CEO(is)h-Snap: Android Founder Rubin Doesn't Like Two-finger Gestures


Engadget confronted Android Founder Andy Rubin -- by all accounts a brilliant and passionate guy who really wants to make great products -- about why the US versions of the Droid and Nexus One don't use the Android 2.0 supported multitouch keyboard and gestures, while the non-US versions do. The response:

"It's not an America versus outside America kind of thing. It's a decision that is a result of the OEM model. I personally don't like two-handed operations... there is no conspiracy."

Both TiPb (because Apple's name keeps come up on the suspect list) and our sibling site, Android Central have been covering this story and it still makes the kind of sense that doesn't. "Like" or "dislike" seems an odd way to talk about something that so affects usability (pinch-to-zoom is intuitive and ingrained enough that it should just be a standard). There were rumors that Google didn't want to violate Apple's multitouch patents in the US, but Engadget looked and couldn't find any that applied to these specific implementations.

Perhaps, as otherwise rumored, there's a gentleman's agreement between Apple and Google, and since Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt was on Apple's board of directors (even though he reportedly recused himself from iPhone discussions), Google could be playing it extra super safe.

Whatever the answer is, however, the founder not liking something is an odd answer as to why it doesn't exist only in his own country. Remember, RIM's CEO doesn't like typing on glass and even he made the BlackBerry Storm...

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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CEO(is)h-Snap: Android Founder Rubin Doesn't Like Two-finger Gestures


There is nothing remotely "intuitive" about pinch to zoom. The whole concept of "intuition" in user interfaces is nonsense and really just another way of saying "familiar".
In the real world (and indeed on a desktop) you don't pinch on something to make it bigger as most things simply don't stretch like that. People are now used to the idea that that is the way that you do it (and it is a very good way to do it) so they somehow now consider it "the natural way", but there is nothing natural about it.

I never knew pinch-to-zoom was a two-handed operation. Guess I've been doing it wrong with one hand. Thanks Andy.

I don't pinch to make things bigger on my iPhone when I pinch in a webpage the writing goes smaller, like the real world I pinch something in squashes a bit smaller, likewise if I pull apart my fingers on a page the writing gets bigger again, in the real world, if I pull apart at something reasonably stretchy it gets bigger, so to me it is reasonably intuitive!
Although it should probably say 'pinch to zoom out' so some people don't get too confused.

This is getting completely ridiculous. Good point, Rene, about RIM making the BB Storm despite their CEO's personal preference for a physical keyboard. That makes Mr. Rubin's answer sound all the more evasive and dishonest. I mean, if they really were trying to "play it extra super safe," all they had to do was say so. At least then there might be some sort of logic to it.
Mr. Rubin, if you ever read this (probably not), thank you for helping me decide which phone NOT to get. Just because you don't like two-handed operations doesn't mean you should artificially cripple the phones by imposing your preferences upon the rest of us that do. At least allow us the option of switching multitouch on or off based on our preferences, or make an app that will enable it. I thought Android was supposed to be all about options and customizability. (end rant)
@xyzzy: Agreed; it may not be literally "intuitive," but I find the pinch-to-zoom multitouch method the most user-friendly out there, for me at least.
So, I was considering getting a Nexus One, but now that phone has become such a customer-unfriendly "bag of hurt" that I've decided not to. I've decided to just be patient and wait til the next iPhone comes out (and keep praying that it'll come to T-Mobile this year).

Can you hold your phone in just one hand and with that same hand pinch to zoom while still holding your phone. If so...let me know how you do it. Cause I've tried on my G1...and I did it...but it was incredibly uncomfortable.
But on to the point...I do agree that this reason is very odd. Maybe he really does dislike two handed operations and he feels if he doesn't like it, it doesn't go. The RIM CEO comparisons are silly, because he's not RIM's CEO. He's Andy Rubin. Two different minds. Two different taste.
Whatever it personal preference still makes me not care. I partially agree with Andy because I like holding my phone with only one hand and doing everything with one hand. I hate using both my hands to operate my phone (unless in landscape). Actually...that's the only time I used pinch to zoom on my when it was in landscape. Which was rarely...


Can you hold your phone in just one hand and with that same hand pinch to zoom while still holding your phone. If so…let me know how you do it.

Rest the bottom of the iPhone on the pinky finger, while resting the back against the second and third finger, while using the thumb and first finger to pinch and zoom.

@iDavey: I understand that we're talking about "two different minds" and "two different tastes," but I'm just saying that they should at least allow us the option one way or the other, to accommodate potential customers' different minds and tastes. There are times when I like to use my phone with one hand (e.g. dialing a phone number), and other times when I prefer to use it with two (e.g. typing an e-mail or text). That was why I never would've gotten an iPhone before landscape mode became available in 3.0, because I found portrait mode far too narrow for my big hands to type on. Then landscape mode solved that problem for me.

That's not uncomfortable to you?
Not to mention since you're using the side of your index finger...the nail can interfere with the input and cause a little bit of jumpiness. This is from my experience on an Android handset (both N1 and G1) and my roommate iPhone 3G.

