Backbone One Review: Mobile Gaming Transformed (But With a Price Tag)

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Mobile gaming has come a long way. Gone are the days of pixelated graphics and frustrating touch controls. Now, with powerful smartphones and a surge of cloud gaming services, our phones can transform into miniature consoles capable of delivering stunning visuals and immersive experiences. But what if we could elevate this experience even further with a controller that feels familiar, responsive, and takes mobile gaming to the next level? Enter the Backbone One, a sleek and powerful mobile controller promising to unlock the true potential of your smartphone’s gaming prowess.

A Console in Your Pocket

From the moment you hold the Backbone One, it’s clear this isn’t your average mobile accessory. The controller boasts a premium design reminiscent of a PlayStation DualSense with its comfortable grips and familiar button layout. It’s surprisingly lightweight, perfect for long gaming sessions without fatigue, and slides effortlessly onto your iPhone (Lightning connector and USB-C versions are available). The overall form factor feels just right, fitting snugly in your hands without feeling cramped.

Performance Fit for a King (and Queen)

But looks are just the appetizer. The real test lies in how the Backbone One performs. And perform it does beautifully. Buttons are snappy and responsive, registering your every command with satisfying precision. Whether you’re blasting away in Call of Duty Mobile or navigating the intricately crafted world of Genshin Impact, you’ll experience lag-free, smooth gameplay that rivals dedicated consoles. This impressive performance extends to cloud gaming services like Xbox Game Pass and Steam Link, letting you unleash your console library directly on your phone with incredible fidelity.

Expanding your Gaming Horizons

The Backbone One doesn’t just stop at your phone. The “Play On Any Screen” feature (accessible with a Backbone+ subscription – more on that later) allows you to connect the controller to your PC, Mac, or Chromebook, transforming them into gaming powerhouses. While I encountered some initial difficulties on my older iPad due to the Lightning connector (remember, USB-C is the way to go for future-proofing), the experience on my Chromebook was flawless. Suddenly, my browser wasn’t just for work anymore; it became a portal to AAA titles, all controlled with the familiar comfort of the Backbone One.

Additional Features

The Backbone One offers additional features that enhance your gaming experience. The 3.5mm headphone jack provides a wired audio option for those who prefer it, while the passthrough charging port ensures your phone stays juiced up during marathon sessions (a lifesaver!). The Backbone app, while not essential, adds a touch of polish with features like game recommendations and the ability to update your controller’s firmware.

The Backbone App: A Helpful (But Optional) Sidekick

While the Backbone One shines on its own, it benefits from a handy sidekick: the Backbone app. This free companion, available on iOS and Android, offers a few useful features to enhance your gaming experience.

First up, it serves as a home base for managing your controller. You can check firmware updates, remap buttons, and even adjust the intensity of the LED lights (the little things, right?). The app also acts as a personalized library, curating mobile games compatible with the Backbone One. And if you’re feeling social, you can connect with other Backbone users, share screenshots and videos, and even discover new gaming communities.

However, it’s important to remember that the Backbone app is purely optional. The controller functions flawlessly without it, and its core features simply enhance the experience, not redefine it. So, while the app is a nice bonus, it’s not a deal-breaker for those who prefer a more streamlined setup. Ultimately, the decision to download and utilize the Backbone app rests with you, the mobile gaming adventurer.

Backbone+ Blues: Gating Greatness Behind a Paywall

Let’s get real for a second: the Backbone One is a fantastic controller. But there’s a shadow lurking behind its smooth curves and snappy buttons: the Backbone+ subscription. While it unlocks some neat features like “Play On Any Screen” and video capture, its existence throws a greasy wrench into the otherwise well-oiled machine.

Imagine this: you’ve dropped a cool $99 on this controller, already a premium price for the mobile market. You’re hyped to fire up your phone and unleash your inner champion on your PC with that glorious big screen. But wait, hold your pixelated horses! That freedom requires another $4.99 a month (or a hefty $49.99 per year) subscription. It’s like buying a fancy car and then needing to rent the keys separately.

Sure, the features themselves are cool. Playing your phone games on a PC with a controller is undeniably awesome. Capturing your epic mobile gaming moments to share with the world? Even better. But locking these functionalities behind a paywall feels like a cheap move. It’s like Backbone built a fantastic, feature-rich castle and then stuck a tollbooth right before the drawbridge.

