CES 2010 Quickie: Google’s Andy Rubin Comments on Multi-Touch

An Engadget reporter had opportunity at CES to talk with Andy Rubin of Google about the lack of Muli-Touch support on the Nexus One.  You can read the full article here, but here is the direct quote Engadget received:

“”You call this a superphone — 3.7-inch capacitive display, but no keyboard and no multitouch. Yet it has multitouch outside the US. Why not America?”

Andy’s reply:

“It’s not an America versus outside America kind of thing. It’s a decision that is a result of the OEM model. I personally don’t like two-handed operations… there is no conspiracy.””
It is an interesting statement from Rubin, and we agree with Engadget’s assessment.  We sure hope that Google did not let this guy make a solo decision about the fate of multi-touch on the Nexus One.  It is also interesting since it is being reported that the European version of the Nexus One is shipping with some built in multitouch enabled.
Either way, I for one LIKE multi-touch operations, in all areas of life.  Others prefer double tap, and still more don’t care.  Where are you?
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  • Karl

    "a result of the OEM model. I personally don't like two-handed operations…"
    It doesn't look like he's heard about the concept of customer focus. If there's customers that agree with him, create a switch in Device Settings so they can turn Multitouch off.

  • Personally I think it is because of Apple's mutlitouch patents apply in US, but anywhere else it does not…. So implementing multitouch outside US bears no legal issues as it would in US.

    • sam

      what re: Palm? If they aren't getting stomped, what is Google scared of?

  • David

    Better to look like a douche than sneaky. They're clearly skirting the US multi-touch IP hazard.

  • PhineasJW

    To the above posters…if it's a patent issue, why doesn't he just say that?

    If it's a patent issue, how are Microsoft, HTC, and Palm (to name a few) all releasing multitouch devices??

    It's not a patent issue…there's something else going on, hence the double-talk BS from Andy Rubin.

    He needs to be skewered over this until he gives a straight answer. Multitouch is fast becoming Android's version of the iPhone copy/paste debacle.

  • I second Rootko… that was my first thought. On the other hand I understand there are international accords that do in some ways extend US patents internationally, so I’m not certain it holds water.

    Whatever, it seems unlikely Andy’s reply is related to the real reasons.

  • tehunter

    I have a Nexus One. One of the first things I did was install Dolphin browser from the market, which HAS FULL MULTI-TOUCH PINCH AND ZOOM. So US Nexus One is MULT-TOUCH Capable. For whatever reason Google chooses not to include apps that employ it.

  • pjv

    Why the hard tackle? Andy's opinions aren't that crazy. In fact if you look at it rationally you might just end up with a virtual zoom button being better than a pinch movement. It's just that this came with all the other goodies and – I have to admit – usability improvements from the original iPhone. However this particular pinch-to-zoom idea, as well as a few other details such as virtual keyboards, lack of multitasking, hardly any hardware buttons, is not such a good idea after all, but since it's part of the hype, people have difficulty seperating the good and the bad.

    Let's be clear about this, the N1 has hardware that supports multitouch, and so does Android, just as any other Android phone. Only the native and the Google apps (browser, maps, gallery, gmail) are not making use of multitouch (yet). Instead they have buttons that allow you to zoom. In this way you can zoom using one hand instead of two. There is also another good reason if you ask me. The Android native browser works slightly different than the iPhone one in that it refits text so that the paragraph width matches the screen width. This, so you conveniently only have to scroll vertically (and the whole zoom debate becomes less important anyway). This refitting is a more time consuming action then just a rescale, that you don't want to have performed gradually (pinch) but in steps (buttons). There is also a dedicated button to quickly get the helicopter view of the webpage and to be able to zoom in instantly. Similar ideas apply to the maps app.

    I hope people will now better understand why multitouch, specifically pinch to zoom, is not necessarily something to be wanted, and why I feel, whenever I hear someone say that Android is lacking it, that they haven't yet really spent one minute playing with Android.

    • bryan

      Exactly the phone hardware and Android OS, do support multitouch. The overseas version likely uses a different maps application, since Google maps is US only for now. This is just like the droid / milestone multi touch issue. The hardware supports it but Google has not incorporated multitouch into the Google applications.
      I would like a straight answer from Google on the issue though, even if they just came out and said multitouch is not a high priority for them because of other development.

    • jrgp

      ok you are missing the point here bud. If you're just thinking about maps, gallery and browser fine, who needs multitouch. But without multitouch, developers are limited to the games and apps they can create or to develop such apps that have cooler interface and controls. Yes I have an android device but you have to admit, the apps and games suck. N1 with it's snapdragon processor may attract some major developers but how good will the interface and controls be without multitouch, especially without a keyboard.

      • Matthias

        You're missing the facts here, bud. There. Is. Multitouch. Support. Just maps, gallery, and browser don't use it. Games can. Dolphin can. The games suck because Android is about 3% of the US smartphone market right here.

  • several

    I've got multi-touch in my browser on G1 with the cyanogen mod. both default browser and dolphin browser. and i don't use it. at all. why use two hands when one will do? i really don't understand the point of multitouch other than the 'ooo, neat' effect. it's two handed eye candy but doesn't actually add any utiility.

