Gaming is going through some fundamental changes. While next generation consoles such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are more popular than ever, the rise of cloud gaming has cast doubt on the future of consoles, with many suggesting a future of more portable, accessible gaming is on the way .
But there’s still a lot to do 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 aims 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 ones, on-the-fly.
Does it achieve that goal? I’ve been using the Backbone One controller for a while now to find out. Please 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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BGR may receive a commission
- Great design
- Feeling guilty
- Backbone app works great
- Works with other devices
Backbone One design
The Backbone One is built for use with your phone and so far it really only supported the iPhone, although an Android model is now finally available too. You slide out the controller and plug the Lightning connector into your phone, after which the controller clicks shut. Those with a recent iPhone model will need a small adapter to accommodate the larger camera, but once installed the phone fits the controller very well.
All the controls you’d expect from a modern game controller are there, plus a few extras. On the left you get your usual analog stick, d-pad and two face buttons. On the right side you get your four main action buttons, the right joystick and a menu button. Both sides have the trigger and bumper button.
You also get a few other buttons that set the Backbone One apart from others. Most notable is the Backbone button, which launches the Backbone app on your device or switches back to the game you were just playing if you’re already in the Backbone app. We’ll learn more about the Backbone app later.
On the bottom of the controller is a Lightning port for charging or plugging in, 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 layout of the buttons can be a bit confusing for those who don’t primarily stream PlayStation games.
Backbone One built
The Backbone One offers excellent build quality and never felt cheap or like it was going to break. I took the controller on the road, used it on flights, and so on – and tucked it into my backpack between gaming sessions. It survived all that just fine.
The buttons also feel well built. Buttons were clicky and premium-feeling, and I found the overall playing experience quite comfortable. The Backbone One feels stronger 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 in tandem with the Backbone app, which I really liked.
The Backbone app essentially allows you to access all your local games and game streaming services in one easy-to-use window. You can do this through both subscription services and outright purchases. The app also helps you find compatible titles, offers a game library so you can keep track of what games you own, and has 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 pretty well designed too. It’s essentially designed as a content streaming service, with rows of content for you to consume.
Backbone One device support
The Backbone One is built to be more than just a controller for your mobile device. It’s even meant to be your all-in-one controller when you’re on the go. You can use it with your phone, as you would expect, but you can also use it with other devices via the new Play On Any Screen feature. This feature allows you to connect the controller to your Mac, PC or iPad and use it as a wired controller. You have to select which device you’re going to use it with on your iPhone, in the Backbone app before doing this, which is a bit of a pain. But it is something that can be overlooked.
It’s a super cool feature and means you don’t have to buy multiple controllers for different use cases. Of course, it’s not always convenient to use it as a wired controller, but it’s more convenient than carrying around a bunch 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 in a place where game streaming is fully usable, Backbone helps bring things together with the Backbone app.
There are plenty of controllers you can use with a mobile device, including most of the more popular controllers out there. But none of them are built 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 on gaming much on your phone.