but this really he doesn't implement too well, I don't think it feels more like an aggressive vibration that you get when you get, say a text message on your phone rather than a simulated click.
Touch Portal also has options outside of just having on and off states for certain buttons. So you can toggle things based on whether you are holding or releasing a button as well. So you can have like a Push to Mute button that if you need to cough or someone needs to come into your room, you can hold down a button on the Touch Portal app which will keep your microphone muted and as soon as you release it, it will then unmute your mi. You can, of course customize all of the buttons on your Touch Portal app to look exactly as you want to with custom colors and texts, icons, even gifts if you want to and you can set two different button styles depending on if the button is on and off so you can easily see at a glance the current state of your stream.
The last couple of things that I want to mention on Touch Portal that came up in my testing is when you are using the app and creating buttons on the desktop PC, you quite often need to click this little Refresh button to update your device to reflect the layout and designs that you've just chosen on the app. It would be nice if this just happened automatically as does with other apps. Also, I found that with newer Phones that have a notch at the top, which I believe is from the 10 onwards, the app doesn't always account for the notch when it's being used in landscape mode, which I find quite annoying. You can of course set up custom border sizes on the desktop app to fix this, but it'd be nice if it was automatic like most iPhone apps are.
Right. That’s enough talking about Touch Portal. Let’s move on to our second app, Streamlabs Deck. Streamlabs Deck has not surprisingly been developed by the team over at Stream labs and giving content creators greater control over Streamlabs OBS. Probably the biggest advantage of this app is that it is completely free, and it is incredibly quick and easy to set up. All you have to do is download the app onto your phone or tablet from the app or Google Play Store then simply scan a QR code to sync it, which can be found in the Streamlabs OBS settings under Remote Control.
Once you've done that, you’ll automatically get given one scrollable page with all the controls available to your currently selected scene. So buttons for things like starting or stopping your streams or recordings, swapping scenes, enabling, and disabling sources or muting microphones are automatically populated and updated to reflect whichever scene you currently have selected.
This does however mean that there is no way to create custom pages with your own custom controls. You’re literally given everything that Streamlabs OBS can control on that current scene in one scrollable page. You can go into the settings and rearrange certain icons and hide ones that you don't want to see. But yeah, there's really no way to create custom pages of your own controls. If you do get some zoom in and zoom out controls to change how many buttons are shown on this scrollable page all the way up to 200 buttons for you tablet users but there's no way to customize what these buttons look like.
Similarly to Touch Portal, there is the option for haptic feedback and unlike Touch Portal, this does now feel much more like a simulated click, so I'd definitely recommend turning this on. And there's some advanced options for controlling your audio sources. So if you press and hold down on any audio source, you’ll get given a slider control to tune the volume of that audio source really fine. That unfortunately though is I think were the positives end for this app.
The biggest limitation of this is that it's locked down to Streamlabs OBS. So you can't even use this with OBS studio and the integrations with platforms like Twitch really don't offer much control at all. The app does feature a couple of other tabs so you can keep on top of your stream chat and your recent events which is nice especially if you're a single monitor user and you need one app that can do all of these different things like controlling the streaming application as well as keeping up with Twitch Chat and recent events.
To his credit, the UI of the actual buttons that you'd get given automatically does look good and it's incredibly quick to set up. You can seriously get set up with this app in like 30 seconds because it auto generates all the buttons for you, but it's so limited with it just working with Streamlabs OBS that I'd only really recommend it if you're already using that streaming app.
Elgato’s Stream Deck Mobile
Our third app is Elgato's Stream Deck Mobile which is Elgato's official offering of the Stream Deck experience in a mobile app. Now I have high hopes for this app because it's Elgato's official app and the Stream Decks are so universally loved but have they been able to nail that experience on mobile as well? So let's start with the price.
Now, maybe not surprising Elgato's Stream Deck Mobile is the most expensive of the three apps that we're comparing but thankfully it's nowhere near the $150 you'd have to shell out for a physical Stream Deck. You can choose between either paying $2.99 per month or $24.99 per year to have access to Elgato's Stream Deck Mobile. But there is also a 30-day free trial so that you can test out its functionality limit-free for one month before committing to either the monthly or annual subscription.
Just like with the original Stream Deck, you get 15 keys in a five by three grid, which can be displayed in either a portrait or landscape mode but annoyingly, there is no way of changing this limit of 15 keys. So if you're on a tablet or a larger device, you’re still stuck with 15 keys. You can of course use folders and then folders within folders. So you're technically never limited by the number of buttons but really if you're on a bigger screen device and you're just getting 15 keys that are really large, it’s not a great experience.
Now Stream Deck Mobile uses the exact same desktop apps the physical Stream Decks, which makes adding actions and folders as simple as dragging and dropping which is then instantly reflected on your device. Adding your device is a similar process to what we saw in Streamlabs Deck, where you simply scan a QR code with your phone through the Stream Deck Mobile app and everything should be synced. I much preferred the desktop interface when compared to Touch Portal’s. Everything is laid out as you'd expect it to, and it makes changing things like text or icon super simple.
There is a big selection of streaming apps that are supported with actions through Stream Deck Mobile, OBS studio, Streamlabs OBS, Stream Elements OBS Live, Nvidia ShadowPlay, Elgato Game Capture and even Twitch Studio are all supported. It is however worth noting that the officially supported integration with OBS Studio isn't as deep as it was with Touch Portal. There are also integrations with streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube, where similar to Touch Portal you could create clips, you could send chat messages, you could run adverts, all those kinds of controls.
