Like it or not, mobile gaming is a big deal. Sony has made attempts to enter the space in the past to varying degrees of success, but having now established a Mobile Division within PlayStation Studios and added Savage Game Studios to its first-party ranks, it now seems the company is finally doing things properly. The Backbone One: PlayStation Edition, a dedicated controller attachment for smartphones, is further evidence of this new push, even if it is essentially just a reskin of an existing product.
Based on Backbone's well-received peripheral, this PlayStation-flavoured version offers the same degree of control, but it now matches your PS5. Those who love playing games on their smart devices may well be aware of the Backbone One already, but this PlayStation Edition has attracted fresh attention from fans of Sony. So, what exactly is this thing, what does it offer, and is it actually any good? After spending a good chunk of time with it, let's go through and answer those questions.
What Is the Backbone One: PlayStation Edition?
As mentioned, the Backbone One: PlayStation Edition is a game pad-like cradle for your smartphone, allowing you to play games on your mobile as if it were a dedicated handheld. This particular version of the Backbone One is functionally identical to the previous iteration — it's just white and black, matching the PS5 and the DualSense, and features the familiar face buttons.
The idea is simple: you pop your phone in the middle of the device, snap it in place, and fire up the dedicated Backbone app. From there, you can fire up mobile games that support controllers, PS Remote Play, and even Xbox's cloud gaming service.
It's worth noting at this point that the PlayStation Edition is currently only available for iPhones, but an Android model is on the way. The device is compatible with iPhone models 6s through to 13 Pro Max. The newly announced 14 range is not currently listed as compatible.
What's in the Box?
Inside the box, you have the Backbone One: PlayStation Edition itself of course, an adapter for iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max models, basic installation instructions, and a safety guide. There's no charger included; the device runs off the power from your phone.
Setting It Up
Preparing the Backbone for use is very straightforward. Grabbing both sides, you can pull to extend the middle section, which allows you to pop your smartphone inside. First thing's first, however — if your phone is in a case, take it out. Unfortunately, the Backbone doesn't accommodate cases, so you'll need to remove any outer layers before you set it up.
So, take your naked phone and insert the top into the left-hand side. Next, slide out the right-hand side of the Backbone, and line up the phone's charging port with the dock. Bring the Backbone back together so it plugs into your phone with a snap. Simple.
With that, you'll need to install the companion app, which will then open when you push the Backbone button on the device itself. You'll be asked to create an account or sign in, so just follow the instructions and you'll find yourself on Backbone's all-encompassing menu.
Design, Quality, and Comfort
The Backbone One's design is rather ingenious. Its sliding cradle allows it to be used with smartphones of almost any size, and extending the controller and inserting your device is easy and intuitive. The fact the Backbone app pops up at the push of a button too makes the whole thing as seamless as possible. While it is a shame you have to strip your phone of its case before you use it, the controller is about as adaptable as one could reasonably expect.
The PlayStation Edition ditches the all black look of the regular model, instead opting for the same white plastic with black accents seen on the DualSense and PS5. It doesn't ape a PS pad too closely, though; it sports asymmetrical thumb sticks, a one-piece D-pad, and options and capture buttons towards the bottom rather than at the top. Still, the button layout works perfectly well given the size of each grip. The shoulder buttons are tightly packed, so it can be easy to accidentally press R1 when you wanted R2, say. The fact the triggers have a little bit of analogue travel, though, is impressive.
With a phone in place, the Backbone is comfortable to hold and to use, sitting nicely in your palms. The phone feels securely in position, with no moving around once it's locked in. The face buttons are a little too clicky for our tastes but work perfectly well, and the thumb sticks are somewhere between the PS Vita and the Nintendo Switch in terms of size and amount of travel.
We should also quickly point out the ports in the bottom of each handle. On the left you'll find a 3.5mm headphone socket, letting you keep your gaming noise to yourself, and on the right is a lightning port, enabling you to charge your iPhone while it's in the Backbone, which is very handy.
Overall, the build quality and design of the device is great. It feels solid in the hands and does what it sets out to do with no issues or fuss.
Playing Mobile Games
Playing native mobile games using the Backbone feels excellent. Not all smartphone games support controller peripherals, but it's relatively easy to find the ones that do. Obviously, touchscreen controls work perfectly well in most cases, but the extra control afforded by a full suite of buttons really elevates certain games.
Playing mobile shooters, for example, is far superior with the Backbone, and racing titles such as Asphalt 9: Legends benefit from it too. Anything that requires more precision than touch controls can offer feel much nicer to play — Sonic the Hedgehog and Brawlhalla are two others we tested, and playing them without proper buttons doesn't really compare.
PS Remote Play
We'd argue that, if you're interested in the PlayStation Edition of the Backbone One, you probably already own a PS4 or PS5. In that case, a big draw will be the ability to use the Remote Play app without having to either use touch controls or sync up a console controller. Firing up Remote Play and using the Backbone, it's almost certainly the best way to enjoy the function on your smartphone.
Obviously most games on modern consoles are built to be played on a big TV, so some small text or UI elements can get a bit lost when transposed to your mobile. However, you can generally play most PS5 or PS4 games perfectly well thanks to nearly all buttons in place. We tested a wide range of games such as MultiVersus, DIRT 5, Returnal, and Arcade Paradise, and they're all as playable as you could expect. The touch pad is the only thing not physically represented, but using the touchscreen for this one function suffices.
An important aspect to bring up is that the Backbone One cannot solve any latency issues you might have when using Remote Play. From our experience, we only had one or two problems where the app dropped the connection for a couple of seconds, but the vast majority of the time it was fine — only very slightly off pace with the console. Again, your experience will vary depending on connection speed and how many devices are active on your network, so bear that in mind. The Backbone doesn't help on that front, but it does make playing your favourite PS5 and PS4 games on the go much nicer.
Should You Buy the Backbone One: PlayStation Edition?
We've been left pretty impressed with the Backbone. It successfully turns your smartphone into a handheld gaming device, elevating mobile-native games and making Remote Play far easier to enjoy. It manages that while employing an intuitive, simple design with decent ergonomics. The companion app that pulls everything into one place is the cherry on top, giving your mobile gaming a unified feel.
The question of whether you should buy one depends on what you're looking to get out of the device. The PlayStation Edition has a pleasant, familiar look for fans of Sony's hardware, but it has a multitude of uses depending on your gaming habits. Remote Play, as mentioned, is supported, and proper mobile games work great with it, but you can also stream Xbox games via its cloud service, use Steam Link to stream PC titles, engage with other users in chat rooms, create game captures, and more. If any of that appeals to you, we'd say the Backbone is well worth considering.
Be aware that much of the app's functionality is tethered to the Backbone+ subscription, which costs £44.99/$49.99 per year. You do get a free month trial, and we'd say if you're planning to play games on your mobile a lot, the subscription is worth it. The Backbone One: PlayStation Edition itself costs £99.99/$99.99, which we'd say is a fair price to turn your mobile into a viable gaming platform.
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What do you think of the Backbone One: PlayStation Edition? Do you use a controller like this to amp up your mobile gaming? Tell us in the comments section below.