Gaming

iPhone into a Gaming Device

As the high-profile disputes about what content you can play on your iPhone rage on between Apple, Epic Games, Google, and Microsoft, a company called Backbone is focusing instead on making sure you get the most out of the games that are currently available. Like Razer did with its Kishi controller for iOS, and as other companies have with snap-on controllers of their own, Backbone is introducing one for $100 that it calls the Backbone One. You can buy it from Backbone’s site.

With the controller fully extended, it can fit any iPhone running iOS 13 or later, starting with the iPhone 6S and including the new iPhone 12 lineup. It’s great for Apple Arcade games that support controllers. Sky: Children of the Light and Call of Duty: Mobile play wonderfully with the One. And, for popular games like COD: Mobile that don’t have controller support switched on from the start, Backbone curates visual tutorials that appear before it launches to walk you through the steps to turn it on in the game’s settings.

Since the Backbone One launched, it now works with Genshin Impact, the xCloud iOS beta for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, and Google Stadia, too. Even playing games like Hades through the Steam Link app (with my PC connected via Wi-Fi) felt surprisingly natural.

BackBone One
The analog stick is sized similarly to the ones built into the Joy-Con for Nintendo Switch.

BackBone One
The triggers are also similar to those on the Joy-Con, yet these have a more satisfying travel.

Unlike most controller accessories made thus far, the Backbone One is a hybrid of tightly integrated hardware and software. If we’re looking at the hardware, it’s arguably the best of its kind yet. Both sides of this controller have rounded edges that fit naturally in my hand. I praised the design of the Razer Kishi, but this has a more subtle look that doesn’t cover up as much of your phone’s edges. Each button has a more responsive, tactile click, and the analog sticks feel roughly the same size as Nintendo’s Joy-Con for the Switch. Speaking of the Joy-Con, the One’s rear triggers actually feel better.

GOOD STUFF

  • Elegant, comfortable design
  • Lightning and 3.5mm charging and audio passthrough
  • Clever integration of hardware and software for $100

BAD STUFF

  • Not cheap
  • No Fortnite hurts its prospects for the moment
BackBone One
Miraculously, the One adds a 3.5mm port, so bust out those wired headphones.

BackBone One
The Lightning port supports passthrough charging, as well as audio for Lightning EarPods.

The hardware alone might make it worth the purchase, but the software is what really makes it unique. The One doesn’t require its companion app to work with any iOS game that supports a controller, but using the app turns your iPhone into a game console of sorts
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BackBone OneA full look at what you’ll see when you press the orange Backbone button.

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