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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 mhonorof@tomsguide.com. Follow him@marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.