If you've bought into Elgato's ecosystem of products, such as their key lights or their wave microphones, then you do get some additional functionality you can control through the app. With either Elgato's lights or products from companies like Phillips Hue, you can turn lights on and off, control things like the brightness, color temperature or even RGB like I do with my Phillips Hue Lights behind my setup. With Wave microphones, you can control all aspects of your audio like adjusting volumes, totaling monitoring, and changing the mix and balance of your stream audio.
Elgato also has a rich and open API for developers to build their own integration into the Stream Deck app which has seen controls introduced for all kinds of apps including things like ShareX, Voicemod, Voicemeter with plenty of new controls being added every month. There’s even an OBS Tools App which has been built by a community member which gives more control over OBS functions. So it kind of brings it on par with what you could do through Touch Portal.
This developer API is one of the best things about Stream Deck mobile because any company that’s looking to build an integration into a physical Stream Deck, you’ll also be able to benefit by having those available to you in Stream Deck Mobile. There’s also a neat option in the Stream Deck application that allows you to set automatic profile switching based on apps that are focused on your computer. What this means is that you can set a full layout of buttons in your profile on Stream Deck Mobile that will only show when you have OBS open or one that will only show when you have Discord open and there'll be shown automatically as soon as you switch to the application which might save you a button press.
Similarly to the other two apps, there is haptic feedback enabled by default which lets you know when you've pressed a button, but they haven't really taken advantage of the touch screen with any additional functionality. On iOS devices, they have added the option to use Siri to control certain actions on your stream.
Personally, I think this is more of a gimmick than a feature because it wouldn't exactly be a great viewer experience if you're constantly talking to Siri, asking them to change scenes and mute microphones for you and your stream can hear all of that. So more of a gimmick for me but I can certainly see a use case where if you're maybe running a cooking stream or something like that, you need to be able to communicate with the software to change scenes without using your dirty hands and touching the touch screen.
Just like with Touch Portal, you can set custom icons or even gifts for your buttons and have different states for enabled or disabled. One thing that I noticed actually way back when Stream Deck Mobile was released and still hasn't been fixed is that on retina screens particularly you can see some jagged edges on any of the curved corners of buttons. You would have thought that this would be an easy fix, but it's existed since the app came out.
The other thing that I've noticed that there is sometimes a delay on pressing on a button particularly when you're opening up a folder which contains lots of integrations inside. It’s not a deal breaker. It’s not like seconds that you're waiting but it is noticeable, and I thought it'd be worth mentioning.
By far my biggest gripe with Elgato's Stream Deck Mobile through is the limit to 15 buttons per page. It just makes it useless for those of us wanting to use a tablet as the device of our choice because you're just going to get 15 huge buttons whereas all of that space could be saved and used over you know, 50 plus buttons and it'd be a lot more useful. My guests there is probably the Elgato want this to be sort of a gateway app into purchasing a physical Stream Deck or Stream Deck XL. And if they offered you the ability to have like 50 buttons on a tablet of your choice, then maybe they would sell less $250 Stream Deck XLs which is probably true.
In terms of compatibility for all three of these apps, they have versions for both Android and iOS and the desktop companion can be installed on either Windows or Mac OS. If you're wanting to install the app on an iPad or an Android tablet, technically all three apps support that but like we've just mentioned Stream Deck Mobile still limits you to just 15 keys whereas the other two apps at least you can display more buttons per page. So if you want to install it on a tablet, I will maybe steer clear of Elgato's Stream Deck Mobile.
All three of these apps work by connecting to the same network as your PC. So if your PC is say hardwired connected to a router and then your phone is connected over wifi to that same router, these should all work and connect seamlessly. Touch Portal technically does also offer USB connection but it's only with Android devices and Windows PCs. And actually in my testing, I found that the wifi connection was much more stable.
So let's summarize exactly what I've learned over the last few weeks of testing these apps and which one would I recommend to you? Or maybe not surprisingly, it’s going to completely depend on your use case. If you are somebody that really wants the most control of Twitch and OBS Studio and don't mind having a slightly more complicated setup but you can customize all the things about how many buttons are shown on screen and exactly how those buttons look, then Touch Portal is probably the best choice for you.
If however, you just want something easy to get you started and you always plan to upgrade to a physical Stream Deck at some point or maybe you already own some of Elgato's other products like the Key Lights or the Wave microphones, then I would say that Elgato's Stream Deck Mobile is for you providing that you don't mind the 15 key per page limit.
If you are broke and spending money right now is not an option and you're already using Streamlabs OBS and you just want something simple to control that piece of software whilst keeping up with chat and some of your alerts then maybe Streamlabs Deck is going to be enough for you.
So what do you think? Have any of these apps tempted you into trying them? Were you using any already or are there any that I have missed in this video? I’d love to hear your thoughts. So leave them down in the comments below so that I can learn back from you guys too. Thanks so much for watching. If you enjoyed this kind of comparison video, where we put the apps head-to-head then please do give that thumbs up. That will let me know that you like this kind of video, then maybe in the future we can do more comparisons of different microphones and different lights and things like that. So I'll catch you in the next one. Peace!