Multi-touch on the way for Android phones?

Multi-touch is one of the key areas where Android lags behind the iPhone, but rumour has it it's on its way in the near future

Multi-touch is the elephant in the room on Android phones -- elegant proof that the OS lags behind the iPhone in some areas. The HTC Hero is the only phone that currently has the feature, and it's only on certain HTC applications. You're bang out of luck when it comes to maps, for instance, but it works fine in the Web browser. Google has, for its part, denied there will be any multi-touch in the near future.

We're seeing rumours, however, that at some stage in the next year we will see the arrival of multi-touch. Our marvellously named colleague Taylor Wimberly at CNET.com goes over the full details. The upshot appears to be that despite all the claims from Google, the OS is being prepared for multi-touch. One of the foremost Android 'hackers' has seen the basic level of kernel support for multi-touch -- and the Hero proves the hardware can make use of it.

We also think it's worth pointing out that Donut, which is the next release of Android, is not version 2.0 of the software. Apparently, Eclair, which will roll out sometime this year, will be the next major revision and will be the second full release on the roadmap. After that we're on to Flan, which is something of a cake-based departure, especially given how similar a flan is to a quiche. Perhaps Google is going savoury for 2010?

The one thing that confuses us is why multi-touch was not included in Android from the start. There have been all sorts of rumours, mostly about Apple patents, but the Palm Pre is proving it's possible to add such functionality and stay out of court. Gizmodo has written a very interesting piece on what Apple has and hasn't protected. Engadget too has an excellent Palm Pre vs iPhone story, with supporting video. From what we can gather, cover flow or anything like it would be a no-no, as would rotating a picture with that 'twist' gesture.

There's a reasonable argument to be made that multi-touch isn't essential at all. Certainly, our time with the HTC Magic has hardly been a hardship because of its absence. The only time it would be handy is in the Web browser -- but that's to do with how HTC has implemented the zoom function.

It's also interesting to note that Motorola is getting involved with Android. If we're honest, Motorola produces decent hardware, but the operating system is generally a massive letdown. It's a running joke at Crave that Motorola will leave at least one crucial feature out of any given phone. Running Android will mean it can concentrate on hardware, leaving the OS to Google. It certainly needs all the help it can get.

 

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