Test of the Backbone One PlayStation for iPhone: absolute comfort

On the occasion of the release of an edition specially dedicated to the PlayStation 5, we got our hands on the Backbone One controller which, since its release two years ago, has been kicking in the anthill of controllers to smartphones.

Announced this summer la Backbone One PlayStation Edition isn’t really a “new” controller. In reality, Sony contented itself with affixing its logo to the box of a classic Backbone One, already available for two years – but difficult to obtain in Europe.

Never mind, the opportunity was too good not to take the opportunity to test it in good and due form. Especially since the American manufacturer has largely contributed to revitalizing a booming market thanks to the emergence of cloud gaming on smartphone.

The Backbone One is available for iPhone or Android on the manufacturer’s site for $99.

Test carried out on a controller lent by the manufacturer.

Our test

Design and ergonomics

The Backbone One PlayStation Edition takes its originality from its exclusive white color, and the obvious adoption of the visual markers of the PlayStation brand – namely the cross, circle, square and triangle buttons. As for the joysticks, they remain asymmetrical like on an Xbox controller.

The device is well presented. The finishes, all in plastic, are of good quality. The various buttons and the D-Pad feature a transparent dome that perfectly replicates the rendering of the manette DualSense de la PlayStation 5.

The PS5 Backbone One controller and DualSense controller.©Pierre Crochart/L’Éclaireur

In the manner of Nacon MG-X Pro or the new Razer Kishi V2, the Backbone One has a stretchable bridge in which you can place your iPhone. Self-powered, it connects very simply to the Lightning port and therefore supports the entire current range of Apple. Don’t worry: even the oversized iPhone 13 Pro Max will find their place in the controller.

On the other hand, and unlike Razer’s solution, it is necessary to remove any protective shell to use the Backbone One. In addition, the significant prominence of the cameras of the latest iPhone Pro greatly increases the tension of the controller bridge. To overcome the situation, an adapter is provided and better matches the contours of the device. For those who already have a Backbone One controller and have just acquired an iPhone 13 Pro, the brand sends its adapter for free. It also provides a CAD file to print it yourself using a 3D printer. Nice gesture.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition
Backbone provides an adapter to accommodate the oversized sensors of the iPhone 13 Pro.©Pierre Crochart/L’Éclaireur

With an iPhone 13 Pro, the whole thing weighs less than 380 grams. Lighter than a Nintendo Switch! Suffice to say that comfort is at the rendezvous, and that we are ready for hours of play. In this regard, the controller has a USB-C port allowing you to recharge your smartphone in use, and a port 3.5 mm jack for connecting headphones. A solution to consider given that the speakers of the iPhone are hidden by the contours of the device.

Finally, it should also be noted that the USB-C port can be used to connect the Backbone One to any other device. The controller can therefore also be used on iPad, Mac or PC, without any device being inserted into it.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition
The controller has a 3.5 mm jack and USB-C port, which allows it to serve as a PC or iPad controller.©Pierre Crochart/L’Éclaireur

Overview of buttons

As mentioned above, the Backbone One has a total of 18 buttons. In addition to the main ones and the clickable joysticks, we note the presence of a button dedicated to launching the Backbone application (we will come back to this) and another allowing you to take a quick screenshot, or record a video of his gameplay.

The little extra of the Backbone One compared to the Nacon solution, for example, are its switches which, without being mechanical of course, offer a most pleasant tactility. A feeling that we do not find on traditional gamepads.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition
Apart from the asymmetrical sticks and the absence of a touchpad, the Backbone One does not lack any buttons.©Pierre Crochart/L’Éclaireur

That said, players with large hands may be a little inconvenienced by the proximity of the buttons, and by the fact that the handles are inevitably more compact than on living room gamepads. It’s true: you have to keep in mind that this type of device is not necessarily designed for sessions lasting several hours, but above all to troubleshoot or to be able to continue your game on the go… or in your bed.

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To be a little fussy, let’s point out that the triggers have a race that’s a little too superficial for our taste.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition
The Backbone joystick offers great comfort of use.©Pierre Crochart/L’Éclaireur

Backbone One features

As soon as you connect your iPhone to the controller, you are immediately offered to download the appropriate application. An application that functions as a real hub, centralizing all the games already installed, but also applications such as PlayStation Remote Play, Xbox, Stadia or Steam Link.

There are different sections that highlight games compatible with the controller, and which come from both the Apple Store and the Apple Arcade subscription service. Interested? It only takes a few clicks to acquire it. The interface is modern and seamlessly fluid. Each movement on the tiles activates a slight vibration which accentuates our good impressions on the degree of finish of the whole.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition
All compatible games, whether from the App Store or subscription services, are listed on the Backbone app.©Pierre Crochart/L’Éclaireur

Unfortunately, on iOS, you have to tweak to access Xbox Cloud Gaming. In the absence of a dedicated application, you must launch the service from Safari, then create a shortcut on your home screen. No way to add the app to the Backbone hub…yet?

Moreover, the official application also allows you to find your friends, create groups and centralize your screenshots and videos.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition
Backbone is compatible with PlayStation Remote, to play its PS4 and PS5 games remotely, as well as with streaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming.©Pierre Crochart/L’Éclaireur

On this point, the exercise is childish. In the middle of the game, just keep pressing the appropriate button to take a screenshot. Warning: this is a very traditional screenshot; your entire screen will be captured, including any notifications. For video, it’s the same thing: a simple press of the button launches iOS screen recording – notably limiting you to 1080p at 60 frames per second (maximum bitrate of 30 Mb / s). A feature still in beta, Smart Record, allows you to save the last 15 seconds of play. Smart, but still a little dented.

Very complete, the application also includes rudimentary editing features. While recording your game, you can hold down the capture key to add a marker. This marker will be used for the cue editing to create a kind of fifteen-second clip, intended to be shared on social networks and pinned on our Backbone profile.

Finally, a double press on the “…” key allows you to mute the sound of the game. Once again: Backbone seems to have thought of everything.

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