A new Apple Inc. patent could solve a common problem in mobile gaming: having game controls on the touchscreen, which can take away from the whole user experience. The Cupertino, California-based company submitted a patent application for a multifunctional home button, which includes a spring, which would allow it to pop up and be used as a joystick.

home_button_joystick Apple patent diagram Photo: USPTO

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published the patent Thursday, which details that the button could be used in Internet browser navigation and word-processing applications in addition to being used as a gameplay control. Such functions could possibly bring a cursor control feature to an iPhone. In order to bring the home button to joystick mode, users would have to press the home button down and “click” it out to use as a joystick.  

home_button_joystick_2 Apple patent diagram Photo: USPTO

Currently, the home button on Apple’s iPhones have three functions: waking a handset on standby, unlocking a handset with its built-in Touch ID fingerprint scanner and taking users back to the home screen. Apple introduced the Touch ID feature on the iPhone 5s in 2013. It is also included on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

This multifunctional home-button technology likely won’t be included on any iPhones that may be released in the foreseeable future. However, Apple may have long-term plans for the feature. Apple subsidiary AuthenTec provided the manufacturer with the technology for TouchID, which includes touch-based navigation. AuthenTec also has technologies within optical joystick emulation.