this thing’s incredible

This Mobile Controller Made My Phone My Favorite Portable Console

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

When I find a game I love, it’s hard to pry myself away. That said, it’s also hard for me to set aside time to kick back and sink a few hours into gaming when I have chores to do, dogs to walk, and appointments to stop running late to. As a result, I typically don’t game very much when I’m at home. And as much as I love my Switch, it’s simply too bulky to fit into most of the bags I take with me when I leave my apartment, so it ends up collecting dust in its dock until I have some time to sit on the couch and play a game or two.

Like a Switch or a Steam Deck, the Backbone has joysticks and buttons on both sides of its controls, and they all feel comfortable and pleasant to use even for long playing sessions. It works with games you’ve downloaded from the app store (as long as the developer has added support for hardware controllers), like Retro Bowl or Gunfire Reborn, and it’s compatible with cloud-gaming services such as Xbox Cloud Gaming. Apple Arcade has an impressive library of games designed to work with hardware controllers as well, so even though you can’t play Switch games with the Backbone, you still have plenty of options.

On the bottom of the controller, there’s a 3.5-mm. headphone jack (or you can of course use wireless earbuds) as well as a USB-C or Lightning port (depending on whether you have the Android or iPhone model) for charging so your battery doesn’t give out during a round of Fortnite. The Backbone itself is powered by the phone’s battery, and it doesn’t require a Bluetooth connection to work, so you don’t have to worry about topping off your battery before heading out the door — just drop it in a bag and you’re all set.

That convenience is where the Backbone shines. Sure, a Switch or Steam Deck can fit into most backpacks without much hassle, but I always have my phone on me anyway, and an iPhone plus a Backbone can easily fit into most small bags, fanny packs, or even an adequately sized clutch. The added portability — and the consolelike experience the Backbone provides when paired with a good game — have turned gaming on my iPhone into a first-class experience that can follow me nearly anywhere.

If I have some time while I’m waiting for my doctor’s appointment or have a long commute ahead of me, I can pull out the Backbone, snap my phone into it, and get lost in one of my favorite games. That can be a simple roguelike card game like Slay the Spire where I can churn through a few rounds pretty quickly, a day of hard work on my farm in Stardew Valley, or even a plunge into the zombie-ridden world of The Last of Us via Playstation Remote Play. No matter what mood strikes me, there’s a game to match, and I can do it all from my iPhone screen.

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This Controller Made My Phone My Favorite Portable Console