back to article Hacker brings multitouch to Google's Nexus One

A celebrated Android hacker has released software that greatly enhances Google's Nexus One smartphone, endowing it for the first time with the same coveted multitouch features that grace Apple's iPhone. Operating under the moniker Cyanogen, the hacker released the updates on Wednesday. The hack came as Google formally made the …


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  1. Phillip Webster
    Jobs Horns

    HTC put it in the Hero

    At least on the gallery and browser.

    Very nice it is too.

    I suppose Apple are patent-trolling it again.

    Wish the US would grow up and ban software patents. It's damaging products the rest of the world would like.

    1. John Square

      I suppose...

      ...that HTC paid apple to do so.

      I do wonder whether Google's open sourcing of the OS is to avoid paying the tithe on the first version of the phone that looks like a serious attempt to take on the iPhone?

      I imagine that open sourcing it makes it easier to deliver the multitouch update in a manner that non-techs feel comfortable with, as opposed to the root and flash approach that the early android-adopters (androiders?) are used to.

  2. Stephen 10

    What I don't understand is

    Why they don't put it in for units shipped to the civilised world, where we don't allow for moronic software patents.

    1. Obvious Robert

      @ Stephen 10

      Motorola did with the Droid - the 'Milestone' as it's known in Europe does feature the multitouch missing from the US Droid. As there isn't yet an official UK version of the Nexus One, we don't know yet, maybe they will.

    2. Steve Brammer

      Re. What I don't understand is

      They do, sort of. The HTC Hero has always had multi-touch in the "civilised" world, but not in USA. There was, and still is, much speculation as to whether the Nexus 1 will be different in Europe compared to USA.

  3. Gary Riches

    Title here.

    Yeah, it's definitely needed. I got my Nexus One yesterday for development and as it stands without multi touch it feel basic and old. I wish you could double tap to zoom in to a column in the browser too, but it just zooms in closer.

    Pretty disappointed with the speed too, for a 1 ghz processor it scrolls like a dog with too much on the screen.

    1. Stef 2


      I've had one since it was released, lag is virtually non-existant - and it's not like I don't have a lot of apps installed! Have a look at the battery usage information, see if some app is hammering the system unduly.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Nexus One and Motorola Droid BOTH HAVE MULTITOUCH

    A lot is being made of this 'missing feature', but the hardware and the OS both support multitouch, there is software out there, including an image viewer and a web browser that exploit this fact. It is just google maps, the default installed web browser and image viewer that lack it NOT the device! Install alternate apps and you are sorted, no flashing, no nothing!

    I do agree with the other posters, companies need to be prevented from patenting vague or quite frankly obvious things. And fanbois could probably do with not thinking 'pinch to zoom' is a deal breaking feature, it looks cool but double tap to zoom takes les effort!

    *for the record I don't own a smartphone - fanboi neutral!

  5. Hanni Ali

    Trademark a Gesture


    If so I trademark the one fingered salute.

  6. frank ly

    Say it isn't so?

    "Introduced and trademarked by Apple, multitouch gives users ..."

    Are you saying that Apple have trademarked the word 'multitouch' for use on touch-sensitive input devices? If so, that is amazing and amounts to 'restraint of common language' (I think I just coined that expression). I hope I've misunderstood this.

  7. Raumkraut
    Thumb Up

    US only

    From what I've heard, and just like the Droid/Milestone, the lack of multi-touch is a US-only "feature" of the Nexus One. The versions of such Android handsets distributed in Europe support multitouch just fine.

  8. Jim Coleman
    Thumb Up


    My Windows Mobile Phone has had multitouch for a while now. Good to see the Googlephone catch up there.

    (Yes it's an HD2)

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    Moronic software patents are teh_sux

    ...and only benefit a select few nasty pocketses...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is is a software patent?

    Is multitouch really a software patent? I've never used it, but my understanding is it's an innovative way of using a touchpad. Touchpads have been around for decades, but it took a bright mind, followed by significant R&D at Apple to come up with a new way of using them which makes for a much better and easier to use product. Is that not a perfectly valid use of patent protection?

    Genuine question, BTW. I've never owned an Apple product and am certainly not a fanboi. I also hate software patents as much as most clued up IT people. This just struck me as people being rather quick to jump on the "software patent" argument just because a company wants to protect a useful idea they came up with.

    1. ThomH

      Slight aside

      I understood that it was significant R&D at Fingerworks, which Apple then swooped in and bought - the whole company, not just the IP. So the inventors are being heavily rewarded and are now Apple employees but the actual original work was performed elsewhere.

      Not sure if that makes the conversation more palatable to the usual brand aware but otherwise braindead rabble or just plays into their hands. But I would imagine that whoever funded Fingerworks would have been unlikely to do so if there was no way of owning the IP.

      I'm definitely anti the "a device for applying the colour red to text upon demand"-type patents, but this doesn't feel like one of those.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        The work in this is in the hardware, to get it to detect more than one touch. After that the software is trivial and obvious (read the device's outputs, Duh). Certainly far below the standard needed to get a patent in any sensible world.

        So, if the Google machine detects your fingers in a way which is different from the Apple one I can't think of any rational argument for preventing anyone and everyone from using it as a multitouch device (BTW, "multitouch" is far too generic a term to deserve a trademark).

    2. Anonymous Coward

      ... No.

      "Is that not a perfectly valid use of patent protection?"

