BackBone One Test: The best mobile gaming controller yet

While high-profile disputes over what content you can play on your iPhone rages between Apple, Epic Games, Google, and Microsoft, a company called BackBone is instead focusing on making sure you get the most out of the games currently available. Like Razer did with its Kishi controller for iOS, and like other companies with their own snap-on controllers, BackBone is introducing one for $ 100 it calls BackBone One. To buy it, you must first download the app and make the purchase from there.

When fully expanded, the controller will fit any iPhone with iOS 13 or higher, starting with the iPhone 6S and including the new iPhone 12 range. It’s great for Apple arcade games that support controllers. Heaven: children of light and Call of Duty: Mobil play wonderfully with the one. And for popular games like Cash on delivery: Mobile Since controller support is not enabled from the start, BackBone curates visual tutorials that appear prior to launch to walk you through the steps to enable it in game settings.

I’m looking forward to finally jumping in Genshin Impact with the One, the game gets gamepad support once. Even games like Hades via the Steam Link app (connected to my PC via Wi-Fi) felt surprisingly natural.

The analog stick is similar in size to the Joy-Con for Nintendo Switch.

The triggers are similar to those on the Joy-Con, but with more satisfactory travel.

In contrast to most controller accessories manufactured to date, the BackBone One is a mixture of tightly integrated hardware and software. If we look at the hardware, it’s arguably the best of its kind yet. Both sides of this controller have rounded edges that naturally fit my hand. I praised the design of the Razer Kishi, but this one looks more subtle and doesn’t hide as many of the edges of your phone. Each button has a more responsive, more tactile click, and the analog sticks feel about the size of Nintendo’s Joy-Con for the Switch. Speaking of Joy-Con, the One’s rear triggers actually feel like they are better.

The One offers pass-through Lightning charging with support for Lightning headphones if you have a device. It also has a 3.5mm headphone jack that allows you to listen to audio in other ways – even if your iPhone doesn’t have the port itself. According to BackBone, the One itself uses less power from your iPhone than many wired Lightning earbuds. I didn’t use more battery while playing with the One connected than I normally would without.

BackBone One
Miraculously, the One adds a 3.5mm port, which breaks those wired headphones.

BackBone One
The Lightning connector supports pass-through charging and audio for Lightning EarPods.

The hardware alone might make it worth buying, but the software really makes it unique. The One does not require a companion app to work with an iOS game that supports a controller. However, when you use the app, your iPhone becomes something of a game console.

Pressing the controller’s orange BackBone button while the One is connected to your phone will open the BackBone app, which looks like an operating system. There you will find all installed games clearly arranged in an almost tvOS-like interface. The app also shows new games for download from the App Store that controllers support. To add games to the BackBone interface, simply tap the orange button when starting each new game for the first time. This app takes advantage of the iPhone’s superb haptics to hum as the menu flips, and the company has created its own satisfyingly subtle vibration effect that you can feel when you swiftly through a series of tiles in the interface with the shoulder of L1 and R1 fly buttons.

BackBone One
A complete look at what you see when you press the orange BackBone button.

Scroll down a little further on the app and you’ll find photo and video clips you’ve saved, as well as those from friends. This controller has a dedicated button that you can use to take an in-game screenshot or even record a video clip. These features should be familiar to anyone using a modern game console. It is noteworthy, however, that you can hold this button down for a moment to mark important moments during operation. The BackBone button will light a red LED while recording so you can see it at a glance when you’re live. With BackBone, you can capture and access clips much more elegantly than with Xbox One, PS4, PC or Switch.

After a video clip is saved, you can trim and share it in the BackBone app, as well as through iMessage or any other social media app you use. One special thing to note is that BackBone says it can record 1080p clips at 30 frames per second in the HEVC / H.265 codec (supported on iPhone 7 and later), so you can get higher quality Get video without sacrificing as much storage space as other codecs need.

BackBone One
The BackBone button will pulse red to indicate when you are recording the screen.

Another software feature that you get with the controller is the ability to create parties and talk to friends in the app. These parties work regardless of the game you’re playing (you don’t even have to play a game) so this is a great way to connect even if you’re not all interested Call of Duty: Mobil, for example. If you want to record clips with your friends, the video recording feature will record your voice in the mix along with everyone else in the party (indicated by the little orange light next to the top bezel of the iPhone in iOS 14). Each participant can mute their microphone by pressing the leftmost button with three horizontal dots twice.

BackBone One
You can start a voice chat party with other users or join a party for free using the BackBone app.

Snapshots, video recordings, and organizing parties for voice chat are just a few of the ways BackBone in iOS is taking the reins to create a more engaging experience than Apple itself gives gamers. It also offers extensive presence notifications with a notification – whether you’re in the BackBone app or not – letting you know when a friend has signed up, or with an invitation you can click to join a party to join.

At first glance, the BackBone One is just a controller – and a very good one. With software enhancements that cleverly use iOS, the iPhone with BackBone feels like a real gaming platform that I want to be a part of. When hardware and software work together and can easily team up with friends and record clips, the One feels like a gaming experience that Apple somehow surpasses to realize its own gaming ambitions. It’s no longer just like a phone strapped into a few pieces of plastic, it’s the beginning of something very special. And for $ 100 with no monthly fees for using the software and party tools, this is a great price if you play a lot of mobile games.

BackBone One
The BackBone One controller supports up to iPhone 6S.

Well, since it works on iOS, the BackBone One seems to be even better suited for starting on Android Fourteen days is not available from the Apple App Store, nor from Google’s Stadia or xCloud streaming services. BackBone didn’t want to comment when I asked about an Android-specific version of the One. While the experience would undoubtedly be better if more content could be played with it, the BackBone Controller for iOS is already well worth the entry cost if you’re an Apple Arcade subscriber or just enjoy a few one-off games.

Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

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