G1 Multi-Touch Exists, Amputated


You know that cool multi-touch feature that iPhone folks brag about? We’ll admit… it IS pretty cool. Did you know that G1 is capable of multi-touch, too? You probably didn’t and for good reason.

The Android OS has multi-touch capabilities written into it but they are commented out. For non-developers this means the code is there, exists and works but is wrapped with other code telling the OS not to run or comprehend that code. We’re not sure who initially figured this out but a guy going by RyeBrye tried to prove it.

And he was successful.

According to RyeBrye he was able to activate said code, recompile the kernel and the Android OS was capable of tracking the position and activity of 2 fingers on the touchscreen at the same time! Multi-touch it is! So the question is… if Multi-Touch exists, why has it been disabled on the G1?

The most obvious possibility here is that Apple’s patents on Multi-Touch technology prevented Google, HTC and T-Mobile from “going live” with Multi-Touch on the G1. But that’s just a guess- nobody knows the true story behind it all.

A google staffer unofficially pointed out two things that the untrained eye might not have been able to:

  • HTC has specified that the G1 will have a single-touch screen. (This is significant, because their spec is for single touch for the G1, this means that they could in the future source touchscreens that are not multi-touch capable – so just because a certain run of G1s might have a multitouch capable screen, they have the liberty to swap out parts [and they may already have G1s out in the field that don’t have a multi-touch capable screen])
  • The other issue is with how the driver reports the width of the touch. It appears that the “w” element is the same on both of the fingers (altough this might just be a quirk in the driver code that was commented out – since it does seem to be based on pressure and putting fingers on opposite corners and pressing lightly still shows a 1 for “w” – but placing 2 fingers close together and pressing hard will show a 15 for “w” – so I’m not entirely convinced of this)

Now that all of this has become rather public, hopefully we’ll get some official information as to the who-what-when-where-why of the G1 multi-touch amputation. What do YOU think?

[Via RyeBrye]

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. Patience is a virtue.

  2. maybe someone can make a modified OS with the multi-touch and downloaded email, and full copy and paste support, all inside of it that would be the ultimated iphone jailbroken phone killer! homebrew scene lives!!

  3. Here’s a few vids of a guy demoing possible multi touch (or quirk) with G1



  4. While I don’t doubt the article, the YouTube videos posted above don’t appear to actually demonstrate multi-touch. What he’s showing looks like the result of how the touchscreen driver reports two fingers as if they were a single huge finger when they get near each other. You can see the effect more clearly in the “Touch Draw” demo app that comes whith the API samples in the Android SDK.

  5. Oops… “Touch Paint”, I meant to say.

  6. Google/HTC might have to respect copywrong laws, but hackers? nahh, no way
    This screams for hacker intervention. Let’s go hackers, bring me multitouch :)

    and btw, how the hell did “using two fingers on a touch screen” successfully score a patent anyway?!?
    This stupid patent is right us there with some of MS’s newest ridiculous patents, including patenting the idea that you might find influencers in a group (ie facebook or whatever) and pay them for promoting your products. How exactly does a theoretical idea like that (and an obvious/boring one to boot!) deserve a patent?! I bet they don’t even use the idea, but instead use it to block the innovation of others, or wait until they DO actually make something along these lines, then sue.

    Here’s an example, MS patents the PageUp and PageDown keys!!! Stop the insanity, demand patent reform.

  7. just plain ridiculous….. that is capitalism for you..
    They prey on the intelligence of others

    Just plain stupid…why don’t they patent viewing a pc? talking about Microsoft.

  8. Take a look at this if you need more proof:

  9. What Google is doing at the moment is installing the Multi-Touch Screen
    All the G1’s are back order until sometime in January

    But if there were not to install this right away they would have added this feature when some other “big” phone came out

    For example, everyone stopped with the IPhone and started buying newer ones
    Then Apple added 3G and they went way high up in the markets again

  10. So,
    Is this multi-touch function a…

  11. If there is a patent, how come MS, Apple and Blackberry all regualary make multi-touch screens. Why can’t HTC? And there may be a way round the possible patent if the Iphone and G1’s touch screen work on a slightly different way.

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