Update: With the iPhone Pro and Pro max out I am aware that the phone does not fit right due to the new camera. Hopefully we will get a solution soon.
I have been very vocal on Game Bites about how I have been moving away from console gaming and heading to a mobile only future. The days of spending hours in front of my TV gaming are well behind and now the days of sitting in my car gaming on my iPhone on a break from work have begun.
I have had plenty of controllers for my phone over the years and none of them really felt great to use. Then finally the DualShock and the Xbox One controller were compatible and I thought this is it, this is the best it will get. While it's close to being the best I was wrong. In my opinion, the two best are the Backbone and the Razer Kishi.
Both of these controllers are designed to cradle your phone and make your cellphone resemble a Nintendo Switch style of play. Both of them have the same price tag of $99.99 USD. Definitely a premium price, but do you get a premium product?
Let us start with the Razer Kishi. As I said, it's a hundred dollar controller, however, I have often seen this one on sale for as little as fifty dollars, and at fifty dollars it's definitely a steal, at a hundred dollars, well we will get to that.
The Kishi collapses to the size of a normal size controller when not in use. It may look like a normal controller but it can not be used in this state. The Kishi plugs right into your lightning port on your phone and draws power that way. This means one less thing to worry about charging, which I love. If your phone needs a charge but you still want to use it for gaming that’s not a problem. There is a passthrough to charge the phone while playing.
When it comes down to the feel of the controller this is where I have a problem with the price tag. The convenience and form factor are great but the build feels cheap. This does not feel like a premium product when you hold it in your hand. When you open up a controller what’s the first thing you do? You just start randomly pressing buttons right? Well, the buttons on the Kishi do not feel great, luckily once you are immersed in a game you don’t realize. The face buttons feel very spongey and the triggers sound like grinding plastic on plastic every time you hit them. Again, the feel of the buttons really does seem to be better when you are actually playing a game.
My major problem with the Kishi is the design of the controller itself. It extends to wrap around your phone and then collapse. When your phone is in the controller it does not feel sturdy at all. If you hold the controller with one hand you will see it start to bend and it looks like it wants to fall apart. This was distracting at times. I found myself worrying about this when playing games.
It may seem like I’m negative on this controller but I actually do love it. It just does not feel like a hundred dollar product. I used it for a while until I got the next one I will discuss, the Backbone.
With the same price tag of $99.99, the Backbone was my clear favorite in Virtually every aspect. Just the build of the controller alone sold me immediately. When I took it out of the box it felt sturdy and solid. It felt like a premium product. Then once I touched all the buttons they felt mostly great. The triggers were quiet and felt natural. The face buttons were a little stiff but that was what I liked about them.
Once you snap your phone into the Backbone there is no comparison to the Kishi anymore. The backbone feels like it supports your phone and you can hold it any way you want without fear of it crumbling. When using the backbone I often forget that I’m on my phone and not a handheld game console. That’s how great it feels to hold and use.
The backbone also comes with a very intuitive app. The app shows you your games with quick access to them and also recommends new games to you. Unlike the Kishi, the backbone has a dedicated button for video recording and screenshots (yes I know you can make shortcuts for any controller). You can trim and edit your videos right in the app making it extremely convenient.
Like the Kishi, the Backbone plugs directly into your phone and will draw power that way. Also like the Kishi, there is a pass through to charge your phone if you need it. The backbone also has a pass through for a 2.5mm jack for headphones. The Kishi is missing this option making Bluetooth your only option for headphones.
Both having a premium price tag to me there is a clear winner and that’s the Backbone. It just feels so like so much more of a premium product. Both of these controllers will change your mobile gaming for the better so you can not go wrong but my opinion is to go with the backbone if you have the funds for it. It's definitely an investment but it's one that I do not have buyers remorse for.
For more on games and movies be sure to take a listen to one of our podcasts. For some reviews check out my review for Maneater, and Halo 2. If you like mobile games then check out my monthly mobile report. The games keep coming so we will work hard to keeping bringing the reviews. Thanks for stopping by!