Backbone controller

Discussion in 'General Game Discussion and Questions' started by squarezero, Mar 15, 2021.

  1. squarezero

    squarezero Moderator
    Staff Member Patreon Silver

    People who know me in this forum know that I’m not big on controllers for iPhone games. I do own a Dual Shock and I get it that it makes a ton of sense to use a controller with an iPad or an Apple TV. But with an iPhone it just always seems awkward and cumbersome. The whole point of iPhone game is that it’s always “right there.” Besides, well thought out and responsive touch controls are usually good enough for most games, at least for me.

    Well, that’s kind of changed with the Backbone controller. There are other Switch-style controllers out there, but even from the pictures, this one looked different — it seemed to fit, like it was made by someone who gets Apple. At $99, it’s also priced like an Apple product. I decided to splurge and I’m glad that I did. A few thing that made me fall in love with it right away:
    • It connects through the lightning port, so it just works. It also had very low latency.
    • The buttons and sticks feel tight and solid. The layout is very Switch-like. And the phone just fits nicely and easily on the cradle.
    • There’s a Backbone app that basically works like a separate gaming system OS, and it launches with the click of a dedicated button on the controller.
    • Most controller-supporting games can be added to the app with a click of the Backbone button (a few like Spongebob work but are not recognized by the Backbone app. And for some reason Rogue Legacy is recognized but is not supported
    Overall, once I snap my iPhone 12 into the Backbone, it feels like true handheld gaming system with a gorgeous screen that puts my Switch Lite to shame. Indie games like Bloodstained, Gris, Transistor, and Dead Cells play and look fantastic. The one disappointment is Genshin Impact, which IMO plays better on a touchscreen (but that’s not about the Backbone specifically).

    In any event, call me a convert. Check out the Backbone here:
  2. Boardumb

    Boardumb Administrator
    Staff Member Patreon Silver Patreon Gold

    Apr 14, 2009
    Sacramento, CA
    This post could have come directly from my own brain. As someone who has used pretty much every controller that has ever come out for iOS, both before they were officially supported and after, nothing compares to the Backbone. And it's tough to explain why! I think that's why I've struggled to review it on the front page even though I've had one since early December.

    I tried explaining to Eli how good it is, and his reaction was basically "It might be a good controller, but I don't see how it's $100 good especially compared to the Xbox or PS4 controller a good majority of people own already" and to be honest, he has a point, and I imagine a lot of people would think the same thing.

    It's one of those things I think you have to physically experience to become a believer. The buttons and build quality are so incredibly top notch, and it's the only 3rd party controller I've ever used that's felt on par with a first party Xbox or PS4 controller. If I had one gripe I'd say the d-pad is more of a B+ than an A, still extremely good but not like the BEST d-pad I've ever used (that trophy belongs to the Vita). The analog triggers though feel SO good.

    And the size of it is very appealing. It's small, without being uncomfortably small like those 3rd party controllers that were popular in the original Xbox and PS2 era that were "tiny" versions of the first party controllers . If I had to pick a complaint here it's that I wish the telescoping part (the literal backbone of the Backbone) would fully slide together. Then this bad boy would be literally pocketable, which would be neat, but as is it's still far less bulky and cumbersome than an Xbox or PS4 controller. Very svelte.

    Then as you mentioned there's the app and the dedicated button, and this for me is the real game changer here. It basically lets you curate your own app filled with games that have controller support. It's always felt so clumsy to me trying to designate what games have controller support out of the games installed on my device at any given time. I don't like having a "Controller" folder filled with random games. Plus sometimes I like to play with a controller, and sometimes I prefer touch, it just depends. With the app I can keep track of controller games that I like even if I delete them from my device to make space or something.

    Ok. Rambling mega gush over. tl;dr Backbone good.

    And regarding Genshin, I feel exactly the same. I was so looking forward to it getting controller support specifically so I could play with the Backbone, but once I tried it I just could NOT wrap my head around everything. I think I'm just way too used to touch controls after the several hundred hours I've dumped into it.
    squarezero likes this.
  3. Admiral Bison

    Admiral Bison Well-Known Member

    Apr 26, 2016
    Telescopic controllers have an advantage in that it makes smartphones/tablets into a handheld and feels more “personal”

    That form factor, I’m willing to bet, is what makes the Nintendo Switch so popular and used more often in handheld than docked.

    For me it’s more comfortable just lying down resting a handheld gaming machine on your chest/stomach than sitting up and playing via wireless control pad and occasionally having to reach out to touch the screen.

    I used a Gamevice controller back in the day for my iPad Pro 12.9 first Gen and it made a big difference just holding on to one unit iPad+attached controller than having them separate.

    Even though the Gamevice controllers were close, but missed some notable features of the Xbox controller it followed - clickable thumb stick, rumble...can’t remember if the triggers where analogue.

    I contacted Backbone if they were going to make a stereoscope controller for tablets - 12.9 iPad Pro, Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus and up.
    Just waiting on their response.

    I’m willing to pay more for quality and features:

    + Backbone controller with more extension at the back to accommodate tablets as well as smart phones.
    + rumble motors - don’t know if Backbone has that or not
    + swappable input plugs - lightening, USB-c etc...
    + foldable into a Bluetooth controller and travel
    I.e. * the two “cons” can connect attach to each other to give you a blue tooth controller for the occasion you want to play your phone/tablet detached.

    ** If possible more to become smaller and put into your pocket.

    like I said I’m willing to pay more for added features and ubiquity, as it would be an investment that pays for itself over a longer period of time.

    having as close to the Xbox One buttons, home key in size would also be nice.
  4. Brian Cartwright

    Apr 16, 2021
    Absolutely adore mine. I echo all of the feedback on what makes it so good and distinct from using an Xbox or PlayStation controller. If I was in the games division for the IOS store I'd be writing up an internal proposal for buying them. The Backbone app which creates the experience of a dedicated gaming desktop experience with backed in social, sorting and sharing features is what makes it feel like not just a controller but an ecosystem unto itself.
    squarezero likes this.
  5. squarezero

    squarezero Moderator
    Staff Member Patreon Silver

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