The Backbone One Controller makes iPhone gaming a comfortable experience

Posted on May 28, 2024

Backbone turns your iPhone into a gaming handheld with the Backbone One controller. If you want to play the latest games on your iPhone but are tired of the touch screen, this is the controller for you. The Backbone One is easy to set up and configure, letting you play games from the Apple Store or any cloud gaming service. Thanks to the team at Backbone, we received one of these controllers to test out.

The Backbone One Controller weighs 130 grams, light enough to carry around wherever you like. There are two versions of the controller for iPhones; one with a Lightning port and the other with a USB-C port. The controller can be pulled horizontally to create enough space to insert your phone. While it’s an easy fit for a naked iPhone, the controller can also support a variety of cases thanks to some rubber attachments in the box. The Backbone One Controller doesn’t have any battery power and it doesn’t drain your iPhone’s battery much, if at all.

Holding the controller feels like you are grabbing a Nintendo Switch with both Joycons attached. The buttons are easy to reach, especially the recording/photo and Backbone menu buttons. While your streaming capabilities depend on your iPhone, it’s easy to take a video or picture without disrupting gameplay. If your iPhone is running out of battery, there’s also a Lightning or USB-C slot on the bottom right that can connect to a charger or computer. This helps you keep playing without fear of losing your progress and also connect to a Mac computer for easy file transfers.

You must download the Backbone app on your iPhone before connecting the controller. This also brings up the option to sign up for a trial of Backbone+. The app gives you access to your games across subscription platforms among other benefits. While the controller is said to be available without the subscription, it didn’t seem like there was a way to bypass the free trial and not subscribe. It does give you a free one-month subscription to Xbox Game Pass, letting you access cloud gaming immediately. But it does feel forced as if you must sign up before you can use the controller.

To test the controller’s responsiveness and comfort for long-term gameplay, four games were selected from Xbox Cloud Gaming. They were Brotato, PalWorld, Injustice 2, and State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition. They cover different genres and PalWorld’s online component was perfect for testing the controls during latency spikes.

Brotato is a simple rogue-like shooter that only requires you to move a character around the screen. It wasn’t difficult to move and dodge enemy attacks, or make selections when choosing weapons. The iPhone screen quickly filled up with enemies and projectiles, but it was easy to respond to the visual cues. Taking pictures was simple once a free moment presented itself.

PalWorld’s online play didn’t affect the Backbone One’s performance much. Movement was smooth and the buttons were responsive even during large monster battles. There were several opportunities to take photos from a distance, especially while traveling around the world. Accessing menus and creating bases made it feel like you were playing on a console controller.

Injustice 2 was fast-paced as a fighting game but there were no problems handling the combat. Performing simple combos and chaining them together was easy for the Backbone One controller. More importantly, there was no discomfort in performing combos for long periods of time. The controller’s size makes it a comfortable fit without placing your hands too far apart.

State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition also had responsive controls and it was easy to move the characters around. With quick thinking requiring fast responses, it was great moving around without being hindered by accidental touches. While mistakes were made during gameplay, none of that could be attributed to the controller’s performance.

The Backbone One controller doesn’t boost anything related to gameplay or improve your iPhone’s performance. But for an ergonomic device that turns your iPhone into a comfortable gaming experience, it’s easy to recommend. Make sure you pay attention to the Lightning and USB-C versions along with the one-month free trial. If you do, you get a simple device that comfortably fits iPhones and lets you game comfortably wherever you are.

You can pick up your own Backbone One controller here.