Nokia not blocking multiple users on Android phones

The Finnish handset giant says it dropped its patent application for multiuser account functionality, and Google hasn't contacted it to license technology for Android.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
2 min read
Google unveiled the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10 earlier this week. Google
Nokia says it's not preventing Google from rolling out multiuser features for phones despite a report suggesting it was playing spoiler for the latest version of Android.

Earlier this week, TechCrunch speculated that Google isn't including multiple account functionality on Android for phones because Nokia already owns the patent for that capability. Nokia has told CNET that wasn't the case.

Nokia had filed for such a patent, but it abandoned its efforts several years ago.

"Though we did indeed file the patent application which has been cited in some of the coverage, we determined some time after filing that we would not pursue the application further," a Nokia representative said.

He added that Nokia isn't aware of Google's decisions on selecting product features, and Google hasn't approached Nokia to seek a license for any of Nokia's patents for Android devices.

A Google representative, meanwhile, decline to comment on any plans for extending the feature to smartphones.

The U.S. Patent Office reflects that fact Nokia doesn't own a patent for multiple user accounts, with the site noting the patent application was abandoned in October 2009 after the company failed to respond to a request from the Patent Office.

Nokia's patent application submitted to the U.S. Patent Office was dropped in 2009. Screenshot by Shara Tibken/CNET
Google earlier this week unveiled Android 4.2, an updated version of Jelly Bean that will come with the company's new line of Nexus devices. One of the big features of the OS is the ability to add multiple user accounts. However, it will only work on tablets, and Google hasn't specified why that's the case.

The tablet-optimized version of Android 4.2 gives users their own home screens, backgrounds, widgets, apps, and other features, making it simple to switch between accounts right from the lock screen. Because tablets are often shared among family members, this feature could give Android devices an edge over the iPad, which can only support and sync to a single user account.

It's not clear why Google isn't offering multiple user accounts for Android smartphones, but the actual explanation could be simple: Phones tend to be more personal gadgets owned by a single person. That could be different in emerging markets or for certain situations, but it's pretty unlikely people will want to share their phones with others unless absolutely necessary.

Updated at 7:29 a.m. PT: Added the response from Google.