There have been rumors that Apple was developing its own joystick for use with Apple Arcade games on Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV set-top boxes. A newly filed patent (number 2021402290) for an “user input device and related methods” hint the rumor may be true.
About the patent filing
In the patent filing, Apple notes that a typical joystick includes a stick or shaft that is moved by a user relative to a center position to provide input, for example, 360-degree control in two dimensions. A joystick may be self-centering, for example, and may return to the center position when user input is removed.
One type of joystick is a thumbstick. Similarly to a joystick, a stick or shaft is moved by a user relative to a center position to provide input. However, unlike a joystick, for example, where the user’s hand is engaged with the shaft, a thumbstick includes a relatively short shaft that is operated by the user’s thumb.
In other words, the shaft is sized so that the user cannot typically move the shaft by engaging the user’s whole hand. Apple’s patent filing seems to indicate that the tech giant will go the thumbstick route.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’s (technical) abstract of the patent filing: “A user input device may include a shaft carried by a housing and having a first end extending outwardly beyond the housing for manipulation by a user and a second end within the housing. A set of one or more sensors may be carried by the housing to sense shaft movement. A first contact member may be within the housing, and a spring may be coupled between the first contact member and the shaft to urge the first contact member and the shaft apart.
“A motor may be carried within the housing and may have a rotatable output extending therefrom. A second contact member may be coupled to the rotatable output and may be in contact with the first contact member to be selectively moveable based upon motor rotation to set a spring compression and thereby set a return-to-center bias for the shaft while being manipulated.”