Nexus One hacked to include multi-touch

Although Google’s Nexus One phone has the hardware and software capabilities to perform multi-touch gestures, its native Web browser has lacked the ability until now.

Hackers have figured out how to bring multi-touch to the Nexus One’s native Web browser, just as they did with Motorola’s Droid. This allows users to perform pinch-to-zoom, which otherwise requires installation of the third-party Dolphin Browser. I don’t see that there are any other advantages to multi-touch in the browser beyond pinch-to-zoom.

Unfortunately, enabling multi-touch isn’t simple. You’ll first have to root the phone, gaining full access to its file system. Then you’ll have to add some code to the device. In the process, you’ll lose any existing browser settings and bookmarks.

MultitouchNexusOne

Multi-touch is a nagging issue for Google’s Android mobile operating system. Even with a third-party browser installed or the phone hacked, multi-touch is missed in other areas of the phone, such as gaming and two-finger typing. In a recent talk with Engadget, Android project manager Erick Tseng dodged the question of when Android phones might gain full multi-touch, if at all.

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

Exactly. Unfortunately, Engadget didn’t press him on why those functions are missing, and it’s not likely he would have provided a concrete answer. It doesn’t appear that Apple holds a patent over pinch-to-zoom or the very idea of multi-touch, as devices have sprung up without any lawsuits coming from Apple, including the Palm Pre. There’s speculation that Apple and Google have some sort of back room deal that blocks multi-touch on Android phones, and Tseng didn’t explicitly deny that theory when speaking to Engadget, but it’s hard to say what Google would get in return.

In the end, all jockeying over multi-touch is only hurting consumers. That’s why I’m glad there are workarounds, even if they are difficult to implement.