Jan 22 AT 2:21 AM Taylor Wimberly 23 Comments

Multitouch implementations: Hackers give Nexus One users what Google refuses

Nearly every Android phone that has been released supports multitouch, but Google has refused to implement it throughout the operating system and most of its native apps. Google made the design decision early on that they wanted to use one-handed operations to complete most phone functions.

One-handed operation is a great idea – I love being able to control almost every part of my phone using only my thumb. However, there are a ton of tasks that could be completed easier (and faster) by using two fingers. It is not a question of one or the other; some tasks were made for one finger and some for two.

The most obvious implementation of multitouch that everyone wants is pinch zoom. This makes precision zooming possible in the browser, high definition photos, and maps. The top handset makers like HTC and Motorola have recognized that people want this feature and they have implemented it on their Android phones where they control the software.

On the Google experience Android phones, where Google controls the software (like the G1, MT3G, Droid, Nexus One), most of the native apps do not implement simultaneous touches. Only the virtual keyboard uses multitouch to improve error detection.

Everyone has asked Google why they left out basic multitouch implementations, but they have had no luck in getting a clear answer. Most of the time all we hear is, “We are looking into it”.

Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky recently asked Google’s Eric Tseng the burning question and this is how he responded:

“When people say ‘why doesn’t Android have multitouch?’ it’s not a question of ‘multitouch’… I want to reframe the question. We have multitouch — what people are asking for is specific implementations in the UI that use multitouch, like pinch-to-zoom, or chording on the keyboard.”Eric TsengSenior Product Manager for Android

As you can see, that is not really an answer. When Topolsky mentioned the conspiracy theory that Apple was blocking pinch zoom, he was met with a smile and “No comment”.

Hutchison and Cyanogen to the rescue

Deep down, I believe Google will wake up one day and give in to the multitouch implementation demands. Based on how long it has taken Google to implement other requests (like app storage on the SD card), it could be awhile before we see this happen. Thankfully, the dev community has stepped up and provided a temporary hack while we wait on Google.

Luke Hutchison has ported his multitouch controller to Eclair and Cyanogen has released a modified browser that implements pinch zoom. These are the same guys responsible for many of the multitouch apps on the G1 and myTouch so hopefully we will see other modified apps for the Nexus One soon.

For anyone who has already hacked their Nexus One, it only takes about 30 seconds to install the modified browser. I tested this hack on my Nexus One and it works just as expected. It is a great start and hopefully we will have pinch zoom in the gallery in the next couple of weeks.

A quick video demo of the hack is provided below.

I doubt we will ever know the real truth behind all the multitouch conspiracies, but at least the users who really want it can get it. We thank HTC and Motorola for implementing multitouch features into Android and hope they continue to expand its use.

The real question now is: How much longer will Google ignore the demand for multitouch implementation and continue to get hammered by the reviewers who complain that Android ‘doesn’t do multitouch’ when it actually does?

Does anyone believe the Apple conspiracies? Why would Google not implement multitouch functions in their native Android apps when everyone else is doing it? Do they actually believe that one-handed operation is superior to two?

It almost reminds me of Apple sticking to a one button mouse.

Source: XDA

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://headtoheadracing.appspot.com/ Craigo

    There are so many lawsuits going on about multi touch, even Apple is being sued: http://www.pcworld.com/article/162821/apple_slapped_with_multitouch_lawsuit.html My guess (and it’s only a guess) is Google just wants to stay out of it for as long as possible.

  • http://Website Brantyr

    I actually kind of buy the line that they want to make everything doable with one hand – that’s certainly how I browse the web and having to put a second hand on the phone when I want to zoom is annoying.

    I think they main reason they don’t put it in as an optional feature is that they want to differentiate themselves from apple with their double-tap zoom. Apple having a supposed patent on it has got to be making them a little less likely to code it in as an optional feature though.

    • http://codebydave.blogspot.com Dave Johansen

      The problem with this argument is why can’t you support both? I mean just because a feature like pinch-zoom is available doesn’t mean that users are required to use it. They could still double-click to zoom and never even know/care that pinch-zoom was available.

  • http://me-a-droid.blogspot.com/2010/01/ball-madness.html A-Droid

    I’ve seen that interview, but I hardly believe that the ‘one-finger-operation’ is the real reason for dropping multitouch.

    The reason:
    Even if Google has made such a decision (that their built-in software must be driven by a thumb), we – the developers – should still have the right to decide if we implement multitouch support in our own applications.
    Developers of music applications, paint apps, browsers, etc… are held back seriously because of this limitation.
    So, while I fully respect Google’s decision about their own apps, I’m disappointed about the fact that we don’t have the right to make our own decision about our own apps.

    • http://www.typhon4android.org Mike Leahy

      Multitouch is supported in Android OS 2.0+ it is just not used in the Google apps presently. Any developer can implement multitouch functionality into their own apps.

      http://androidandme.com/2009/10/news/android-2-0-does-indeed-feature-multitouch/

      • http://me-a-droid.blogspot.com/2010/01/ball-madness.html A-Droid

        Please look at the platform version distribution:

        http://developer.android.com/intl/zh-CN/resources/dashboard/platform-versions.html

        What you can do currently is to to write multitouch capable applications for the minority of the market. ~21% of the devices will run your app with multitouch according to this diagram.

        I know that the Droid&Nexus and other 2.x devices will rule the market sooner or later, but we’ll suffer from platform fragmentation for a very long time. Android 1.5 still has the 31% of the market. It shows how hard it will be to defeat 1.6+1.5. We can’t talk about multitouch until then..