  • This is a load of crap. Even if this were true…so what if he doesn't like it? He, and anyone else who doesn't like it, can turn it off and use the zoom buttons. I use the Dolphin browser, and I have my choice of what zoom controls I use. I can even have both enabled – buttons and multi-touch.

    And for those of you saying "so what", well, fine…I'm glad you're satisfied. It still makes no sense to disable a feature that a sizable percentage of the user audience wants for no good reason. Even worse, that they've made a seemingly arbitrary decision to deny the functionality to part of their use base and allow it for others. If there's nothing preventing them from flipping the switch and offering the functionality in the US, then how does it make any sense at all not to do so?

  • dalephil22

    There are some very well worded arguments and points. But the bottom line is like Davest010 put it. If you can enable it, why not please everyone?

  • TareX

    It's not a question, it's just a statement. EVERYONE knows it's because of the Apple patent. Palm -on the other hand- has many countersuits ready for Apple so they get to have multitouch on their phones in the US.

  • just some dude

    maybe it is andy doing this, maybe it is his way of saying screw you apple i can make a phone too. I say this after seeing a commercial with a Nikon and aston cutcher and he pinch zooms in and out on the screen. So apparently nikon has multi touch too.

  • Destry

    My hacked G1 has multi-touch but I don't use it much because it takes 2 hands. Multi-touch is tough to use one handed while I'm driving.

  • chewtoy

    Multitouch is better. Yes. Get over it.

    But most importantly drop that conversation point entirely, because THERE'S NO REASON THAT THEY ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. "multitouch vs double-touch vs magnifying glass" is a really, really dumb question. They're all slightly different versions of multitouch when it comes to the programming — just make all of them available and stick three checkboxes into the settings menu.

    The real story is the change in google from a do-no-evil-and-be-open company to a hide-and-lie-to-protect-the-profit company. 🙁

  • John

    I think you are giving food for the critics of android. I personally don't like multitouch.
    I like android for what it is.

    • I love my Android phones – my G1 that I got a week after release, and the Droid I picked up on release day. That being said, if something better comes along, that does the job I'm looking for in a better way, I'm on it in a heartbeat.

      I'm not out to defend Android at all costs…doing so is a big waste of time. We *should* be critical of Android, and Google, because if we're not they'll fall into complacency and fail.

      As far as this issue goes, it's as I said above…if they're being honest, and there's no reason why multi-touch isn't enabled other than the fact that Andy Rubin doesn't like it, that's ridiculous. If there's another reason (patents?), then just come out and say so and stop lying to those of us who are committed to the platform.

  • I would expect that Google would like everyone to just forget all about this pinch and zoom function. I am sure they should know by now that this is going to get asked each time they get in front of the bloggers and press.. mostly the bloggers but clearly do not ever seem prepared with some answer to this question.

    As Apple and Google seem to be moving further and further apart as "friends" it might be something that Google is waiting in the wings to do battle over. For now they might just want to bide their time and keep one less thing for Apple to get anoyed with.

  • Personally I think it is because of Apple's multi touch patents apply in US, but anywhere else it does no. So implementing multi touch outside US bears no legal issues as it would in US.

  • Ratnok

    The games don’t suck because of a lack of multi-touch. They suck because of the BIGGER issue with Android: the low on-board memory of the phones. Developers can’t put great graphics and music in games because 1 good game (like Grand Theft Auto: SA) would kill the internal memory of the phone. It’s the stupidest thing ever, limiting the potential of all apps. Even the Samsung Galaxy, which has 8 GB overseas was bastardized into the Behold 2 and stripped of it’s superior memory down to 200 MB! Double-tap is superior to pinch and zoom any day of the week, but few Android phones can double tap. It’s sorely needed in Maps, Gallery, and the browser. I agree with everyone though, multi-touch needs to be available everywhere, and those who don’t use it can turn it off.

  • Matt773

    Let me ask a question to any N1 owners. I understand that multi-touch is theoretically enabled in the hardware, but not in Google-branded apps. Does that mean games and other third-party programs do work with multi-touch? I would have thought so, but the Engadget review specifically states that Nesoid (an NES emulator) does not work on the N1 because of lack of multi-touch. Are you guys rocking out with Super Mario 3 on your N1s?

  • App Developer

    I have a Nexus one and have built multitouch gesture zooming into my application. The only reason I included it was because so many people left comments asking for it. They were quite happy when I implemented it, but I was so shocked that the more efficient double touch wasn't enough. I think my users just wanted the novelty.

    FYI: I built my own touch event listeners to identify double touch events and multi-touch pinch events. Developers need to figure this out for themselves. Also, my application package has been tested and is in use from Android 1.5-2.1. You can get around SDK incompatibilities with a little creativity.

  • desaperados

    If anyone's interested in seeing the full 45 minute interview it's worth watching and has been posted here: http://bit.ly/7VInjd

  • I'm in the "don't care" camp. My wife's iPhone has multitouch, and she has a little trouble right now double-tapping. I've never become dependent on "pinching" so it doesn't bother me at all that my Nexus One doesn't have it. If we're able to get the extra functionality some time, fine. If not, the speed and added possibilities offered by open architecture outweigh the negatives, in my opinion.

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