Android Multi-Touch Conspiracy? Rubin Says No


The Motorola Droid has multi-touch capabilities but not where you would want it – places like the browser, Google Maps and the image gallery. The Motorola Milestone, the Droid’s European counterpart, DOES have these features. Why? The same thing seems to be happening with the Nexus One and Andy Rubin got taken to task by Engadget’s Chief Editor on this exact question:


Joshua Topolsky: “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 Rubin: “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.”

Andy Rubin is notoriously cautious about where he steps, constantly attempting to sidestep difficult questions to avoid conflict and protect the interests of Google and their partners. Fine… that is perfectly acceptable. But I still have a problem with his answer and I’ll tell you why.

This either means that the Google Experience phones don’t have multi-touch purely because Andy Rubin and Google don’t prefer it even though the rest of the civilized world does…


Google has failed at developing a one-handed alternative to multi-touch/pinch-and-zoom. What ever happened to the scroll wheel? Or another unique way of approaching the zoom dilemma? And don’t forget that multi-touch isn’t only about pinching and zooming; it’s about any scenario where your phone should register 2 button presses at the same time. Typing quickly. Playing games. That kind of thing.

Back in February 2009 we heard that Google didn’t use Multi-Touch because Apple asked them not to use it. Since then we’ve seen HTC launch devices with Multi-Touch enabled by default and WebOS inherently has multi-touch capabilities. Andy Rubin might claim there is no conspiracy theory, but there is definitely more going on than he is willing to admit.

Like most people, I have at least 2 fingers…


I might not want to use them all the time but I’d at least like the option.

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. His explanation makes no sense at all. Basically he’s trying to claim that HTC chose to omit multi touch on the US version of the Nexus even though it’s a Google branded phone and the fact that they include it on their own HTC phones. Um, BS!

  2. Multi-Touch for “Pinch to Zoom” is just plain retarded. Double tapping is where it’s at. However, Your argument has some pull due to the fast typing/playing games. At the same time, I do not see Pinch to Zoom to be a deal breaker of any sort. I have a DROID for a reason, And that reason is the iPhone is as trash as the network it’s on. I’m happy my DROID isn’t a iPhone clone on a different network. Let the idiots on AT&T pinch to zoom, I’ll double tap and move on with life.

  3. Am I the only person in the world besides Andy that finds double tap zoom much better than pinch? Have had pinch zoom on a cooked rom and find it completely useless. People will find anything to bitch about


    please step it up. PLEASE! I love how far Android has come, but please do not be intimidated to advance.

  5. it’s not STRICTLY regarding “pinch and zoom” browser capabilities, by the way. we need to think beyond the typical argument… and realize Maps, Keyboard, Gallery etc need some sort of multi touched capabilities incorporated.

  6. Android has multi-touch API since 2.0. Just try Dolphin browser or Maverick (for maps).

  7. @the sweatpants wearing guy and allll of Phandroid…you need to make a response system on Phandroid! Android would get a lot more attention if u did this. Even the Apple fan boys would chime in even if they pass through just to talk crap….You guys should really think about this

  8. Forget the damn multi-touch, I want voice command so I can make calls from the wired or Bluetooth headset. Multi-touch is not a safety issue but voice command is!

  9. strange strange, my hero has bot pinch zoom and double tapp zoom @ android 1.5 from the beginning.

    i can already see motorola anouncing the “droid II” with the new killerfeature multitouch XD

  10. Rob, for anyone who’s not familiar with Android will probably assume that there’s no multi-touch in the nexus one. Everyone out there must know that THERE IS MULTI-TOUCH SUPPORT, ONLY ANDROID NATIVE APPS ARE NOT USING THAT CAPABILITY

  11. @Richard
    No you are not alone. I got the European Hero with multi-touch/pinch zoom but I almost always use the double tap zoom because its quicker and much easier to use. However there are times when I don’t want to zoom in fixed steps and then the pinch zoom is better but still not great. Since I rarely use the pinch I wouldn’t miss it if it were gone and I would like to have double tap zoom in maps rather than pinch zoom.

    Whit all that said I think it’s ridiculous that Google don’t have an pinch zoom option since some people think it’s good and want it.

  12. Android native apps do not use multi touch because of potential copyright type lawsuits. Apple is the only company that is using such capabilities in OEM form, whether they have the rights to that or not they could win such a battle by proving that no other company used it first in a product meant for profit.

  13. So they enable multi-touch…then over half the users will start complaining that their phone’s screen is TOO sensitive and that they keep accidentally touching things they don’t mean to, thus opening/closing apps unintentionally or changing settings and hitting send when unplanned. This is already a small issue with touch screens, having multi-touch will most likely increase the issue. Imagine all those current dumbass drivers out there not only driving with one hand while they touch screen with the other, but now driving with their knees while “multi-touching” with both hands. Not safe or smart. People in GENERAL are too stupid to have access to multi-touch.

  14. hahaha finally I see Droid doesn’t!

  15. multi-touch should be as obsolete as the 1 button mouse.

  16. LOL, Droid doesn’t! (2)

  17. Why not have pinch zoom and doubled tap? Get to choose which one ya like.

  18. @Hans, It’s not that Droid doesn’t, it’s more like Droid (Google ) chooses not to. I’d still like pinch zoom though.

