Pre-iPhone Android envisioned with no touch-screen support

Confidential documents reveal that Android was designed with physical keyboards in mind.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read


Google originally didn't plan to support touch screens for its mobile operating system, Android -- and then along came the Apple iPhone.

Revealed last week as part of the latest legal battle between Apple and Samsung, a document called "Android Project Software Functional Requirements" described the concept for Android before the iPhone was unveiled. Android early on was based on Sun's Java running under Linux and wasn't keen on touch-screen support.

"Touchscreens will not be supported," Google said in a copy of the July 2006 document received by CNET. "The product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption. However, there is nothing fundamental in the product's architecture that prevents the support of touchscreens in the future."

But that lack of support apparently changed after Steve Jobs presented the iPhone to the world in January 2007.

After the debut of the iPhone, Andy Rubin, then Google's director of Android, reportedly nixed the phone that the company already had in the works, as described in Fred Vogelstein's book "Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution." That phone would have used physical keys instead of a touch-screen keyboard.

Google's Android planning document also did an eventual about-face on the issue of touch-screen support. Apple launched the iPhone in June 2007. A major update to the Software Functional Requirements document made in November of 2007 added the following:

"A touch screen for finger-based navigation -- including multitouch capabilities -- is required. Stylus-based navigation is not supported."

In the end, touch-screen support took a while to implement, AppleInsider noted. Launched in October 2008, the Android phone T-Mobile G1/HTC Dream included hardware support for multitouch but not actual touch typing. Software support for multitouch didn't arrive until late 2009 with the launch of Android 2.0.

Last week, Apple stated its case in its latest patent-infringement lawsuit against Samsung in which the iPhone maker is seeking $2.19 billion in damages. Though aimed at Samsung, the suit is actually Apple's way of accusing Google of stealing its ideas for the creation of Android. Testifying last week, a Google executive said that the company never copied features from the iPhone to use in Android.

(Via AppleInsider)