Backbone One’s Popular Gaming Controller Now Supports Android, but Barely

Backbone One’s Popular Gaming Controller Now Supports Android, but Barely
The Backbone One works great with the iPhone. But only with the iPhone. (Photo: Damon Beres / Gizmodo)

I have heard many good things about the Backbone One, a $US100 ($AU179.99) iPhone-only gaming controller. It’s often heralded for its low-to-no latency and overall comfort, which makes it easier and more fun to play games on your phone. This popular peripheral is now getting support for more devices so that Android users like myself can finally have a go. But it’s clear that this is still an iPhone-only device.

Backbone just announced a subscription tier called Backbone Plus. It costs about $US50 ($AU68) a year, or $US4.17 ($AU6)/month billed annually, and unlocks many features, including a new high-resolution gameplay recording ability and turn-key Twitch streaming through the Backbone mobile app. The subscription also allows you to use the Backbone One controller with other devices, including Android phones.

However, rather than make a controller that works with the USB-C port on pretty much all Android phones, the Backbone One requires a Lightning-to-USB cable to work. The effect is a console-sized controller tethered to a tiny TV screen when it’s all set up.

Technically, that means the Backbone One is still iPhone only. The controller was designed for use with the iPhone in landscape mode. It has an exposed Lightning port on the right side, which is a proprietary connector that only works with Apple’s mobile devices. So you can technically connect the Backbone One to an Android phone, but you can’t actually slot your phone into the controller the way you can with an iPhone, and you have to pay extra for the privilege.

Android users are better off getting any Bluet00th-connected 8BitDo controllers available to play games that way instead. There’s also the more affordable Razer Kishi controller, which offers a USB-C version and works similar to the Backbone One, cradling the device to achieve the same Nintendo Switch-like handheld look.

If you already have a Backbone One, you can use the companion mobile app to game on a device other than your iPhone, like a MacBook or iPad, though you’ll have to subscribe to Backbone Plus to get the ability.

If you were already a Backbone user and had an account before today, you’ll get a free lifetime membership to Backbone Plus. All new Backbone One users will also receive a free first year of membership.

Note: Prices and release dates within this article are based in the U.S. but will updated with local details as soon as we know more.