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Is Apple working on its own game controller? A new patent suggests so!

Backbone One Game Controller
Backbone One Game Controller (Image credit: Backbone)

What you need to know

  • A new patent points to three new types of game controller.
  • A new folio controller could also double as a secondary display.
  • Controllers would function with iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs.

A new patent suggests that Apple is working on a new game controller for iPhone, iPad, and even Apple TV hardware.

The new patent, filed with the European Patent Office recently and spotted by Patently Apple, points to at least three potential game controllers being worked on. They would all be used in slightly different ways but would all allow people to more easily play games on their devices without the need for a third-party offering. In some cases, these controllers would also offer functionality others cannot.

One example of the controllers Apple could be working on is something similar to BackBone One, a controller that would house an iPhone. The gaming grip could also be used with an iPad, the patent suggests, while the setup does immediately remind me of the way Joycons attach to a Nintendo Switch.

Another example, and perhaps the most interesting, is one that would be more like a folio case than a traditional controller. In this example, the folio could act as a touchscreen game controller or secondary display.

Apple Controller Patent Drawings

Apple Controller Patent Drawings (Image credit: Patently Apple)

As Patently Apple points out, the second display could be used for much more than gaming including FaceTime calls and more.

A second style of game controller relates to an iPhone gaming folio. Here Apple shares a number of concepts presented below that their engineering team have worked on. The part of the folio that will sit opposite to the iPhone display for game content, could actually be a full or partial secondary display that could provide users with messages about the game, like your gaming character is low in health, or that the user is receiving a text, email of FaceTime call from friends, family or business associates. It could also be used to accept other players wanting to join a multiplayer game.

The third option would be more akin to the traditional game controller, although it would have a switch that would allow gamers to enter text and more. This controller seems most likely to suit an Apple TV device, however. It's suggested that switch could also be used to answer phone calls and more, something the Apple TV hardware is currently incapable of doing — suggesting the controller would work with iPhones, too.

As is always the case, however, patents don't always turn into products. While an Apple-designed game controller would surely be the best iPhone option to date, it could be years off production — if it is indeed ever to be released at all.

Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

2 Comments
  • I'm not sure I'd put much creedence in this one. That diagram looks like an ergonomic nightmare. - The ends only fit on the giant iPhone?
    - Otherwise they are just flappy bits that fit halfway down?
    - And with no attachment described we are talking more (weak) magnets?
    - And if you don't like that, you can hold the floppy front bit from your case between your fingers? Those are all horrible ideas. :-)
  • As long as they don't use Butterfly Mechanism gamepad buttons...