Mobile gaming has traditionally been a crapshoot. For every classic like Monument Valley or Threes, there have been a dozen or more games with their hand in your wallet within five minutes of playtime.
Mobile gaming controllers have often felt similarly - some offer real quality, while others feel like they're likely to fall apart in your hands. I'm pleased to report, then, that we've found a winner - at least for iOS users.
Backbone's Backbone One controller might be the closest you'll get to turning your phone into a handheld gaming console.
Offering offset concave thumbsticks, a d-pad, and an Xbox-style ABXY face button setup, the Backbone feels light enough to throw in a backpack, while also offering enough heft to feel like it'll survive marathon gaming sessions.
Call of Duty Mobile fans will also be pleased to know that the Backbone offers impressively responsive analog triggers and shoulder buttons, too.
Set up is simple, too. Slide the controller's two halves apart along the eponymous backbone, and slot your phone in using the Lightning connector. Because it doesn't rely on Bluetooth, the Backbone just works instantly.
It saps minimal amounts of battery from your phone, but doesn't need to be charged, and a passthrough charger power also ensures longer play sessions aren't curtailed by the battery going flat.
Oh, and you can plug a 3.5mm headset or headphones in, too.
It's What's On The Inside That Counts
Aside from the controls and ports you'd expect, though, the Backbone has plenty of tricks that are tied to the company's app.
Once you download it and create an account, the Backbone app functions in a similar way to a console dashboard.
It'll showcase your controller-enabled games (even those downloaded via Apple Arcade), as well as give you quick shortcuts to Xbox and PlayStation Remote Play. With Xbox Cloud Streaming currently rolling out to select beta testers, it's a fair bet that it'll be included, too. In fact, it already supports the likes of NVIDIA GeForce Now, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna.
The app can be opened with the orange Backbone button, but that's not all. You can record gameplay clips with the capture button, as well as grab screenshots by holding it, while the button with the ellipsis can mute the game with a double press.
The app also offers push notifications for friends with Backbone accounts, so you can send invites or be notified when they hop online.
The Backbone One is, inarguably, my favourite way to play games on iOS. Whether I'm streaming games from my console, or playing the likes of CoD: Mobile with actual triggers, it genuinely feels like I'm playing on a handheld gaming device.
Your mileage will vary based on the games you play, but for now, this is a testament to how far mobile gaming has come.
Reviewed with iPhone 11 Pro Max
Review unit provided by the manufacturer