Apple patented a snap-on gaming controller for iPhones (or other electronic touch screen devices) Tuesday, which allows for physical controls including a D-pad, physical buttons and a joystick.
The patent describes the device as follows:
A game accessory to attach to a portable electronic device, the game accessory comprising: a body; a recess formed in the body and sized to physically receive an entire width or length of the portable electronic device; a plurality of input controls positioned on the body outside of the recess such that the plurality of input controls may be actuated by a user while playing a game with the portable electronic device inserted in the recess; first circuitry to communicate information relating to manipulation of the plurality of input controls to the portable electronic device; second circuitry configured to authenticate the game accessory with the portable electronic device; a connector insert to mate to a connector receptacle located on the portable electronic device, the connector insert and the connector receptacle forming a path for the communication; and a battery configured to provide power to both the game accessory and the portable electronic device, wherein the portable electronic device includes a screen, wherein the game provides a graphics image on the screen, wherein the game runs on a processor located on the portable electronic device.
The device also features a D-pad, which would make movement in games significantly more precise and easy. Using on screen controls poses the problem of zero tactile feedback. That is to say, there is no way of knowing exactly how far over your thumb can move. This can be especially problematic in games which measure the speed your character moves by how far over the thumb pushes the on-screen analog stick.
The device could be made for any type of Apple device with a touch screen, as the patent only lists the mother product as "portable electronic device." The iPhone seems the most likely contender given its smaller form factor could allow for such an attachment to easily be applied.
The U.S. Patent Office lists the patent as filed September 30, 2008. The patent also makes mention of the devices use for text entry and recording.
What do you think? If you game on iOS, is this a helpful alternative to on-screen controls? Or is it not even worth it? What price would you be willing to pay for such a device? Sound off in the comments below!