@analog spirit
And you do have a point. If it's anythign I champion for in any device, it's freedom of choice.
I would say Google is giving it to us but just not good enough. Because although they do lock the multitouch out of native apps (browser, maps, photos) you can have it on 3rd party apps since the API is there.
So that means 2 of the 3 are multitouch enabled if you look thru the market. Only thing not replaceable is the Maps and I will admit, pinch to zoom on the map is nice instead of clicking (I cant say the same for browser. I like double tap personally).
We only can wait to see what they do. Nobody knows the true answer for it being absent except the big wigs. And they clearly are not going to tell us any time soon. So eh.

It's not that uncomfortable at all... but, of course, I don't do it if my other hand can be used. I usually only do it if I'm laying in bed on my side and holding myself up with my other arm. ;-)
I always have my phone resting on my pinky anyway, so moving the first finger to the front is pretty easy. Maybe I do it too much and I'm just used it, I don't know.
Anyway, I was just answering you when you said "let me know how you do it."

Oh no, I'm not getting snarky or anything. I appreciate your answer and all. I did it that way too on my G1...but it was just uncomfy to me. Maybe it was because of the form...maybe I would like it better on my Nexus One. I'll download Dolphin and try it.
But yeah...when you get used to something you probably wouldn't notice it, lmao.
Sidenote: It's amazing that every time you switch a page you see a Nexus One ad. Google is really using that AdMob power, lmao.

@idavey also, you are likely a lot more familier with your G1 which is wayyyyy more fat than an iPhone. It's just about getting used to it. I can do all sorts of crazy stuff with my fingers on my iPhone! And the ladies love it ;)

You are silly!
But nah. G1 was the fattest phone I've ever used. Going back to something slim like a Nexus One feels much more right.

@idavey I really want to test one and android 2.1! My buddy has a droid and it's garbage. I hate answering his stiff as co pilot! The nav is the only redeaming feature. The keyboard I unusable! The virtual one is alright, but with no multi touch I can't type as fast. It doesn't recognize the key strokes fast enough! Now I type at 55 wpm portrait and 70 in landscape... So I'm an outlier in phone typing. But still.. And all iPhones shortcomings are solved by jailbreaking! And if you're geeky then it isn't a problem. There is a phone for everyone

Whatever the answer is, however, the founder not liking something is an odd answer as to why it doesn’t exist only in his own country.

Jobs vetos a LOT of things because he doesn't like them. MMS was in Europe (via Swirly) way before he condescended to allow it on the phone. Unfortunately Founders and CEOs often take too much of a hands-on approach to product design.
Contract free and non-carrier tied iPhones are available in lots of countries. Not here.
I think the article assumes utterance #2 was somehow directly related to utterance #1, and it may simply be a stream of consciousness thing.

I hate to throw multitouch to the side...
But I've been using Swype beta. In just it's beta, I'm flying with it. It's so easy once you learn it that multitouch for simultaneous presses becomes not needed since you're just sliding from one to another very quickly. And it gets the word accurately.

You aren't forced to use multi-touch on the iPhone, it's simply one way of doing things. His answer makes no sense!

@idavey there is something like that in Cudiamat that I have been meaning to explore. It sounds promising

Unpinch to zoom is superior to a button because the user controls the zoom level to their own comfort. Double tapping to zoom in google maps sucks genitals. BUT double tapping on text/pictures/tables in webpages is much more pleasurable.

@mike. You have to hold the device with one hand and use two fingers from the other hand to pinch to zoom. Double tapping just requires the thumb you're holding the device with. I perfer to have the option to do both.

They're not going to admit that they don't want to get sued. Since the patent is valid in only in the US all overseas models will include pinch to zoom.

@iDavey..I second everything fastlane said! That's exactly the way I hold my phone and am able to seemlessly pinch to zoom all with one hand :)
the index finger and the thumb you pinch to zoom while your pinky remains at the bottom and your middle and ring finger are used as back support for the phone.

There have been previous comparisons saying that the iPhone is a two-handed device, while the Blackberry (for instance) can be easily operated with one hand, which some people prefer.
I think the "gentleman's agreement" is probably the best answer. I wouldn't be surprised if multitouch appeared on Android in the U.S. after a period of 5 years or something like that.

@icebike Jobs banishes things universally, not just in one country. There's no 3rd party multitasking iPhone in Canada... ;)

there are other ways to zoom besides pinching. I know you guys are addicted to iphone usability, but I for one am glad google is looking for alternates.
Say for instance, you double tap, then without lifting your finger after the second tap, move up or down to zoom in or out. one finger pinch alternate, next issue!

Funny how a platform that is designed to be open and allow the user to customize the phone to their own liking would not allow the one thing that most want on their phone. Pinch and zoom. Kind of Apple like to make up someones mind for them huh?
A lot of companies are coming out with phones to challange the iPhone but the one that just may be able to do it lacks what it lessor siblings have in the US market. Pinch and zoom are on the HTC Heros but not on the grand daddy android of them all? Then how is it the top android phone when it lacks the functionally of a lessor phone? Go back and fix it then come back and try again. Just do it before Apple comes out with te 4.0 cuz by then it will be too late for you.