Backbone One mobile controller review: The best game controller for your iPhone
Games are going through some fundamental changes. While new generation consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are as popular as ever, the rise of cloud gaming has thrown the future of consoles into question, with many suggesting that a future of more portable, more accessible gaming is on the way.
But there is a lot that needs to happen before we get there. Sure, the underlying technology has a long way to go, but so do the consumer-facing devices, such as the controllers and apps that will eventually be used. Backbone wants to solve all that, with the Backbone One – a mobile controller that connects to your phone and lets you play all your mobile games, including streamed games, instantly.
Does it achieve that goal? I’ve been using the Backbone One controller for a while now to find out. Note, I am reviewing the PlayStation model, but there is a standard model. They work the same.
Backbone One Game Controller
Rating: 4.5 stars
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- Great design
- Good guilty
- The backbone app works great
- Works with other devices
Backbone One design
The Backbone One is built for use with your phone, and to date has really only supported the iPhone – although an Android model is now finally available as well. You’ll extend the controller and plug the Lightning connector into your phone, after which the controller will be locked. Those with a recent iPhone model will need a small adapter that accommodates the larger camera, but once installed, the phone fits into the controller very well.
All the controls you’d expect from a modern game controller are here, plus a few extras. On the left you get your usual analog stick, d-pad and two face buttons. On the right you’ll find your four main action buttons, the right joystick and a menu button. Both sides have the trigger and buffer button.
You’ll also find a few other buttons that help make the Backbone One stand out from the rest. Most notable is the Backbone button, which launches the Backbone app on your device, or switches back to the game you just played if you’re already in the Backbone app. We’ll get to more about the Backbone application later.
At the bottom of the controller can be found a Lightning port for charging or connecting, and a headphone jack for wired listening.
As mentioned, we are reviewing the PlayStation model of the Backbone One, which offers the PlayStation 5 DualSense color scheme. I really like the look of it, although the button layout can be a bit confusing for those who don’t primarily stream PlayStation games.
Backbone One build
The Backbone One offers excellent build quality, and it never felt cheap or like it was going to break. I’ve taken the controller on the road, used it on flights, etc. – and thrown it in my backpack between play sessions. It survived everything perfectly.
The buttons also feel well built. The buttons were clicky and felt premium, and I found the overall gaming experience to be quite comfortable. The Backbone One feels sturdier and more premium to me than the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers.
Backbone One software
Backbone could have stopped at the awesome mobile controller and called it a day – but the controller works with the Backbone app, which I really liked.
The Backbone app essentially lets you access all your local games and game streaming services in one easy-to-use window. You can do this through both subscription services and direct purchases. The app also helps you find compatible titles, offers a game library so you can keep track of what games you own, and features a social section where you can compete with friends (and strangers) in various leaderboards. You can even join multiplayer game rooms right from the app.
It’s also pretty well designed. It’s essentially designed like a content streaming service, with rows of content you can consume.
Backbone One device support
The Backbone One is built to be more than just a controller for your mobile device. In fact, it aims to be your all-in-one controller when you’re on the go. You can use it with your phone, as you’d expect, but you can also use it with other devices through the new Play On Any Screen feature. The feature allows you to connect the controller to your Mac, PC or iPad and use it as a wired controller. You’ll have to choose which device you’re going to use it with on your iPhone, in the Backbone app before you do, which is a bit annoying. But this is something that can be overlooked.
This is a really cool feature, and means you don’t have to buy multiple controllers for different use cases. Sure, using it as a wired controller isn’t always the most convenient, but it’s more convenient than carrying around a lot of controllers.
The Backbone One is an excellent game controller for gamers on the go. As game streaming becomes more popular, controllers like this will become more and more useful – and while we’re not yet at a place where game streaming is fully usable, Backbone helps connect things to the Backbone app.
There are many controllers you can use with a mobile device – including most of the more popular controllers out there. But none of them are built as such for mobile use, nor do they connect the mobile gaming experience like the Backbone app.
Should I buy the Backbone One?
Yes, if you want a better controller for mobile gaming.
No, if you don’t plan to play much on your phone.