        • http://www.typhon4android.org Mike Leahy

          Compatibility with “legacy” devices was not part of your previous comment. It appeared from your original post you were not aware of API level support in 2.0+.

          With a marginal amount of code one can implement a single touch method of input or detect 2.0+ and provide multitouch if it adds to the experience. It would be wise to make that a user setting of the app too for those that prefer single touch of course depending on the type of app.

          If an app requires multitouch no matter what yes it’s going to be limited to recent devices.

          • http://me-a-droid.blogspot.com/2010/01/ball-madness.html A-Droid

            When we talk about multitouch, we must accept that it is not just a fancy useless option. Current paint apps, music apps, browsers, games are seriously limited without that.
            It is not a real option for anyone to release a serious app that won’t run on the majority (or later just a significant amount of) devices. ..and this problem stays with us if only >=2.x will ever get multitouch support. This is where Google made a big mistake. Limiting their apps to one-finger is one thing. Limiting developers and users/customers to poor experience in the most popular app genres for years (until 1.5+1.6 disappears) is another thing.
            Once again: Multitouch is not an optional fancy alternative input method for a lot of app genres. It is a must have option.

  • timdawg919

    Dolphin browser available in the market has pinch zoom built in for nexus one that works beautiful

  • http://Website ontheFritz

    A-Droid touched on this… In looking forward to my N1, most native functions I’m not worried about. Gaming is where I really like pinch zoom. Since Dolphin supports it, are the game developers putting it in there?

    I’d feel better waiting for the VZW nexus if I knew this. Thanks!

  • http://Website swazedahustla

    Ha ha, multitouch is more than just pinch to zoom. Try to text superfast on your N1 and see what happens. The keyboard is the most important part IMO, if you don’t have it u can’t type multiple letters like I just did. Thanks HTC and sprint.

  • http://Website n0mad

    Regarding “Google Experience” phones, G1, Droid, Nexus, etc. has anyone “degoogled” them? Like remove the Google server initialization process when you first get the phone, or removed Google apps? Make it just Android OS with no Google (e.g. if I wanted to create a suite of enterprise apps, with my own initialization wizard).

    Has this been done? If so, how hard? And then we can put the multitouch apps in …

  • http://Website Justin

    a year later & I still don’t see what all the fuss is about. I have zero interest in pinch-to-zoom on my web browser. I prefer the tap method. I had it on my G1 and I never ever used it….well, I take that back, I used it enough to realize I didn’t like it.

    Watching that video confirmed my distaste… it just looks kinda sloppy.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Double tap in the browser works great. I really want pinch zoom for the gallery and maps.

  • http://www.TheUnlockr.com David

    Hey Guys,

    I put together a little How To Video for anyone interested in enabling multitouch on the Nexus One native browser, hope this helps someone :)

    http://theunlockr.com/2010/01/21/how-to-enable-multitouch-browsing-on-your-nexus-one-using-the-native-browser/

  • http://cool3stnerd.com(NO'www's) Justin Robinson

    I saw how he was tip toe-ing around the conspiricy … I believe that Apple has somthing to do with it because they tried to patent somthing that Android ALREADY had. The Contacts on the Homescreen

  • http://Website dutch

    does that really look like its easier than hitting the 1 zoom in or out button.i am not a fan of multitouch. however if they can make games better with multitouch then i think its just a matter of time before its implemented on android.

  • http://Website Androidawg

    Frankly, I’m sick of the whole conversation. The fact that he won’t just answer the damn question really pisses me off. I could take or leave multi-touch because there are plenty of ways to enable if you have the wherewithal to root your phone and load CM. But stop jerking around. Put an end to the ceaseless bellyaching about pinch-zoom. And acknowledge that all of these so-called “reviewers” will always say that your product is inferior if they can’t pinch zoom a photo, regardless of all the other features you make available.

  • http://www.anavonweb.com Jonathan

    The best thing about the pinch zoom is the ability to zoom in on a single point… instead of pushing the zoom button then having to move around the page to find the desired spot.
    AFTER WATCHING THAT VIDEO, IT LOOKS LIKE ALL THE PINCH ZOOM IS DOING IS ZOOMING TO THE CENTER OF THE SCREEN. Kinda defeats the purpose:(

  • http://Website Paul Thompson

    I am baffled at all these discussions… I opened up my N1 last night, gave it a test drive and was pleasantly suprised to find pinch zoom FULLY WORKING in several of the built in apps, including Maps, Browser and Gallery.

    What am I missing?

    The phone did request to install an Android update as I was booting up the first time. Perhaps this update (which I installed) added multitouch to the builtin apps?

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  • http://n/a fito

    I got t-mobile myTouch 3g android i like it so much but need help
    How to unlock the T-mobile myTouch 3G i got as a gift from usa but it says i need to unlock is not working with different simcard
    thanks for helping me
    replay to my e-mail
    thanks

  • http://www.clanhood.com Nikademus

    As of the beginning of Feb. 2010, update1 started rolling out to all Nexus 1s. This implimented multi-touch/pinch to zoom to the google browser, gallery and maps. You didnt miss anything, just an old article from before the phone had been updated to work with this.

    Personally i imagine alot of the reason for the wait was to see what “Fruit”Phone company will do, and hey, look at what they did, as soon as there is a real competitor for the “Fruit”Phone they go and sue HTC becuase they know they cant sue Google directly, they also have responded by taking all “Google” products off of their phone.