There is little doubt that we are sitting in the accretion disc of the black hole that is game streaming. Services like Stadia, Luna, and Xbox Cloud Gaming are here and there is no going back. Sure, some services may come and go and others have yet to be birthed but the gravity of the market is pulling towards bringing more AAAA style games to new devices that may not be able to natively run the applications.
For the past three weeks or so, I have been using Backbone, a new device that is looking to turn your mobile phone into a handheld console. While the company may be a new player in the gaming-accessories market, the Backbone hardware has a lot to offer and, as of the time of this post, this is the best way to play Xbox cloud gaming.
The idea is simple, and candidly this is not the only device like this on the market, you place your phone into the middle of the hardware, it hugs your phone, and connects directly to the smartphone without using Bluetooth. My version of the Backbone works with iOS and I had zero problems with iOS 14.5 recognizing the device and in a few seconds, was able to jump into Xbox cloud gaming utilizing the hardware.
The physical device feels well built but it’s not perfect. You do have to take your phone out of the case and the analog sticks/movements leave room for improvement. But the buttons are tactile and offer a good experience for playing games on your phone and this arrangement is far superior to trying to play using touch controls.
But the hardware is only the start of the story. Backbone has a companion application that many will write off and that’s understandable; the reality is that it does offer a lot of functionality and can make gaming more enjoyable – don’t overlook it entirely.
With the hardware button that looks like a square, you can quickly take, edit, and share mobile gaming content. Meaning, recording your battle royal final kills or sharing Halo kill streaks becomes much easier on mobile devices with the Backbone.
There are also other features like a friends list, chatrooms, and everything else you would expect from a modern gaming platform. And I think that’s the key, Backbone isn’t just selling a peripheral, it’s trying to build a community that feels a lot like Xbox Live, but isn’t Xbox Live.
While this functionality is not for everyone, in some parts of the world, specifically Asia, mobile gaming is huge and fiercely competitive. This means that Backbone’s complete solution of hardware and (potential) community is an important differentiator.
That’s the key here, other companies like Razer have built Backbone-like devices and you can find dozens of Bluetooth versions on Amazon (or my inbox that I get pitched each week) but Backbone wants to be different and for that, I applaud their effort.
Their quick-action buttons for jumping into the Backbone app is actually useful and while not expliclity designed for Xbox could gaming compatibility, it works exceptionally well. And the app also makes it easy to find games outside of Xbox that work with the peripheral in the Apple App store.
But if you are reading this post, there is a strong possibility that you are doing so as you want to find a better way to play Xbox content on your iPhone without using Bluetooth. And if that’s you, then the Backbone is a good device that scratches that itch.
The hardware will set you back $99 and for now, only works with newer iPhones (iOS 13 and above) which will either make you happy or quite upset. As of the time of this post, Android users must look for other options and that’s where a Razer Kishi the better option.
The biggest risk to buying a Backbone right now has nothing to do with the hardware, and that’s a good thing. Seeing as this is a startup, there are risks involved if the company doesn’t become sustainable as that means their application and its functionality could stop working. The good news is that if that unfortunate reality does arrive, your hardware should still work which means the primary reason you bought a Backbone, remains functional.
Mobile gaming is far from being a novelty and is quickly maturing into a serious gaming platform. As companies look to build out peripherals and solutions, as of the time of this post, Backbone is the device to beat.