      No. It's just an innovation, and should "entitle" them to nothing apart from any market advantage it gives them until a competitor copies or improves on it.

      With patent protection for things like this, it's hard for competitors to _improve_ on it as they're not allowed to use it as a foundational component.

      i.e. no "standing on the shoulders of giants" to make better products

      With patent protection for things like this, we really seem to be shooting ourselves in the foot as a culture/species/etc.

  11. Toastan Buttar


    Catchy name !

  12. ShaggyDoggy

    S/ware patent

    "Introduced and trademarked by Apple, multitouch ........"

    Surely you mean Apple trademarked their techology method for achieving this function, not the actual function itself.

    That would be akin to trademarking the mouse

    Oh wait ...

  13. Rupert Stubbs

    They do in the UK...

    As far as I understand.

  14. Gilbo
    Thumb Down


    Without knowing much about Android... if multitouch is hacked into the OS won't all the apps for the phone need to be rewritten to support it correctly?

    And if so, isn't this just going to result in patchy multitouch support, repeated pinching trying to figure out IF an app uses it, hours of searching to find one that does and then inevitable frustration with an inconsistent interface?

    Sorry, the phrase "all or nothing" springs to mind.

    1. Stef 2

      Multitouch IS in the OS

      it's just not implemented in Google's apps.

  15. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    If it IS patented

    ...then in a naive interpretation of patent rules, Google can't put it in without getting a licence or getting a lawsuit. And the same would apply to some hacker adding the feature afterwards, if they're within reach of U.S. law - and nowadays that reach is surprisingly long. They'd start with a cease-and-desist letter and maybe finish with the guy in jail. I expect that multitouch function is useful to terrorists as well as anyone else.

    In a less naive interpretation, doing something you -could- be sued over isn't always bad business, and, leaving aside the justice or injustice of software patents, anything you make a computer do probably breaches someone's patent. You just hope they breached someone else's and you get what I think is called a Mexican Stand-Off.

    As for trademark, if it -is- a trademark, I don't think "multi-touch" is a common phrase since time immemorial, but on the other hand it's been bandied around for Windows 7 and Microsoft Surface without comment, so I'll presume that was a mistake.

  16. Paul Parkin
    Jobs Halo

    Multitouch may be an Apple thing...

    ...But it should be open to everyone. Best advancement in mouse technology since the laser/optical mouse! Makes using a laptop so much easier, just a shame Apple haven't got it quite right in W7 yet. Well that and the fact W7 managed to brick my OSX installation by overwriting core files...

  17. Anonymous Coward

    A Hack?

    Sue him, ban the hack! Infringement of patents, unauthorised interference with trademarked material.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you have to wonder...

    ... who/what this Cyanogen person/entity/gas is.

    There's a project hosted on google code that is devoted to making an updater for the Cyanogen ROMs:

    The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that Cyanogen may well be an oompa loompa, or at least related to one.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Google should hire this guy

    ...whether or not multi-touch is patented by Apple, this guy is doing work that would make any Google developer proud, and having the additional burden of figuring it out for him/herself.

    'nuff said.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    History of multitouch

    Seems to go back to mid 80s and its the phrase "multitouch" as a trademark that is Apple's

  21. Baldychap

    No need to hack

    Looks like this article could do with some more research. It seems that multi touch has been active since andriod 2.0, just not on the core apps provided by Google.

    The dolphin browser for Andriod has pinch and zoom. Nice.

  22. Mark Boothroyd

    Already here!

    HTC Hero is still on Android 1.5 and has multi-touch.

    It's used in the default browser, image viewer and in the email app.

  23. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Google "multi touch tm"

    Apple appears to be claiming "Multi-Touch" as trademark. But someone else (somewhere else, does SA = South Africa??) claims "Anywhere MultiTouch". A couple of documents in French imply that "Multitouch" is a Microsoft trademark, if "tm" does mean that in French. Maybe it's short for "le touch multi".

    But a term very close to someone else's trademark is about as much a violation as using an exact match.

    Then again, if everyone is using your chosen trademark to refer indiscriminately to your products and your competitors', you've lost.

  24. Colin_L

    US patents are crap

    Apple has the multi-touch patent specific to handheld devices. They filed for it long after multi-touch demos had been publicly shown with various proof-of-concept works including what eventually because Microsoft Sphere. (Some college kids came up with it. Probably engineering students, I'd guess?)

    US patents are ridiculous. There are far too many, they are too vague, and they are awarded despite the technology not being unique, innovative or even well-described. They are frequently used as a club for lawsuits and licensing deals which prohibit actual innovation and harm consumers.

  25. Yakumo

    Android was open source & multitouch != pinch-zoom

    All Google recently did was release the newest 2.1 Software Development Kit, Android has been OSS since Google first released it, it's not some sudden giant turnaround 'wow google open sourced their OS'

    "Android has been available as open source since 21 October 2008. Google opened the entire source code under an Apache License"

    Also Android OS and the Nexus 1 and Droid hardware completely support multitouch, the Google apps do also but the apps have the pinch-zoom function crippled in the US due to some licensing problem, the milestone simply had that cripple removed for europe before shipping the droid/milestone phones and software are identical. All Cyanogen did was remove that same software lock for the nexus, they didn't 'code multitouch for android' just disable a small software cripple in the same way hackers are making Google Navigation work outside of the US (again only disabled due to as of yet unresolved licensing issues).

  26. alun phillips

    Steve Kondik thats who

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