  19. I have the pinch to zoom on the Eris. If you want that function just get a different browser than the stock browser. Dolphin works for me. But, the multi touch doesn’t work for games. Trying to use the old gaming platform emulators like NESoid is a nightmare. But, i don’t know if this is the phones lack of this function, or if the developers of these apps just don’t have access to the code to include the multi touch into the app??

  20. Correction: I couldn’t care less whither my phone has the gimmicky multi-touch crap enabled. I prefer the one-hand-only-required method of double tapping. So now you can’t say the entire civilized world wants it :P Also, I doubt a multi touch keyboard would make my typing any faster than it already is.

  21. 1. Multitouch on Droid browser? Checkout xScope browser.
    2. One handed opereration? Also xScope. First tap to pin, they drag left or right to zoom in or out.

  22. Love my Droid, but absolutely hate those people who try to make decisions for users rather than giving users choices. Why not add a setting in the default browser allowing user to choose either use the multitouch or not?

  23. Rubin saying he doesn’t like two handed operations sounds alot like Steve Jobs giving a reason why the iphone doesn’t have Flash or cant run multiple third-party apps. We all know the Google can do it and we all know Apple is the reason the Google wont do it. After the whole Google Voice debacle on the iphone I would think Google would stand up for it self. Guess not. I fear Apple has Google by the balls and that in itself is terrifying. I still like Google but I have lost a little bit of respect for them.

    Oh and I still love my Droid.

  24. i love how it seems like josh was knocking the nexus one for not having a keyboard when he is the biggest macfag of life and absolutely LOVES the iphone, which as most of you know, does not have a keyboard.

  25. I switched from an iPhone to a Droid and don’t regret it. That being said, I miss multitouch in the browser and the maps. Sometimes the excact level of zoom is not as fast or accurate. Dolphin doesn’t cut it for me. I believe this must be a Google/Apple issue.

  26. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRW0YKa6Bxo

    dolphin browser on the droid that supports multitouch

  27. I am a little surprised Topolsky let him get away with the Chewbacca Defense.

  28. gary: “Why not add a setting in the default browser allowing user to choose either use the multitouch or not?”

    well it’s like saying you have Windows but you wish you had a single global menu on the top of the screen just like a mac and complaining that Windows doesn’t have enough options just because it doesn’t do menus the Mac way. Google should look for better ways to do things and not just give options just to copy Apple. Besides, multitouch is in the API so people can come up with better apps than google. I’m pretty sure a lot of people will switch to pocketfox once it comes out…

  29. I’m sure there’s more to it than what Rubin claims. Doesn’t make sense otherwise. Not having pinch-zoom is not a deal-killer for me, but I would prefer that option. In double-tap zooming, there’s only one zoom setting – you double tap once, the screen magnifies, you double tap again, it zooms back out (AFAIK). What if I want further zooming in? Pinch-zooming does seem to allow you more flexibility to decide how much to zoom in. HTC’s enabling of the pinch-zoom feature extends beyond the browser to their email app. If you open Google’s email app in the Hero, you can’t zoom the messages at all. For longsighted people, the ability to magnify the text in the emails you are reading is a great benefit.

  30. Double tap can’t be compared to pinch & zoom imho:

    1) Pinch zooming, as already mentioned does allow stepless zooming,
    2) also allows stepless rotation in the same 1 multi touch
    3) leaves room for another function to be mapped to a doubletap.
    4) I can imagine pinch and zooming like this:
    a) just pinch and zoom but leave the 2 fingers on screen
    b) move pointing finger
    c) zoom some more
    so a b and c in 1 (multi) touch
    5) I guess there more but can’t come up with it right now

  31. and exactly how you zoom out without pinch? triple tap? double tap until you’ve circled all the zoom level?

    meh. ok you can live without pinch but don’t pretend it’s better.

  32. I disagree with “the rest of the civilized world does”.
    Or may be “rest of…” minus 1.

    Are we over-react to the missing of multi-touch capability on Android? By looking at all comments replied on this page, it seems like it’s only 50/50, in needing multi-touch or not.

    This following example may be a little off-topic, but resemble some sort: I remember when wintel (wow, this definitely showed my age.) introduced 2-buttons mouse, people say Apple should follow, and saying 1-button mouse sucks… Look at Apple now, do they still have 1-button mouse? Did the 1 button mouse kill the MAC?

    and I don’t see how much faster multi-touch will help in typing? True, you can do + or ++. But the software has “auto-cap” and things like that, right?

    Not sure about everyone here, but before the iPhone, I always use 1 hand to operate my cell phone & pda, because I only have 1 thumb. I can operate zooming on my single-touch smart-phone, with 1 hand. Why do I have to operate with 2 hands now? I’m not sure if 2 are more convenient than 1.

    Don’t think me wrong, I’m not “against” multi-touch. As a matter of fact, I think it would be GREAT for gaming!!! But as I recall, Google don’t do game (at least, not now). Is it Google’s fault now?

