Gaming on the go is a huge thing (well it will be when we are all out of lockdown!) While the Switch does offer this, it is somewhat limited when it comes to game titles and graphics capability. Most of us carry around phones with the ability to provide AAA level mobile gaming experiences and fortunately thanks to a new controller, we can now do that comfortably.
Backbone have released their new controller for IPhone. The attachment allows you to slide your phone in securely and use the layout to stream Xbox and Playstation games inside your home (and some out!) along with Steamlink, Stadia (for international players) and Apple Arcade.
The controller will support an IPhone from 6s upward, except for the new IPhone 13 series (will get to that a little later in the review) There is a lightning connector that will allow you to secure the bottom of your phone in and then secure the top to the rails of the connect offering a secure fit to ensure your phone doesn’t slip and slide out while you are playing. There are two thumb sticks, one of the left and right similar to that of a current gen controller along with a directional pad, Y X A and B button the same layout as the Xbox controllers. In addition there are buttons for screen capture, menu, and more options located at the bottom of the controller. The grips are comfortable and fit snugly in both of my hands like a regular console controller does.
When I loaded my phone into the controller, it automatically took me to the App Store to download the Backbone app, as soon as it launched it felt like a UI on a console. Being able to connect your gaming services and browse your games is a great feature and the ease of which you can explore the app with swift animations is far above what I expected. When you are at home you can easily connect your consoles for remote play, I tried this all over my house with great results, it didn’t add to the depletion of my battery on top of the existing games. On the bottom of the controller is a audio Jack connected on the left hand side and a lightning port on the right hand side for pass through charging of your device. This will come in handy on long play sessions, I didn’t feel the need to do this as the controller connection didn’t seem to rain my battery too much. The biggest surprise was how great Steam Link worked and being able to play games from my library without being stationed at my PC was something I never thought I wanted to do till now.
It’s no surprise that IOS has a rocky relationship with external gaming companies and while Xbox game pass works for cloud gaming on Android, it doesn’t do the same here. Fortunately you can open Safari and sign in to Cloud gaming this way and it feels just like the app on Android. The Backbone picks up on this and allows that smooth and seamless experience while both navigating and playing Xbox Cloud gaming. I did notice that when I took my phone out of the Backbone the back was extremely hot, scarily close to overheating. While the maximum time I spent in one sitting was one hour, it will be interesting to see how it holds up on longer plays when we can finally road trip again.
Now here is the part of the review where I tell you that while I played this on the 12 pro max, I upgraded my phone in the last week before I wrote this review to the 13 Pro max and due to the realignment of the cameras on the phone, it no longer fits into the Backbone controller. Now fortunately the company have worked on a 3D printer attachment which they will send out to you free of charge (you just have to pay postage) I will update this review once I get the attachment to let you know how it works.
The controller is convenient enough to be able to put into a travel bag or even a larger pocket easily. I found myself carrying it with me everywhere to sneak in a quick game when I could, it even allowed me to dive into the Apple Arcade games and delivered a much more satisfying experience than putting my grubby hands all over my screen.
A big part of what makes this stand out is the ability to record and edit gameplay footage and screenshots. You can do this in-app and share to your friends in the Backbone app or export them externally to social media apps. If you can get your friends into the Backbone app and ecosystem, you can create a party inside the app and any recordings will loop in your voiceover and the others in the party. It’s a cool feature that no other piece of hardware currently offers.
The Backbone controller is not only an impressive piece of hardware, it is also the software that makes it a must have. The way it integrates with IOS to feel like a console dashboard is truly its biggest selling point. This on top of the low price point combines to make this a considerable purchase especially when compared with Razer’s Kishi controller that doesn’t offer the same in app experience that Backbone provides. If you want to take gaming on the go with your iPhone, this is the best option for you. It is easy to carry around and doesn’t drain your phone of battery.