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Google Brings Multi-touch to Nexus One, iPhone OS Hits v3.1.3

Gordon Kelly


When I delivered my Nexus One first impressions I had three main gripes: no multi-touch, a slightly less responsive touchscreen than the Palm Pre and iPhone and no substantial integrated memory.

Well, much like the Olympus attempts with the PEN E-PL1, Google has made amends: it has launched a new firmware to finally enable multi-touch. Unfortunately there's little to be done about the other two (they're hardware issues), but not only is this a major step forward for the Nexus One, it could well prove to be a major step forward for Android handsets in general.

The firmware itself is labelled '2.1-update1', a description which rather downplays its significance. So how extensive is the implementation? Happily, just as thorough as the iPhone and Tech Crunch has a video (above) taking you through its paces. Maps, browser and photos/gallery all benefit and it appears to work very well indeed.

Funnily enough I actually asked Google execs at CES specifically about the lack of multi-touch implementation and stressed it was a crucial omission. Despite my pressing they gave no reason for it at the time, but their expressions certainly gave the distinct impression Apple - either in terms of a patent or gentlemen's agreement - was a major factor. So with relations seemingly breaking down between these two giants it looks like Android is the one to benefit.

Note users with non-standard Android installations such as HTC Sense or Motorola's Motoblur will likely have to wait some time for these skins to be made compatible. All of which makes me question: are skins really necessary, and what is the point in them adding features if their inability to seamlessly accept new firmware then subsequently denies quick adoption of additional functionality?

In related news Apple has also updated iPhone firmware to v3.1.3 and it's about as dull as they come:

  • Improves accuracy of reported battery level on iPhone 3GS

  • Resolves issue where third-party apps would not launch in some instances

  • Fixes bug that may cause an app to crash when using the Japanese Kana keyboard
Not exactly thrilling and it will relock jailbroken and unlocked handsets. More interesting, however, is the new firmware reveals the existence of a fourth generation iPhone codenamed 'N89' and the 'N80', a new iPod touch. This still isn't overly thrilling though, since it would actually be more of a surprise if Apple weren't working on next generation hardware...


via Tech Crunch

Nexus One


February 3, 2010, 12:09 pm

Re. Android skins - having had an HTC hero with multitouch sense since summer last year (except in Google maps) i'm glad HTC went to the trouble of making the skin as it made android amuch more attractive proposition. I'm glad Google have caught up but don't knock HTC et al for showing them the way.


February 3, 2010, 12:14 pm

Still don't get the big deal about multi touch?? And yes I'd pick Sense over it. Standard Android isn't quite good enough.


February 3, 2010, 1:25 pm

Google quickly knocking down the few minor reasons people give not to own a Gphone ...

And yes - standard android is a match for the Iphone interface ... personal preference

If I were apple I'd be deeply worried about someone creating an open platform this quickly and of this quality

Oh I love competition :)

Hamish Campbell

February 3, 2010, 2:27 pm

Ok, it sounds all very fancy saying 'multi-touch', but what I saw demo-ed here was zoom in and out with pinch (and reverse pinch?).

Now one can argue that things are now open for other multi-touch uses, but what are they again?

I'll agree its a nice way to zoom in and out of maps and web sites, so thats nice. But who the hell is zooming in on their photos, i mean come on.


February 3, 2010, 4:14 pm

@haim, I do.


February 3, 2010, 4:56 pm

I've had multi touch on my Motorola Milestone since before Christmas, it seemed to be be only in america were multi touch was left out for some reason.


February 3, 2010, 5:05 pm

@haim: I'd think with a screen the size of your average smartphone, you'd be zooming a lot, and not just photos but also web pages, emails, maps and anything else an app cares to use it for. Anything that makes that easier is welcome. Even if you're no fan of multitouch, surely it's a lot better than using those + and - buttons.

That said, you don't necessarily need multitouch to make a good zoom gesture, as others have pointed out before.


February 3, 2010, 5:11 pm

@gazbarber: Sure, but the Nexus One is running vanilla Android. Hopefully this means that every future Android phone running 2.1update1 or above will have multi-touch implementation built in from the off.

