A newly-discovered patent from Apple details supplementary gadgets for mobile devices that could make gaming much more comfortable on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Patent number 0081505, "accessory for playing games with a portable electronic device," filed in September 2008, shows drawings of an accessory that houses portable electronic devices like the iPhone. This shell sports a more traditional thumbs-friendly d-pad and control buttons in a configuration familiar to gamers.
The invention, if it would ever come to market, could solve gaming issues on the touch screen iPhone and iPod caused by having the viewing field share the control field. In other words, fingers often get in the way of actually seeing a game while playing it, and this could be the remedy.
One example drawing of this housing would have a mobile device, in landscape position, inserted in between a d-pad on the left and control buttons on the right. Another example shows the device in portrait position with the d-pad and action buttons below the screen.
There's also an example housing that positions the mobile device in portrait mode, but instead of a d-pad and control buttons, there is a small thumb or keypad that could be used for text-based applications. The accessory could also house a microphone, camera, speakers, rumble and internal movement sensors.
One example takes a cue from the Nintendo DS. A mobile device with touch screen capabilities like the iPhone could be inserted into the bottom half of a clamshell casing, which has a screen built into the top half. Along with the touch screen controls provided by the device, the shell would also have a traditional d-pad and control buttons.
The patent also said that the accessory, in tandem with the device, could be used to access and control home theater systems, so the proposed shell could be used beyond gaming as well.
The full patent with drawings can be found at IntoMobile