Apple is always trying to improve their iDevices. Whether you are using an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone, each generation device sees just enough improvement to make it enticing. That's why it's no surprise that Apple would want a way to add a tactile feel to a touchscreen or surface (would it be possible they would be interested in similar setups for trackpads?).
The patent describes it as the following:
Disclosed are four arrangements for providing tactility on a touch surface keyboard. One approach is to provide tactile feedback mechanisms, such as dots, bars, or other shapes on all or many keys. In another embodiment, an articulating frame may be provided that extends when the surface is being used in a typing mode and retracts when the surface is used in some other mode, e.g., a pointing mode. The articulating frame may provide key edge ridges that define the boundaries of the key regions or may provide tactile feedback mechanisms within the key regions. The articulating frame may also be configured to cause concave depressions similar to mechanical key caps in the surface. In another embodiment, a rigid, non-articulating frame may be provided beneath the surface. A user will then feel higher resistance when pressing away from the key centers, but will feel a softer resistance at the key center.
It's no secret that some are not keen on the idea of a touchscreen keyboard. Heck, many of us thought a touchscreen with no keyboard was a bad idea back then. Once you get used to it, though, it's second-nature.
The application was actually filed in December 2009, but has only now been awarded. As explained above, it actually consists of four arrangements. It's possible that we will only see one, or even none, of the patented ideas. Even then, it may not be something we'd see in the near future, such as incorporated in the iPhone 5. Apple wouldn't put this one out until they are sure that it won't ruin the user experience. At least we'd think so.