Touchscreens are a widely used medium for interacting with digital applications in public and they are found in various contexts including entertainment, culture, travel, marketing, etc. However, in the current times of COVID-19 pandemic there are safety concerns about the use of these devices, as touching a common surface may increase the risk of transmission. Thus, there is a need for alternative means for interacting with public interactive kiosks in a usable and effective way. In this paper we propose and evaluate a universal solution to safer interactions with public touchscreens using the smartphone as a touchpad controller. Users have to scan a QR code, and then use their device as a controller to interact with the public system though touch and multi-touch interactions (tap, drag and two-finger gestures). We have setup a user study, where we compare the usability and user experience of smartphone control to the traditional touchscreen input and we examine the users’ intention and opinion about the proposed approach. Our study indicates that the use of the mobile device as a controller has the potential to be a safe and practical alternative to direct touch input for public interactive kiosks, and reveals some usability issues that need further consideration.