Vive la revolution!


February 3, 2010, 6:18 pm

@Haim: Multi touch has many uses, the first of which being zoom as you know. Don't underestimate the usesfullness of this, zooming into web pages is of utmost importance.

Also, it allows functionality for better controlled games, navigation around apps like google earth etc

@Castalan: yea competition is great! A little away from the point but in a class the other day we were discussing communism. NO ONE seemed to grasp the point I made about a lack of valid competition in a communist state. I argued without competition we would simply not progress at the rate in which we are now as what incentive is their to inovate without capatalist motives. Oh well /rant competition is good lol


February 3, 2010, 6:55 pm

@Chris, so does the Milestone (AFAIK), much to some peoples disapointment.


February 3, 2010, 8:26 pm

@gazbarber: I know it doesn't have Blur, and it is a 'Google experience' device, but I thought the updates were still being distributed by Motorola so they could keep the Droid and Milestone as separate devices? A few reviews I read complained about that.

Niraj Goyal

February 3, 2010, 9:17 pm

@Haim: Multitouch is also useful for an on screen keyboard; i.e. holding down shift for capital letters etc. Easier than constant activating and deactivating shift lock. Also makes 2 handed (well thumb) typing quicker and easier.


February 4, 2010, 12:23 am

This is good timing for me as I ordered my Nexus One on saturday. Was expecting them to roll out an update like this when they done European version but wasnt expecting it so early. Oh man I cant wait to get my hands on it

Hamish Campbell

February 4, 2010, 1:58 pm

OK, I like the shift example, and I can see that games need this too.

Although, only potentially games MIGHT be MULTItouch, all the others are really dual-touch which is not really as sexy and exciting as multitouch leads us to believe.

I suppose I'm just a bit disappointed after all the multitouch hype that most of it comes down to an evolution of zoom and typing. I'm glad they are more usable, but its not really the revolution of OS control that I guess I had projected onto the idea.


February 4, 2010, 2:30 pm

@haim: Precisely, you'd projected some ideas onto it. All it is is the ability to have multiple points of contact registered at the same time. What you then do with it is by the by. For some basic things like onscreen keyboard's, it's really useful, for others, not so much. It is, however, undeniably progress and has no downsides that I know of so it's arrival should be celebrated.


February 4, 2010, 3:08 pm

Any idea of when TR is going to review the Nexus One?


February 4, 2010, 5:20 pm

Anyone have any news on when Vodafone starts offering this and when we can order it in the UK without having to import it?


February 4, 2010, 5:27 pm

Importing doesn't seem to bad, not that much more expensive that a SIM free Hero.


February 4, 2010, 5:31 pm

@jopey - nothing official as yet I'm afraid.

@simon - we're pushing for review samples.


February 4, 2010, 5:34 pm

The price of importing isn't too bad...until you add the taxes on. It's like £60 on top of the £350 price inc. shipping.


February 4, 2010, 8:33 pm


Urm what taxes ? ... no import duty as it comes through as a handset which has 0% import duty


February 4, 2010, 9:37 pm


I'm not sure which duty but everyone I know who's bought one has been hit with a bill a few days after delivery.


February 4, 2010, 11:35 pm


Well I haven't and neither have the few people I work with who bought them

The import duty on handsets is set at 0% ... there's a whole thread on it on the android forums if you want to google it - many people were worried about it and it became clear once they started arriving that there is nothing to pay

DHL don't release packages to the receiver until they have received any duty to be paid - I've been hit by that before ... 60 quids worth of duty for some useless American marketing garbage that went straight in the bin


February 5, 2010, 1:48 am


Fingers crossed you don't get a bill. People on the DVD Forums have been stung though. They got the handset from DHL and then got a separate bill a week or two later. I have no idea if there should be a charge. Just relaying what I know.


February 5, 2010, 2:47 am

Mine arrived today and from what ive heard I will get a £60 bill in the post soon. If not then the phone is an amazing bargain! I really doubt it though

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