    And, I do agreed that giving user a choice is good. And I think Google did exactly that! Although not “officially”, but hardware support is there! To ALL those Android developers out there, write an App with multi-touch!!! You have a chance to write something that is better than Google!!!

    If Google were to support multi-touch “officially”, there is a chance that Apple may sue Google, and they can also have a court-injection, to force Google, to take away the multi-touch capability in hardware, or even stop selling Android all together. Are we better off this way? I don’t think so.

    Android is still very new, trying to increase market share as much as possible. Any lawsuit will definitely cool down the momentum that Android is having right now. Therefore, Google will have to make some “lesser of the evil” choices, instead of putting Android on its lifeline.

    anyways, just my 2 cents.

  33. the “+ or ++” is suppose to be “shift+key or ctrl+alt+del”

  34. Tell me this lack of multi-touch has nothing to do with Apple, and I’ll tell you that you’re lying.

  35. I installed Dolphin browser, with its own pinch and zoom, and find it superior to iphone’s pinch and zoom. Why? Because it automatically adjusts to the screen’s size. You make the text bigger – it shows less text but ALL the text within the range of the screen is shown. It is a fabulous app and I doubt Google could improve on it if they come up with their own.

  36. @Richard

    No, you are not the only one. I have used the G1, Cliq, and now the Nexus One, and I do not find myself wanting pinch-to-zoom; the +/- buttons work just fine.

    I really do not “get” the freak-out over multi-touch.


  37. It’s not about whether pinch to zoom is better, it’s about the phone having multi-touch capability and not giving it to the users in the release. The keyboard would benefit greatly from multi-touch, this isn’t just about gestures. Even though, IMO, gestures are more natural and give the user more control. This is a conspiracy because no one can explain why it is in Europe and not in the US. If they just came out and said, we are in agreements that restrict us from adding in multi-touch, at least that’s an answer. But to say they don’t like it, and therefor it’s not in the stock American phones – just pathetic.

  38. I wish some people would learn multitouch is MORE THAN JUST PINCH TO ZOOM!!! Geeeez like the article says, it has to do with performance of the keyboard, maps and other things. Just cause you install dolphin browser does not mean you all of a sudden have multitouch. It just means your browser uses pinch to zoom. Thats just one small factor in multitouch. READ!!! Its fundamental.

  39. For me the biggest reason I love multitough on my hero, is simply because I do alot of typing (email and text) and it would be hell trying to type so much and waiting for the phone to register each touch individually. Multitough allows you to type sooooooo much faster simply because it registers multiple touches on the keyboard. Its a difference from typing 3 words and having to wait for the screen to catch up, as opposed to typing those words fast and the screen is right there with you.

  40. I’m sure the issue is around Apple’s US only patent of multitouch. Google is waiting to see if Apple goes after other companies (e.g. Palm) and wins for using mutlitouch in the US. Now Google can’t say “hey we aren’t using it because Apple has a patent” because that would be acknowledging the patent. Instead they just go with the “Chewbacca Defense” (as John pointed out)

  41. @gray could not fine “xScope” on the Canadan Google Markit. (using search word “xScope”)

  42. What me need pinch 2 zume for?

  43. rob, the last time I checked retarded didn’t mean stupid. when you’re verifying this in your dictionary, check out the word ignorant.

  44. Rooted Droid running 2.0.1 sholes.info edition and I have multitouch and tap to zoom in the native apps! As well as wireless tethering, overclocked, and 2.1 native apps. So droid really does, software by google does not.

  45. To all you PINCH-ZOOM addicts. Since you’re accustomed to applying the same technique to your tiny penises, I’m sure you’ll get many years of pleasure with your iToys.

    For the more intelligent adults among us that have normal size appendages, although I did enjoy the P-Z novelty when I got my first rotten Apple (I only say rotten because I suffered through 4 defective iPhones), I currently find a quick double-tap to give me a much more predictable result and more importantly I can still drag one finger across my Android screen to see any part of the page I choose. I can also use that same finger to tell the world what I think of this ridiculous debate.

    I enjoyed a MyTouch3g for 5 months and now am enjoying my new Nexus One even more and believe it or not iPhans, I’ll be sleeping like a baby tonight without pinching and zooming myself.

  46. I think there is a small amount of driver sabotage going on behind the scenes.

    It may *work* but if you put it next an iPod/iPhone there is no question that the touch screen is %1000 percent better. Hearing all the conspiracy of apple patenting MT i would believe google & apple could settle with crippled drivers and try not make a big deal of it.

    Now I may be wildly off track about this, but there is no excuse for the touchscreen response of this $600 droid.

  47. Oh, the ignorant rant…sadly most opposing multi touch don’t understand that it has more to do with than just web browsing. But I guess you can double tap to zoom in on pictures and web if you prefer.
    I would like to have more multi touch in my phone. Virtual keyboards, web browsing, photo viewing and editing, swipes, gestures; all make the experience easier and more intuitive, and would benefit from multi touch. Just because you hate the iPhone doesn’t mean you have to hate on multi touch (which wasn’t invented by Apple, they just like to be anal about it).

  48. You all are lucky to be alive and to have the freedom and money to even afford a cell phone. Spoiled brats! All of ya!!

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