Although Apple patents are not exactly rare, one that would bring an element of physical control to smartphone gaming is certainly worth paying attention to.
As spotted by Forbes, Apple's ‘multi-function input device' sees an iPhone's home button magically pop out of the device's casing to become a mini-joystick.
Some gamers hold the opinion that realistic gameplay cannot be fully experienced without joysticks and/or tactile buttons,” the patent reads. Users may desire to use a first kind of input device for various applications and a second kind of input device for various other applications.
However, providing multiple different kinds of input devices may be complicated, expensive, and may not be possible within space constraints (such as in the cases of portable devices such as tablet computers or smart phones).
Further, providing some input devices, such as joysticks, may expose components of the input devices that project outward to damage and/or otherwise compromising the aesthetics of electronic devices in which the input devices are incorporated.
Additionally, providing multiple different kinds of input devices may frustrate other users who never utilize applications that are suited to one or more of the input devices and have to work around those input devices when utilizing one or more of the other input devices.”
Physical controls have long been held as the key differentiator between smartphones and dedicated handheld consoles. With consumers until now proving resistant to the idea of carrying around controller peripherals for their phones, an integrated solution that doesn't damage a smartphone's minimalist aesthetic seems on the face of it to be an ideal solution.