The worst part? The base functionality of the Backbone One is already excellent. The controller itself is a dream to use, the games run flawlessly, and the built-in features like the headphone jack and passthrough charging are perfectly adequate. So, slapping a subscription requirement on top of it feels like asking for double the praise without double the value.

Backbone+ is Just a Silly Cash Grab

Look, I understand the need for monetization. Developing and maintaining hardware and software isn’t free. But forcing users to choose between enjoying the full potential of their purchase and sticking to their budget feels like a bit of a slap in the face. Especially when the core experience is already undeniably stellar.

Backbone, listen up: your controller is phenomenal. But the Backbone+ subscription feels like a cash grab that tarnishes the user experience. Consider baking these features into the initial price or offering them as a truly optional bonus, not a mandatory gatekeeper to true enjoyment. Your fans and your wallets will thank you for it.

Let’s be honest, gamers are a savvy bunch. We know a good deal when we see one. And while the Backbone One itself might be a gaming treasure, the Backbone+ subscription leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Let’s hope they consider a more player-friendly approach for their next iteration, because with this controller’s power, the only subscription we should be worried about is our monthly dose of epic wins.

Is the Backbone One Worth the Investment?

Here’s the elephant in the room: the price. At $99, the Backbone One isn’t the cheapest mobile controller on the market. And to truly unlock its full potential, you’ll need a Backbone+ subscription, which adds another $4.99 per month (or $49.99 per year). This raises the question: is it worth the investment?

For serious mobile gamers who prioritize comfort, performance, and versatility, the answer is a resounding yes. The Backbone One offers a near-console experience on your phone, with incredible build quality and lag-free responsiveness. But for casual gamers or those on a tight budget, alternative options might be more suitable.

Who Should Grab the Backbone One?

This controller shines for specific user groups:

  • Mobile gamers who prioritize comfort and performance: If you take mobile gaming seriously and want a controller that feels like an extension of yourself, the Backbone One is a dream come true.
  • Streamers looking for a mobile platform: Want to broadcast your mobile gaming exploits? The Backbone One’s console-like layout and responsive buttons make it a streamer’s dream.
  • Cloud gamers willing to invest in the Backbone+ ecosystem: If you’re deep into the world of cloud gaming and want seamless play across devices, the Backbone One and Backbone+ combo is a powerful pairing.

Verdict: A Premium Mobile Gaming Experience, But at a Premium Price

Backbone One Mobile Gaming Controller

Tony Simons

Backbone Mobile Gaming Controller
Mobile gaming controller for iOS and Android
Design and build quality
Button responsiveness
Ease of use
Extra features locked behind paywall

In a Nutshell…

The Backbone One is a testament to the evolution of mobile gaming. It elevates your smartphone into a console-like powerhouse, delivering smooth performance, a comfortable design, and impressive versatility. However, the price tag and optional subscription might deter some.


Ultimately, the decision boils down to your budget, gaming preferences, and how passionate you are about pushing the boundaries of mobile gaming. If you’re a dedicated mobile gamer seeking the best possible experience, the Backbone One is a worthy investment. But for casual players or those on a tight budget, alternative options might be just as satisfying.

Additional Considerations

While I’ve covered the key aspects of the Backbone One, there are a few additional points to consider:

  • Game compatibility: While most popular mobile and cloud games work flawlessly, check for specific titles you might be interested in before making a purchase.
  • Screen size: Text in some non-optimized games might be small on smaller screens. Consider your vision or if you plan to use it on larger devices like Chromebooks or iPads.
  • Optional accessories: Backbone offers a hardshell case for added protection, which is recommended for frequent travelers.

Final Words: It’s All About Choice

The Backbone One isn’t the only fish in the mobile controller sea. But it’s undoubtedly one of the most impressive, offering premium build quality, exceptional performance, and a console-like experience on your phone. Ultimately, the choice to invest in the Backbone One is a personal one. Weigh the pros and cons, consider your budget and gaming needs, and remember, whichever controller you choose, mobile gaming has never been more thrilling.

With its sleek design, responsive buttons, and versatile functionality, the Backbone One redefines what mobile gaming can be. It’s an invitation to experience your favorite titles on a whole new level, with the freedom and convenience of your smartphone. So, if you’re ready to unleash the true potential of mobile gaming, the Backbone One awaits. But be prepared, because its premium experience comes with a premium price tag.

If you’re looking to spend a bit more money on portable gaming, I also highly recommend the Lenovo Legion Go. It’s gonna cost you, but the investment is worth it, in my book.

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