Reviews

The Backbone is the iPhone game controller Apple should have made

Like Apple's products, the Backbone is an excellent marriage of hardware and software and feels like the missing piece of the puzzle to gaming on an iPhone

With the new hardware packed into the latest iPhones, it's possible to play some incredible games that rival those on console.

But a lot of people aren't in love with touchscreen controls. There are a handful of physical gamepads for the iPhone out there, but the Backbone is a high-quality, premium controller.

When I got my hands on the Backbone, I was immediately impressed with the hardware. Aside from its springy thumbsticks that feel similar to those on Nintendo Joy-Cons, everything else feels great, particularly the way it fits in the hand.

It also has a lightning port to charge the phone while in use, and a 3.5mm jack so you can use a regular set of headphones. If you've got an old iPhone you can dedicate to gaming, you won't ever need to take it out!

The best aspect of the hardware is the sliding bridge that connects the two halves of the controller, making it easy to insert your iPhone, with the whole process taking under a few seconds once you get used to it.

My favorite mobile controller before this was the Razer Kishi, but that's a pain to attach thanks to its fiddly clasps and straps.

A video game controller for your iPhone. Uses a Lightning connector instead of Bluetooth, so you never have to fiddle with pairing ever again.

$99
See at Backbone

The other half of the experience is a dedicated app, which you can access anytime when the controller is attached by pressing the red Backbone button. If you press this button while playing a game, it will be added to a games library within the Backbone app, auto-populating the UI with imagery sourced from the game's App Store page.

It's a pretty seamless and satisfying experience, and it works with any game on the App Store, even if it's a part of Apple Arcade.

Mirroring the dedicated Backbone button is a capture button, something standard on most modern console controllers. A single press nabs a screenshot, while holding it down initiates a screen recording.

Sharing clips and screenshots on social media has become a huge part of gaming culture, so being able to do that seamlessly on the iPhone is a major perk.

Backbone also serves as a social platform, allowing you to add friends, invite them to games, and share your captures with them.

It's a part of the app I personally haven't taken a lot of advantage of, but the social elements are presented well and easy to follow for those that like to play a lot of multiplayer games.

Should you buy it?

If you play games on your iPhone and you're tired of mashing your fingers into cold, unyielding glass, the Backbone could be for you. You could get a generic controller, or the aforementioned Razer Kishi, but the Backbone is simple, elegant, and a joy to play with.

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