A Few Notes On Google Android And "Multitouch"

The word “multitouch” is thrown around a lot these days. Mostly by people who should know better.

Multitouch means you can touch the screen with multiple fingers, and the system will register this as, yes, multiple fingers. Google Android does support this, has supported this for a while, and most Android phones have the hardware that supports it as well. So when you read the sentence, “Android doesn’t have multitouch”, what you should be reading is, “Android doesn’t support pinch-to-zoom in the browser and image viewer on US handsets”. Now that’s settled.

Listening to Windows Weekly #139, Leo mentions he’s “heard” that the reason US phones don’t have pinch-to-zoom is that Apple has a patent on this in the US (not Europe), and that Apple knows this patent won’t hold in a court. So Apple, former good friends of Google, has asked Google kindly to not try this patent and simply put off the pinch-to-zoom for a while.

Which, if true, is a delicious piece of info, worth blogging and opening comments on. Personally, I can see why Google wants to stay friends with Apple for as long as possible, but perhaps it’s time Google showed Apple the brass ones they flashed China the other day?

5 thoughts on “A Few Notes On Google Android And "Multitouch"”

  1. Nate says:

    I like seeing companies getting along well, although banning a simple gesture seems a bit overboard. It’s not like this is a permanent thing though, right? The way you said it makes it sound temporary.

    1. Joen says:

      Well I’m really just paraphrasing Leo Laporte, but yes, he also made it sound temporary (which also seems to chime well with the recent coverage on the topic).

      I wouldn’t be surprised if US users will see pinch to zoom as a simple firmware update somewhere between now and the next few months, at least for the Nexus One. It’s a bit more muddy for the Android mods such as Motorola BLUR and HTC Sense.

  2. Tristan says:

    I’ve verified from a friend in Google legal that there is a patent, and that is the reason for not enabling multi-touch. So having the Milestone outside the US, you do get to use multi-touch, right?

    I’m not missing it too much, but it sure is useful on the iPhone in all sorts of cases.

    1. Joen says:

      Tristan: So having the Milestone outside the US, you do get to use multi-touch, right?

      Correct. It works just fine in the browser, and the image gallery. As I’ve also heard rumors it will on the EU Nexus One.

      Tristan: I’m not missing it too much, but it sure is useful on the iPhone in all sorts of cases.

      Oh it is useful and I want it widespread, make no mistake. But honestly, I find myself not using it all that much. See using pinch to zoom requires two hands, one holding the handset, the other one doing the pinching. Lazy as I am, I usually just doubletap in the browser to zoom in. Honestly, if I didn’t have the pinching, I would want it but I wouldn’t miss it.

  3. There’s an impressive amount of shipment statistics relating to Android. It does sound very promising and a big contender.

    Sarah

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