The best iPhone gaming controller now works with Android phones — but you’ll need a cable

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Last year, a small company called Backbone Labs released arguably the best iPhone gaming controller on the market right now, the Backbone One. Starting Thursday, you’ll be able to use that controller with many more devices — including Android phones — though it won’t work exactly as you might expect and requires a new Backbone Plus subscription to set it up.

Here’s how using the controller with other devices works. The Backbone One is designed to let you slot in an iPhone in landscape mode to a Lightning port on the right side of the controller. To use the Backbone One with a non-iPhone device, you can’t plop it into the controller since it requires plugging into that Lightning port. Instead, you have to pick what type of device you want to connect it to in the Backbone app settings menu and then hook up the device to the controller with a Lightning-to-USB cable. (The Backbone One has a Lightning port to plug the cable into.)

I tested the feature out by connecting the Backbone One to my M1 MacBook Air to play Crossy Road Castle. It worked great, and I had no trouble traversing dangerous platforms as a tiny voxel chicken. I wasn’t able to test the Backbone One with an Android device, but if it works as well as it did with my Mac, it should be a perfectly capable gaming controller. If you unsubscribe from Backbone Plus, your Backbone One controller will still work with your iPhone and the last non-iPhone device you had it configured for.

The Backbone Plus subscription comes with a lot more benefits than just letting you use the controller with other devices. One impressive feature is that you’ll be able to stream to Twitch right from the Backbone app. That means you’ll be able to easily stream yourself playing your favorite mobile game or even a PlayStation or Xbox game over console streaming. In a test I did, the video on my Twitch stream was pretty laggy, but that might just be due to my network, and I didn’t see any performance issues with my iPhone 12 Mini while the broadcast was going.

The Backbone One’s orange button is surrounded by a purple ring while you’re streaming on Twitch.
Image: Backbone Labs

Backbone is also adding some new video recording features in its subscription. You’ll be able to record at 1080p and 60fps on iOS 15 devices, up from 30fps, and there’s a new Smart Record option that lets you hold down the capture button to record the last 15 seconds of your game. The app’s useful catalog of games, videos, highlights, and more also now shows information from many different gaming services instead of just native iOS games, and search has been improved.

With Backbone Plus, you’ll be able to use all of the app’s software features. New Backbone users will be given a free year of the service, and if you opt to renew, it’ll cost $49 per year. If you choose not to subscribe, you’ll still be able to use the Backbone One as an iPhone gaming controller, and the app will still install software updates to the controller, but you won’t be able to take advantage of the other software features offered with the app.

And current Backbone players are in luck. Every Backbone user who has made an account before Thursday will be given a free lifetime membership to Backbone Plus.

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