🥇 Apple invents a new home button that also functions as a joystick

3 min

Main button - close-up

Apple today filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that describes a unique invention of the home button that can be used either as a normal button or as a gaming joystick.

The patent shows that Apple is considering ways to improve the design of the home button to become a more useful input device, especially for gamers. It remains to be seen whether it will actually be integrated into a future iPhone or iPad, especially since Touch ID is already integrated in the existing home button. However, it would be a welcome feature that would significantly improve the usability of the company’s iDevices for gamers.

Multifunction home button background

The patent states that input devices can have various advantages and disadvantages when used for different purposes. This can relate to how such input devices are constructed and / or operated. For example, computer mice and keyboards may be suitable for operating a word processing application or for controlling an Internet browser application, but they may be less suitable for operating a flight simulator game. In contrast, a joystick may be suitable for operating the flight simulator game, but not for operating the word processing application or for controlling the Internet browser application.

Likewise touch screens (which can be good) B. for an Internet browser application) may offer some advantages for operating game applications on portable devices, but may also have shortcomings. For example, a user’s finger may need to cover part of the screen while the user is controlling the game. This can affect the user’s ability to see what he is controlling and / or other parts of the game display. In addition, a touchscreen may not be able to provide tactile feedback, and the ability to provide tactile feedback during a game can improve the user’s gaming experience. Some players believe that a realistic game without joysticks and / or tactile buttons cannot be fully experienced.

Users may want to use a first type of input device for various applications and a second type of input device for various other applications. However, the provision of several different types of input devices can be complicated, expensive and not possible due to space constraints (e.g. with portable devices such as tablet computers or smartphones). Furthermore, the provision of some input devices, such as. B. joysticks, expose components of the input devices that protrude outward to damage and / or otherwise impair the aesthetics of electronic devices in which the input devices are installed. In addition, providing several different types of input devices can frustrate other users who never use applications that are suitable for one or more of the input devices and must bypass these input devices when using one or more of the other input devices.

Key mode and joystick / gaming mode

Apple’s invention encompasses devices, systems and methods for a multifunctional home button. An electronic device can contain a surface and a multifunction button. The multifunction button can be operated in two modes:

By doing first modePart of the home button can be flush with the device surface or embedded in the surface and receive input data for the Z axis.

By doing second modethe input section may protrude from the surface and may be able to receive x-axis input data and / or y-axis input data. The input section can also receive Z-axis input data in the second mode. In this way, the home key can be operated as several different types of input devices at different times.

In other words, the home button can do one Button mode and a Joystick mode.

The patent states that the home button head may be sunk when the device is not being used as a joystick, thereby compromising the aesthetic appearance of the device, possibly damaging the mechanisms used to project the input device head, and / or keeping the device away Input device head is avoided if the device is not used as a joystick.

The following diagram shows how the home button is shown when pressed.

Home button - transition

Patent credits

Apple credits Colin M. Ely (Cupertino, CA) and Fletcher R. Rothkopf (Los Altos, CA) as the inventor of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150015475.


Apple reports dozens of patent applications every week. The most interesting recently included the filing of a 3D camera and a UI patent, and an invention (which was awarded) for flexible electronic devices.

You can read the most interesting Apple patents on the Apple Toolbox every Tuesday and Thursday.

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