Google is adding a multitouch mechanism and a software fix to improve 3G connectivity on its Nexus One smartphone, fulfilling two of the most common customer requests from the device since the company began selling it one month ago.
Google on Feb. 2 said it has begun pushing multitouch and other software updates over the air to customers who purchased the Nexus One through Google’s Webstore for $529 unlocked or $179 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile.
Customers who bought the phone since Google began selling it through its online retail store Jan. 5 have complained about the lack of native multitouch utilities on the device. To wit, users may now pinch-to-zoom on the smartphone’s core browser, gallery and Google Maps applications.
Shortly after Google unveiled the Nexus One at a launch event, members of the media grilled Google on why the Nexus One, the first smartphone based on the Android 2.1 operating system, did not come multitouch ready.
Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering for Android, said at the time Google was considering adding it in the future (multitouch came ready-to-use on the HTC Droid Eris). However, this further fueled speculation that Google had an agreement with Apple not to include multitouch on certain Android devices.
eWEEK asked Google Feb. 2 why there was no multitouch mechanism on Nexus One at launch. A Google spokesperson said that mobile phones from Apple, Palm, HTC and Motorola have made it clear that pinch-to-zoom technology has become a standard way for users to interact with their mobile phones. The spokesperson added:
“Likewise, Android users can now truly benefit from this capability with the availability of Android 2.1, which powers a new class of devices with larger touch screens and more interactive features. Unlike past devices, these phones have the processing power to deliver pinch-to-zoom, while still providing a great user experience. Based on these new capabilities and numerous requests from Android users, we decided to provide pinch-to-zoom capabilities with this new over-the-air software update for Nexus One devices.”
Asked if there were any legal issues holding up the multitouch, the spokesperson added: “We are not going to comment on our relations with partners, but we think pinch-to-zoom will be good for our users, and many other companies already use this technology.”
The pinch-to-zoom also comes two weeks after a hacker modified his Nexus One to do multitouch and released those instructions to the public with a caveat to install at their own risk. Modifying mobile devices tends to break carrier contracts.
“In order to access the update, you will receive a message on your phone’s notification bar. Just download the update, wait for it to install, and you should be all set.” This fix won’t be immediate, rolling out gradually to phones over the course of the week.
It also looks as though Google is fortifying its Nexus One service support team, posting a job ad for a Phone Support Program Manager for Android and the Nexus One. This comes after e-mailed requests for Nexus One assistance went unanswered for as much as three days.
In other updates for the Nexus One, Google Maps will be updated to version 3.4, which includes starred items synchronized with the desktop version of Google Maps; personalized search suggestions; and night mode in Google Maps Navigation.
Finally, the Google Goggles visual search application will now be available directly on the device by launching it from the Nexus One All Apps menu. Users no longer have to navigate to Android Market and download it.