Apple patent application outlines home button analog stick

Controlling 3D games isn't always easy on a phone, but Apple may have come up with an elegant solution. A patent application published last week outlines an iPhone with a dual-purpose home button. In one position, the home button works just like you'd expect. In another, it doubles as a mini analog stick:

Source: U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

Here's the abstract from the filing:

An electronic device includes a surface and a multi-function input device. The multi-function input device is operable in at least a first mode and a second mode. In the first mode, an input portion of the multi-function input device is flush with the surface or recessed in the surface and is operable to receive z axis press input data. In the second mode, the input portion is positioned proud of the surface (i.e., project from the surface) and is operable to receive x axis input data and/or y axis input data. The input portion may also be operable to receive z axis input data in the second mode. In one example, the multi-function input device may have a button mode and a joystick mode.

This seems like a good idea, but I wonder if Apple is serious enough about gaming to go through with it. Part of the company's modus operandi has always been to keep things simple. Confusing less savvy users with a multi-function home button may not jibe with that MO. Then again, I suppose the company could implement some kind of software hook so that only some programs unlock the analog stick mode. Hmm. (Thanks to Joystiq for the link.)

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