Review: Full-fledged iPhone gaming awaits with the Backbone One [Video]

As mobile gaming becomes more popular, more companies are jumping on the opportunity to create controllers that turn your phone into a console-like experience. We took a look at the Razer Kishi for iPhone recently, but today we have another similar option from a company called Backbone. With all of the dedicated buttons you would find on a console controller and an app that integrates friends, video captures, and quick launch options, the Backbone One is a great way to up your mobile gaming experience. Be sure to hit the video below to see all of the details. 

Compatibility and pricing

Made specifically for iPhone with a low-latency lightning connector, Backbone One supports devices with iOS 13 and up. Everything has worked flawlessly on my iPhone 8 as well as my wife’s 12 Pro Max. Coming in at $100, the Backbone One is the same price as the Razer Kishi for iPhone but has a few things that set it apart.

If you’re on Android, be sure to check out the Razer Kishi Android edition.  

Out of the box/design

Included with the Backbone One are some simple instructions and that’s about it. It’s powered by a connected phone so no need for external power cables or supplies. But the Backbone One does feature a Lightning passthrough so the phone can be charged while gaming. And it also features a 3.5mm jack to use headphones with the controller. That’s something that the Kishi doesn’t have and opens up the Backbone One to more headsets than just wireless Bluetooth offerings. 

It would appear that the name for the Backbone One comes from the large expandable piece that supports the two sides of the controller. To install a phone, just pull them apart, install the device and it’s ready to go. Overall, this makes it bigger than the Razer Kishi when not in use but it feels a little more stable than the Kishi. Occasionally with the Kishi, it felt like the sides of the controller could move a little bit on the phone because there isn’t a back piece keeping it rigid like the Backbone One. But I really didn’t have an issue playing games on either of them. 

While it may work with thinner cases, I was not able to keep the QuadLock case on my iPhone 8 that I typically have installed when using the Backbone One. 

Backbone One: video

Buttons and inputs

Armed with all of the buttons you would expect to find on a console controller, the Backbone One is ready to play any controller-supported title. For FPS games like Call of Duty: Mobile, it really seems like you have an unfair advantage when playing in normal matches. I haven’t ventured into the ranked modes, but even though I usually play Southpaw, it was easy to put up some ridiculous numbers on the scoreboard with the Backbone One. It kind of feels like cheating. 

In addition to the thumbsticks, triggers, bumpers, face buttons, and the d-pad, the Backbone One also has buttons to go directly to the Backbone app, capture video, and access menus. 

How does it feel? 

For the most part, all of the inputs feel great for the small size of the controller. The face and d-pad buttons have a great feel and sound to them. Triggers are smooth and easy to actuate. Compared to the Kishi, the thumbsticks are shorter and don’t feel quite as robust.

Backbone One: in use

Playing with a controller makes mobile gaming much, much better, in my opinion. Of course, there are games that are made for a simple touch interface, but to take full advantage of what’s possible from developers and get a more natural feel, having a controller takes it to the next level.

From my experience, the Backbone One feels great. The buttons have a nice tactile feel and sound, and the overall shape makes it easier to game on an iPhone. I prefer the thumbsticks on the Kishi as they feel more like what I’m used to on an Xbox controller with a bit more resistance, and it feels like more range of motion. 

Backbone app

On the software side, the Backbone app brings some neat features to the Backbone One. It can be called up with a simple press of the Backbone logo button on the front of the controller. In here is quick access to all of your games, and you can also set up party chats and view friends who are online. Here are recorded highlights from you and your friends as well. 

Under settings, there are some tweaks available to the video recording mode, account information, and some controller information. It’s doesn’t seem that you can change controls at all. I’m hoping that one day, one of these controllers will allow me to play Southpaw as I do on a console. 

9to5Toys’ Take

Overall, the Backbone One is a great way to take mobile gaming to the next level. If you have friends who also game on mobile, the Backbone app is a fun way to get party chats going, At $100, it comes in at the same price as the Razer Kishi. Personally, I prefer the buttons of the Backbone One and the thumbsticks of the Kishi. But both controllers make playing FPS and racing games much more natural for me. 

Buy Backbone One

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