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Saturday, April 26, 2008, 11:45 am PT (02:45 pm ET)

Apple in rumored talks to license vibration feedback for iPhone

Apple has reportedly begun talks with Immersion to integrate haptic feedback into future touchscreen devices, addressing a complaint leveled against the iPhone by fans of physical buttons and keyboards.

An Apple worker has allegedly leaked to Palluxo that Immersion executives met twice with their Apple peers this week to discuss integrating Immersion's vibration response technology into the cellphone.

The meetings are said to parallel a more publicized deepening of relations between the two companies through indirect means: Immersion this week hired Clent Richardson, a former Worldwide Solutions Marketing VP at Apple between 1997 and 2001.

What exactly would be implemented is unclear. However, Immersion's most recent efforts have focused on using haptics to simulate physical button presses in an increasing number of touchscreen phones, including Sprint's soon-to-be iPhone rival, the Samsung Instinct.

The technique most frequently involves sending short, concentrated pulses through all or specific locations of a phone as the user taps buttons in software. In effect, haptics not only restore some of the feel absent in touchscreens, but also give users a way of confirming that the phone has recognized a command through more than just visual output.

A frequently-cited complaint regarding the iPhone is its lack of tactile feedback for converts from BlackBerries and other smartphones, many of whom expect the relative certainty of physical responses while navigating the interface or typing.

Neither Apple nor Immersion has commented on the rumored discussions, which are still early and so aren't expected to result in a finished product for some time.