The Android OS existed long before Apple revealed their revolutionary phone in 2007. Google bought the company that was working on the phone operating system, and planned to use it to compete with the likes of Blackberry. In fact, the OS looked very much like Blackberry OS, and the phones it ran on also looked like Blackberry smartphones. One could even say that the OS lacked originality from the beginning.
But there’s something else it lacked in the beginning, something that has been a key part of Android since it was released to the public: touch. In fact, documents revealed in the latest Apple v. Samsung trial reveal that Google wasn’t even considering touch for the interface until they saw the iPhone.
This has been mentioned extensively before, thanks to leaks from within Google and other smartphone manufacturers that Google spoke with prior to the release of Android OS. Google was originally going to use only physical buttons for the operating system interface. They had no plans at the time to incorporate touch. However, Google did admit that touch screens could potentially be added in the future. The exerpt from the released court document mentioning touch is below.
Touchscreens will not be supported; 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.
Touch was never a part of Android’s core architecture, it was only a small afterthought until Apple’s iPhone was revealed. Multitouch was neither mentioned nor considered for the device at any time before the 2007 reveal of the iPhone. Since touch was never given the priority over other tasks as iOS did from the beginning, noticeable lag after input became an issue for Android, and phones were known for being “cheap”. This is one of the many reasons that Android phones require faster processor clock speeds and more memory to feel as fast as the iPhone, and all current flagship Android devices feature processors with much faster clock speeds than the most recent iPhone. The fact is, the iPhone doesn’t need to use fast processors to be as fast, if not faster, than the competition.
These court documents once again prove something everyone has known for years: the iPhone drastically changed the smartphone landscape. Before there iPhone, there was no emphasis on large screens, buttonless interfaces, fast processors, and certainly no consideration for multitouch. However, after the iPhone, it’s hard for many to consider life without a smartphone, a small computer in their pocket or purse, keeping them connected to the rest of the world at all times. Apple’s iPhone changed people’s lives, while Google’s Android merely followed in it’s footsteps. It’s clear then to see why Apple would be so upset over patented technologies related to the multitouch user interface they invented, popularized, and patented being copied by their competition. The question anymore isn’t whether or not companies such as Google or Samsung copied Apple, that much is, at this point, widely considered a fact. The question now is whether or not Apple’s designs were original to warrant a patent, and protection from imitation. However, looking at how much the smartphone landscape changed after the introduction of the iPhone, it’s hard to see how the original physical product and software could not be patented. Making a decision on this has been an issue faced by juries and judges all over the world since Android phones began supporting a multitouch interface, unseen in mobile phones prior to the iPhone.