When the Backbone One and PlayStation 5 had a steamy romance, the end result was the Backbone One - PlayStation Edition. But turns out they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, as beyond the iPhone version, the company has just announced an Android model.
Should you be excited? Yes, but more for what this could mean, rather than what it does. Let me explain. It all started with a foolish bet I made that PlayStation cloud gaming was coming last September (I had to buy a very expensive pint as forfeit).
But with the upcoming PlayStation Showcase, the rumors of a new PlayStation handheld (codenamed Q Lite), and the Backbone/PlayStation romance expanding to Android, I’ve got a feeling that we’re close to true PS cloud gaming — provided the company can figure out what cloud gaming is.
Same, but different
The Backbone One - PlayStation Edition for Android is virtually identical to the iPhone version, bar two things. First, as you’d expect, it’s a USB-C connector rather than lightning. And second, there is no phone adaptor included. Backbone’s pretty confident that this will fit virtually all Android phones (with the case off).
That means the same shape and form factor that I love, the same 3.5mm audio jack passthrough for latency-free audio, and that same PS5-inspired aesthetic that I’m a huge fan of. While I still miss that PS face button texture that you get on the Dualsense controller, the matte finish on here is still grippy and comfortable to use for hours on end.
PlayStation, we have to talk about the cloud
As we mentioned above, it’s looking like PlayStation has finally got the hint and are working towards a full cloud gaming solution. I mean sure, there is cloud streaming already present in PlayStation Plus Premium — giving you access to choice games across previous PlayStation generations. But with this being accessible only through your console or PC, this service is extremely limited.
That leaves you with Remote Play when on your Backbone, and this is not the fix to the problem. Not to say that other companies have got it just right yet. But Sony’s not even in the same ballpark when it assumes people will willingly want to keep their PS5 on at all times for the sake of being able to play where you go.
And sure, there is some game streaming, but without a browser solution that can be used on the likes of iOS and Android, it’s a long way behind Microsoft.
The Backbone+ Problem
One of the things we didn’t address in our previous Backbone One review is the fact that a lot of the features users who were lucky enough to buy one early enough (such as the collating all your games in one place on the Backbone App and easy in-game video capture) are now locked behind a $50 a year paywall.
When it comes to subscription services, I’ve always been of the mind that they need to provide something additional over what you already provided for free. To take features away is going to leave a sour taste in gamers’ mouths, even with the odd special offer like a few months of Discord Nitro or Game Pass.
Fortunately for Android users, the Backbone app is in early access, so you get access to Backbone+ for free while testing resumes. I’m not sure how long this period will last, but at least you get everything.
As for those who don’t on iOS (and when the free period ends on Android), the free version of the app is still essential for the likes of firmware updates. But as it is a hardware controller that is recognized by games and apps separate of Backbone’s software, you can still make food use of this pad
The more I use the PlayStation-branded Backbone One for remote play, the more I see the limitations to it. And based on the rumor mill around this new cloud gaming portable, PlayStation seems to recognize that too.
Much like every time I get to try out the Backbone, it’s easily my favorite mobile gaming controller by far for its premium build, ease of use, generous travel of shoulder buttons and software integration.
So the company has held up its side of the deal. Now it’s time for PlayStation to fulfill its side of the bargain too, and actually give Xbox Game Pass a run for its money.
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Jason brought a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag, and he is now the Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.