The PlayStation Backbone makes me forget I’m gaming on a phone

Backbone One PlayStation Edition iPhone controller photo

Backbone One and Game Pass streaming are a match made in heaven

While attaching the PlayStation-branded Backbone One to my phone, I immediately felt some serious nostalgia. It took me back to the good old days of gaming on the troubled and misunderstood PlayStation Vita — Sony’s last swing at a dedicated handheld device. Thankfully, Sony hasn’t completely deserted mobile gaming fans, and has teamed up with Backbone to create the latest Backbone accessory controller for iPhone.

First things first, this is a sexy device. While it largely retains the same design and build of the standard Backbone, the new color and face buttons add a great amount of flair to the accessory. Needless to say, PlayStation fans will be especially happy. There’s even a hidden PlayStation logo on the back that only appears after you’ve attached the device to your iPhone.

Setting up the Backbone is so easy, it barely needs any explanation. You simply extend, slide your iPhone in, and collapse into place. It’s so much easier than rigging a controller up and Bluetooth connecting before each play session. I’m all about convenience and the Backbone is convenience in its purest form.

Playing Apple Arcade with a Backbone One controller

How’s it feel?

The build is extremely sturdy and comfortable to use. Additionally, I never noticed any cramps or oddities while using the Backbone after an extended time.

After sliding my phone into the Backbone, it looks and feels so natural; sometimes I forget I’m using my phone and not a dedicated gaming device. That’s no exaggeration either — I’ve accidentally started looking for my phone multiple times while it was cradled in my hands attached to my Backbone.

The device comes equipped with a capture button that instantly saves images and footage to your iPhone photo album. There’s also a charging port, so you can charge your phone while gaming, and a headphone jack if you want a more intimate gaming experience.

Backbone One Lightning and headphone ports

Gaming on the Backbone

This Backbone One is PlayStation-branded, so I thought I’d see how PS5 Remote Play was working nowadays, as it’s the only way to play PS games on iOS right now. Unfortunately, it’s not very good. I tested the Backbone using Remote Play with my wired PS5 and found it to be rather choppy and inconsistent (my internet typically ranges from good to excellent). It’s doable, and a solid secondary option for slow-pace/turn-based titles, but it isn’t ideal right now. But hey, at least the controller icons match when remote-playing!

I recommend using the Backbone for playing games natively on iPhone via the App Store and Apple Arcade. Or, of course, the more reliable streaming option, Xbox Game Pass. (I was not able to test Google Stadia.) And I want to make it very clear: this PlayStation One Backbone works with all major game streaming services, Apple Arcade, and games from the App Store that offer controller support.

The bulk of my time with the Backbone has been spent streaming Xcloud games to my phone. Backbone and Game Pass are like a match made in heaven. I honestly never viewed my phone as a viable gaming option until these two exquisite commodities came into my life. It’s essentially the Xbox handheld many gamers have been clamoring for.

Playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 with a Backbone One controller

From my time with the Backbone, it’s mostly all positive thoughts.

While it’s a bit sad and ironic PlayStation doesn’t have more to offer on the mobile gaming front for this PlayStation-branded Backbone, the device still stands on its own thanks to its ease of use, comfortability, and compatibility options.

The Backbone One — PlayStation Edition costs $99.99 and is available for iPhone. Android users can get a non-PlayStation-branded model of the Backbone One in November.

[This assessment is based on hardware provided by the manufacturer.]

Brett Medlock
Head of video at Destructoid