The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) would publish newly granted patents and patent applications on any given Thursday, and yesterday Thursday was no exception. This new patent application, published by the USPTO and pointed out by Patently Apple, reveals that Apple is interested or atleast has toyed with the Home button on its iPhone that would pop up ad serve as a tiny thumb joystick.
This new patent application, titled “Multi-function Input Device,” is focused on an evolutionary step of making iPhone’s Home button step out of its comfort zone. The application outlines a spring loaded iPhone Home button which could pop up and turn into a small, protruding joystick too play games.
The application mentions two modes for the Home button: “button mode” and “joystick mode”. In “button mode” the Home button is in its original position flush with the device body. The button can also be slightly elevated and turn into “joystick mode” with a pressure click, with the ability of 360-movement, essentially serving as a D-pad of sort in games.
There are numerous 3rd party solutions for physical game controllers for iPhone, which eith physically connets to the device or via Bluetooth. The patent application notes that users tend to get frustrated when playing games due to lack of physical controls. There’s no mention of Touch ID in the patent application, so it’s unclear how the Touch ID fingerprint sensor would fit into this spring loaded Home button idea.
It’s worth noting that most of the ideas that Apple patents never see the light of the day in product form.Just like many companies out there, Apple patents each and every idea it can think of, just to shield itself from patent trolls and strengthen its patent portfolio.