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What you need

This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your Backbone One, use our service manual.

  1. Backbone One Teardown, Backbone One Teardown: step 1, image 1 of 3 Backbone One Teardown, Backbone One Teardown: step 1, image 2 of 3 Backbone One Teardown, Backbone One Teardown: step 1, image 3 of 3
    • This Joy Con-esque controller may look like any other mobile gamepad—but on paper at least, it packs a few surprises. Let's unfurl a few of them here:

    • D-pad and thumbstick on the left. A-B-X-Y buttons and thumbstick on the right. Shoulder and trigger buttons on each side.

    • Lightning port for passthrough charging and connecting accessories.

    • 3.5 mm headphone jack—a welcome sight here, after being dropped from the iPhone in 2016 and never seen again (well, almost never). Welcome back, little buddy!

    • Specialty buttons for instant muting, launching the Backbone app, and recording gameplay.

    • A couple interesting things missing: Bluetooth and an internal battery. The Backbone One connects to—and draws power from—your iPhone directly.

    • We can't decide if having no battery and no Bluetooth is a feature—but it seemingly reduces the number of things to go wrong.

  2. Backbone One Teardown: step 2, image 1 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 2, image 2 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 2, image 3 of 3
    • The Backbone One doesn't collapse as neatly or completely as the otherwise-bulky Razer Kishi. During playtime however, its fully extended form is pretty svelte.

    • If your phone's case adds significant volume, you might need to remove it for a nice snug fit inside the Backbone One. That's what makes you a true gamer, right?

    • Since most humans lack a third arm, be careful when plugging and unplugging your phone from the built-in Lightning port to avoid any accidental damage.

  3. Backbone One Teardown: step 3, image 1 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 3, image 2 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 3, image 3 of 3
    • Enough talk—let the games begin!

    • We're off to a fast start thanks to some external Phillips screws on the right grip. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank Backbone for having the spine not to glue this thing together. Huzzah!

    • Beneath the plastic outer shell, some colorful cables—and our first look at the Backbone One's internals.

    • We free the interconnect cable from its ZIF connector claw and unplug the two Lightning connector cables from the motherboard.

    • A few more Phillips screws later, we can extract the shoulder button, trigger, and our first PCB.

  4. Backbone One Teardown: step 4, image 1 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 4, image 2 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 4, image 3 of 3
    • Let's see what this board brings to the game:

    • The joystick—soldered to the board (not a great start, if we've learned anything from Nintendo)

    • Six clickable contacts (tactile dome) for the A-B-X-Y buttons + orange Backbone App button + an option button

    • Skyworks SKY52101-11 IoT SoC (likely)

    • Avnera AV3425C single chip analog SoC for smart Lightning headsets

    • A soldered-on bumper button

    • A soldered-on Hall-effect sensor (Texas Instruments DRV5053) for the trigger button

    • A soldered-on Lightning port to pass through power to your phone, or sound to your headset

  5. Backbone One Teardown: step 5, image 1 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 5, image 2 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 5, image 3 of 3
    • Over on the left side we find an almost identical setup—right down to the Phillips screws and ZIF connector.

    • But we're momentarily stumped trying to remove the trigger button. Turns out, it's secured by just one well-hidden screw.

    • See the angle on that driver? If it looks wrong, that's because this isn't how screws are supposed to work. We're actually slightly surprised when it twists out safely and the trigger plonks onto the table.

  6. Backbone One Teardown: step 6, image 1 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 6, image 2 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 6, image 3 of 3
    • Now let's see what the left board has to offer:

    • Another soldered joystick (like the Razer Kishi)

    • Four gold contacts for the direction pad and four holes to keep its silicone cover in place

    • Two clickable silver contacts (tactile dome) for the screenshot/record and option buttons

    • A soldered 3.5 mm headphone jack

    • A soldered bumper button

    • A soldered Hall sensor (Texas Instruments DRV5053) for the trigger button

    • Next let's look for the backbone of this Backbone. It's in this area here, near the word "Backbone."

    • The sliding clamp mechanism uses a pair of flat spiral springs that unroll when you pull the handles apart. This provides more consistent compression and a tighter grip than the Razer Kishi, which uses helical extension springs to embrace your smartphone.

    • Flat springs (AKA constant-force springs) can also be found in seatbelts and tape measures.

  7. Backbone One Teardown: step 8, image 1 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 8, image 2 of 3 Backbone One Teardown: step 8, image 3 of 3
    Tool used on this step:
    Minnow Driver Kit
    $14.95
    Buy
    • Two screws secure the Lightning port, making this high-wear part easy to replace if it breaks.

    • With the right tools, some case modding action, and re-wiring one might even be able to swap it out for a slightly wider USB-C port to make it Android-compatible.

    • The interconnect cable wiggles in the casing but can't be removed without causing irreparable damage, so we leave it alone for now.

    • We free the springs with our Minnow portable bit set and save the game before the final boss layout.

  8. Backbone One Teardown: step 9, image 1 of 1
    • Game over! We have beaten the Backbone One. Let's see if we reached a high (repairability) score:

  9. Final Thoughts
    • Using fairly common tools, disassembly is straight-forward with components held in place only with screws.
    • The Lightning connector can be easily replaced by removing the cover and two screws.
    • Though no adhesive is used, some screws seem unnecessarily difficult to reach.
    • Shoulder buttons are soldered onto their respective boards, requiring micro-soldering skills for replacement.
    • Both joysticks are soldered directly onto the boards, as is the pass-through Lightning port.
    Repairability Score
    5
    Repairability 5 out of 10
    (10 is easiest to repair)

16 Comments

My right side joystick broke how can I fix it

Randy Mariscal - Reply

Hi Randy, unfortunately, the joysticks are soldered to the mainboard. Check out this guide: Backbone One Teardown

Adriana Zwink -

Is there any chance to change the clicking contacts of the A-B-X-Y Buttons to silent ones? Thank you for helping and best regards

LJ B - Reply

Hi, it looks complicated, perhaps impossible. I had a look on mine and it looks like the clicking part is inside the six domes, soldered to the board. So the boring clicclicclics will remain.. BR

Olivier FERREIRA -

Does anybody know where to get the Lightning port?

Android Connor - Reply

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