Updated Google has pushed out a software update for its Nexus One phone that attempts to improve 3G connectivity while adding "pinch-and-zoom" multitouch to a trio of applications where the navigate-with-your-fingers technology was conspicuously absent.
The update - which Google began distributing to existing phones yesterday - also adds the company's visual search app, known as Google Goggles, and a new version of Google Maps.
Google's Nexus One forums are brimming with complaints of spotty 3G coverage, and in a blog post yesterday, the company said that its software update will provide "a general fix to help improve 3G connectivity on some Nexus One phones." Last week, in a post to the forums, Google said that such a fix was on the way.
At the same time, the update adds "pinch-and-zoom" multitouch to three of the phone's primary applications: its browser, Google Maps, and Gallery, which is Google's photo app. Google says it has supported multitouch since Android 2.0 - which debuted with the Motorola Droid - but pinch-and-zoom was previously unavailable with this trio of applications on the Nexus One, which uses Android 2.1.
"Looking around the mobile industry, from Apple to Palm to HTC and Motorola - it's clear that pinch-to-zoom technology has become a standard and popular way for users to interact with their mobile phones," a company spokeswoman said.
"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 touchscreens 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."
Apparently, there have been trademark and/or patent issues around the technology, which was popularized by Apple on the iPhone. According to an unnamed person speaking with Venture Beat last year, Google turned off multitouch on Android 1.0 at the request of Apple. There was a time when Apple and Google were pals.
In a response to our questions about the multitouch on Android, Google did not specifically address our question about trademarks and patents. At one point, Apple threatened to sue Palm over multitouch capabilities in its Palm Pre handset.
According to users, multitouch has always been available on third-party Nexus One applications, but not on that trio of Google applications. European users of other Android-based handsets say they have had access to multitouch tools on Google applications that were unavailable to US users. Asked to comment on this, Google said: "As with other Android platform technologies, such as the text-to-speech engine, operators and handset makers can choose to implement this technology."
At the end of January, noted Android modder "Cyanogen" released his own Nexus One update that provided additional multitouch support for the phone.
The company says that most users will receive access to its Nexus One update by the end of the week. When the update is available for your phone, an alert will appear on the device's notification bar, then you must actively download the update and wait for it to install. ®
Update: This story has been updated with comments from Google and additional details.