During a presentation last September, Apple executives played up gaming on the iPhone--and dismissed the PSP and DS as inferior products. Senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Philip W. Schiller blasted the platforms as having overly expensive games. He also said that the iPhone's lack of dedicated buttons actually made it a superior gaming platform to Sony or Nintendo's portables.
Ironically, Schiller's swagger directly contradicts the wording in a patent application, which surfaced this week. Originally filed by Apple in September 2008, the patent states that gaming can "be somewhat awkward, particularly on a portable electronic device having a touch screen. The same screen used for viewing an avatar's activities is used to control the avatar. This arrangement causes the user's fingers [to] block the action. Thus, while these portable electronic devices include a highly efficient interface, when playing games it is often desirable to have a more specialized user interface."
As some might suspect, Apple's patent filing was for an accessory to the iPhone, which would offer dedicated gaming buttons. According to the filing, "The game accessory can have input controls, such as buttons, joysticks, and D pads. Another example provides a game accessory having a thumb pad or keyboard. Other possible features include microphones, cameras and camera lenses, speakers, a second screen, rumble, and motion detection."
Illustrations accompanying the filing show an accessory, which allows an iPhone--and potentially the just-released iPad--to be slid into it. The filing reads, "The game accessory may have a recess sized to fit the portable electronic device. Inserts or removable adapters can be used to fit portable electronic devices having different sizes. The portable electronic device can be held in the accessory using sliding covers, clips, or other engaging members. In other examples, the accessory can communicate with another accessory for head-to-head game play. The accessory may include circuitry for power, identification, and authorization."