How Apple could hide a gaming joystick in future iPhones

By

Coming soon to your iPhone Home button? Photo: Duncan C/Flickr CC
Coming soon to your iPhone Home button? Photo: Duncan C/Flickr CC

I’ve written on numerous occasions before about how we’re currently living through a golden age of iOS games, and apparently Apple agrees with me.

According to a new patent application published today, Apple may be investigating the possibility of building in a miniature joystick inside the Home button of future iOS devices.

Read on to find out how it could work.

Joystick arrow
The iPhone Home button would lift up to reveal a joystick hidden below. Photo: USPTO

Like everyone else, Apple is fully aware that touch screens are not a perfect interface method for playing games on the iPhone, since virtual buttons require a user’s finger to cover part of the screen while they are gaming. That may be acceptable on larger devices like the iPad, but it can be a considerable annoyance on the iPhone, where every inch of screen real estate is valuable.

A side view of the concept shows how the joystick would elevate above the iPhone surface.
A side view of the concept shows how the joystick would elevate above the iPhone surface.

Touch screens are also unable to replicate the kind of tactile feedback that joysticks are able to, which can be a definite detriment to gaming on the iPhone.

In Apple’s solution, a multi-function Home button would be employed, which could lift up to reveal a recessed multi-directional joystick underneath. As such, the joystick would only be present when needed, while the rest of the time it could be hidden from sight to avoid potential damage.

It’s an intriguing idea, although it’s still not without its problems. For one thing, the joystick would still be tiny, which means that many serious gamers would likely still opt for add-on wireless gamepads or clip-on phone cases. For another, the joystick would limit how thin Apple could make its future devices.

Ultimately, Apple never turns the majority of its patents and patent applications into actual products, but instead uses them as defensive tools against rival companies. But this remains a fascinating concept — and a glimpse at a parallel universe iPhone which, chances are, we’ll never see.

Via: Patently Apple