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Apple Patents iPhone Gaming Controller

In terms of sheer numbers, iOS is one of the biggest gaming platforms in the world, and yet playing anything not specifically designed with a touchscreen in mind is a dicey proposition. Apple may be looking to ramp up the operating system’s gaming potential with a patented snap-on controller, essentially turning an iPhone or iPad into a 3DS or Vita.

The info comes from Apple Insider, which discusses a patent that Apple filed for a more traditional handheld controller. Users would hook their iDevices directly into a dock that had a directional pad on one side and two buttons on the other. (If you’ve ever seen a Game Boy Micro, it looks like a very large version of that.)

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Since the patent discusses an idea rather than a completed product, Apple had many ideas for how the theoretical controller might enhance the iOS gaming experience. The connector, for example, may have only been there to keep the iPhone or iPad in place, and users could link the two devices via Bluetooth. Apple theorized that consumers could use multiple iDevices for Nintendo DS-like gameplay, or used AirPlay to bring the games to a big screen.

Also under consideration was an attachable keypad, for games that used a portrait display, or just for general typing and texting considerations. Apple reasoned that its on-screen keyboard took up a lot of screen room, and users might appreciate a peripheral that helped free it up.

All of this comes with one major caveat: Apple filed the patent back in 2008, and Apple Insider only unearthed it recently. That means that while the controller could still be in the works, it’s also possible that Apple scrapped the idea. In the last seven years, third parties have developed perfectly functional Bluetooth keyboards and keypads for iOS, and there aren’t that many games that take full advantage of a controller.

Marshall Honorof is a staff writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at Follow him@marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • jldevoy
    I really hope thats a joke since there's extensive examples of such things existing for years.
  • Icon86
    They just want to sue those third parties now that developed the controllers and rake in the extra money.
  • surphninja
    I have a feeling this is less about Apple producing these, and more about them beefing up their patent portfolio.

    Though they really should come out with something like this, or allow third parties to. There is currently no quality peripheral providing this feature the way it should be done. Crazy, considering how big of a market mobile gaming is. I gave up on a lot of mobile game types, because I was sick of having to cover half the screen with my thumbs.
  • g-thor
    I don't understand how an over-broad, generic idea can be submitted for a patent. I thought you had to detail the implementation, but it sure looks like that isn't required.
  • Marshall Honorof
    Personally, I think it's an interesting patent, but if it hasn't happened by now, I'm not sure it's going to. Mobile developers have more or less gotten used to programming for touchscreens (even complex games like Baldur's Gate), and there are enough Bluetooth controllers, keyboards and mice to suit those who don't want to use their fingers.

    Besides, if the sales figures for phone/tablet games versus 3DS/Vita games are any indication, consumers are not exactly dying for a return to traditional handhelds. We'll see what happens.
  • fuzzion
    So star trek created the Pad but apple said they invented it
    Samsung made popular the large screen Notes but Apple claimed the trophy
    Smart watches were around for now over 3 years but apple says their design is new

    Now they take a product you can already buy but patent it.

    This is why the patent system is dead.
  • Cons29
    they should really filter these things before they grant a patent
  • Boxa786
    Don't forget that rectangular phones were'nt invented till Apple patented it for the iPhone crap