Apple puts iPhone game controller on the drawing board

Apple puts iPhone game controller on the drawing board

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Apple puts iPhone game controller on the drawing board
It’s undeniable: Apple is at least considering an iPhone game controller. And one for iPad, too.
Image: Apple/Cult of Mac

Apple is showing interest in making a clip-on iPhone or iPad game controller. It filed a patent application for various permutations of exactly that sort of accessory on Thursday.

This would be a new product category for the company. But it could be a boon for Apple Arcade subscribers.

Undeniable: Apple considering iPhone or iPad game controller

Apple filed a patent application for a “Magnetically Attachable Gaming Accessory” on March 31, 2022. The paperwork, in the stilted wording that’s traditional for such filings, says, “Accessories that can improve a specific functionality of an electronic device, can readily attach to an electronic device, can be easy to use, and can have a small and efficient form factor. One example can provide a gaming accessory that can improve the game playing functionality of an electronic device, such as a phone, tablet, or other computing device.”

The designs submitted with the Apple patent filing are generally for fairly typical clip-on game controllers. Some would put buttons on either side of a handset or tablet, others would but the buttons on the bottom edge.

Potential Apple game controller for iPhone or iPad
Appe’s patent filing included rough designs for an iPad game controller, on with a built-in projector, and other designs.
Image: Apple/Cult of Mac

Which isn’t to say the designers didn’t something think outside of the box. One of the more unique options includes a built-in projector to give a handheld gamer access to a larger virtual display.

A release? Maybe. Maybe not.

This patent filing doesn’t come out of nowhere. iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV already support third-party external game controllers. And the company strongly encourages developers of Apple Arcade games to support external controllers in the iPhone and iPad versions of their offerings.

Whether Cupertino plans to take the next step and make one itself is anyone’s guess. Company engineers frequently patent designs that are never seen again. Still, a 2020 rumor pointed to Apple developing its own game controller for iPhone and Apple TV.