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Backbone One PlayStation Edition review – “An excellent mobile controller with one caveat”

  • The BackBone One is a great contender within the growing mobile controller field, and the function and feel is flawless
  • It has a wonderfully sleek design, whether you’re using the PlayStation edition or the regular version
  • The BackBone App features a subscription service required to take advantage of a few deeper functions, which may turn some off the controller

I have a bit of a confession to make: I am a very casual mobile gamer in my spare time. While I have sunk my teeth into a fair few gacha games here and there, I do most of my gaming on consoles or PCs. My number one reason for this has always – since even the initial wave of mobile games becoming a little more serious – been that I despise touch controls. Despite this, I’m quite a homebody, so I figured I’d never really have any use for one of these mobile controller peripherals.

After spending about a week with the Backbone One, I can safely say that my mind is thoroughly changed. This controller transformed my views on mobile games and made so much more of the App Store open up to me, especially with the recently launched Delta emulator, which the Backbone One works natively with. I spent hours just sitting on my phone playing different games and testing them with the controller, and the results have left me thoroughly impressed.


How does the controller feel?

A diagram displaying the passthrough charging and headphone jack capabilities of the BackBone One

While I don’t have a ton of experience with mobile peripherals specifically, I have used just about every console controller beneath the sun, and the Backbone One feels so adjacent to the PlayStation 5 controller that it’s hard to tell the difference outside of the haptic feedback and pressure-sensitive triggers. Unlike my Nintendo Switch, the Backbone One did not cause any hand cramping despite hours-long sessions, and all of the buttons and triggers feel very similar to the DualSense overall. Nothing feels cheap or plastic-like here, even under high actions-per-minute games like Call of Duty Mobile.

In terms of additional features that are just nice to have, the controller features a headphone jack and pass-through charging, meaning you can hook up your charger to the controller and it will continuously charge your phone as you play. It also features a sort of adjustable length design that should fit just about any modern-day smartphone. While I used the iOS lightning port version, there is a separate USB-C version that will function just the same on Android devices as well.

What games does it work with?

The Backbone One works natively with a vast majority of games I tried playing, though Delta was the real standout as I figured it’d be a headache to set up there. But it was as simple as plugging it into your phone and that’s it. Obviously, there are exceptions that are entirely touch-based, such as Vampire Survivors or Arknights, but games like Genshin Impact and COD Mobile worked right off the bat. You can even use it through apps like GeForce Now or Steam Link too!

Backbone comes with a third-party application that you can download, which not only offers a large catalogue of suggested games to download that will work natively, but also allows you to customise your experience a bit with different shortcuts and buttons. Unfortunately, this is where my biggest gripe with something I sincerely think is a great product comes in.

The big complaint

A picture of the BackBone One hooked up to a phone, displaying the interface of the BackBone application itself.

With all of the praise out of the way, I’d be remiss not to discuss the usage of this third-party application. While you don’t have to utilise the Backbone app at all to play games on your phone, if you want to use it to actually hook into your PC to use as a normal controller, it requires a subscription. There are other features baked into the controller that require this subscription service, but this was the big one for me.

Personally, I believe that paying $100 for a product should remove the need for a subscription at all. Now I do acknowledge that it’s a mere $30 a year, or $2.49 a month, but even then it just feels a bit odd to lock some key features (including the usage of the built-in Discord-like chat service within the app) behind a paywall after dropping such a big purchase.

Still, you can get along just fine without paying that subscription fee, and the controller itself is pretty darn amazing regardless. Your purchase also comes with a month free of the premium app service to try it out, so I would not call this a make-or-break deal – just something to be aware of.

Overall thoughts

The Backbone One is a really fantastic product that transformed the mobile gaming landscape for me. I had never understood the desire to have a controller attached to my phone, but given how light and easy it is to carry around and how easy it is to remove from your phone if you need to use it for non-gaming purposes, I carry it to work with me every day to play during slow hours. It has allowed me to experience so many games I wished I could play without the usage of cumbersome touch controls.

Overall, I’d heavily recommend the Backbone One, as it does feel like I’ve transformed my phone into a handheld gaming console. With the rise of emulation coming to iOS, that experience will only get better too!


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