Apple patent application shocker: games need buttons

It's pretty rare that Apple patent applications reveal much more than vague plans and ideas about future devices, but a newly-public filing out of Cupertino just comes right out and states the truth about gaming on touchscreen devices like the iPhone: it can be "somewhat awkward, particularly on a portable electronic device having a touchscreen" because the "user's fingers block the action." So what's the solution? Buttons, dude-man. The patent describes a handheld gaming dock that fits around a "substantial portion" of an iPhone or iPod that has both physical input controls and secondary storage for game information like scores and save data. That's certainly a nice idea, and one we'd love to see supported by Apple, but we're also pretty certain this patent doesn't have much of a chance as written, since we've been hearing about this concept since games first hit the App Store and similar products -- including a keyboard -- are on the market now. We'll see -- like so many of Apple's patent applications, this one might well just linger on the vine forever.