Backbone One’s companion app gets an overhaul, with a subscription fee for new users only

We’re fans of the Backbone One iPhone controller around here. A lovely mixture of rock-solid hardware and way-better-than-it-should-be software, it has quickly become my favorite way to game on the go. Expand the controller, drop iPhone in, resume zombie killing/guarding the galaxy/etc.

This morning the company is announcing a bunch of new features for that aforementioned software, with one catch: while the companion app/service will continue to be free for existing users, it’ll cost new users a few bucks a month.

Backbone’s companion software serves as an all-encompassing hub for the controller. It gives you a quick and pretty way to access all of your Backbone-friendly games, but also gives you cross-game voice chat and parties, a system for grabbing and sharing clips, and more.

It’ll soon learn a few new tricks, as well. The company has a big blog post announcing the new feature set here, but if you’re just looking for the short version:

  • Users will now be able to hardwire the Backbone One to other devices — iPads, Macs and PCs — to control them
  • Video recording quality has been bumped from 1080p 30 FPS to 1080p 60 FPS for any device running iOS 15
  • A toggle-able “Smart Recording” feature will let you record the last 15 seconds of gameplay, retroactively
  • Built-in Twitch streaming support, allowing you to broadcast your mobile gaming skillzzz to the world with just a few clicks
  • On iOS 15, you can configure it so that connecting the Backbone One will automatically put iOS into gaming focus mode, which will silence notifications except for those you’ve deemed most important
  • You’ll now be able to share your screen directly to friends in parties, for when you want to go live but maybe not to everyone on Twitch
  • They’ve improved game search, and improved load times and stability overall

With these new additions, Backbone will start charging a monthly fee for access to the companion app — but only for new users. If you’ve already got a Backbone One, access to the app and related service — now dubbed “Backbone+” — will remain free for life. If you’re a new user, you’ll get one free year of Backbone+ access, after which it’ll cost about $50 a year. Don’t want to pay for the companion app? Backbone CEO Maneet Khaira tells me it’ll continue working just fine as a controller, and you’ll still be able to update the controller’s software via the app.