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How To: Get Multitouch On Your Droid or Nexus One

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This generation of Android phones is faster, more powerful and generally awesome-er than anything before. But for whatever reason, they don't have one thing other smartphones take for granted: multitouch. Here's how to fix that, and so much more.

Google's Nexus one and Verizon's Motorola Droid are, in a sense, miles ahead their competitors in terms of hardware specs, but moreso because they've got much newer versions of Android's software, with 2.1 and 2.0, respectively. In the midst of a slew of new software features and despite base-level hardware and software support, Google, who has always been cagey about the multitouch issue, continues to leave it out of their core apps.


This is especially weird in the cases of the Droid and Nexus One, which don't just support multitouch on a hardware level, but fully support it on an OS level, too. It's really just the apps, like the browser, the photo gallery and the maps app, which exclude support for multitouch gestures such as pinch-zooming. Why can't all Android users have use the same gestures that iPhone, Pre and HTC Hero owners can, if their phones can already accept multi-finger input? Only Google knows. But there's something you can do about it. Actually, there are two things:


Rooting is most intensive method, and can actually do a lot more than add multitouch to your phone. What this does, basically, is give you deep, system-level access to all your phone's software and parameters, which lets you run unsanctioned tethering apps to writing apps to your SD card (by default, Android phones restrict you to the device's limited, onboard memory), modify the device's stock apps, and most importantly, swap your phone's software out completely, with what's called a new ROM. To get native multitouch apps on your phone, you can opt for an entire flash ROM, or just a more narrow set of hacks. But you will need to root your device.


So here's how to get multitouch on your new Android phone, natively:

Google Nexus One

Verizon Motorola Droid

Now, if the above instructions seem like overkill for a relatively minor feature, don't have any need for the other goodies that rooting promises, or aren't satisfied with the current state of Nexus One and Droid homebrew, you have another, easier option:

Downloadable Apps

As I mentioned before, the Droid and Nexus One's shared dirty secret is that they support multitouch out of the box, but don't support include the gestures necessary to get any use out of it. This means that unless you're willing to hack your phones, as seen above, you're not going to be able to get multitouch in your native browser, or for that matter any of your native apps. The easy solution? Download Dolphin, a browser that include multitouch gestures (and a lot more cool stuff, like swipe gestures, RSS feed subscriptions and a built-in Twitter client.

For photos, try Multi-Touch for Gallery, which is a full photo gallery replacement, or PicSay, which is a combination gallery/photo editor. All you've got to do is search for these apps in the Android Market, install them, and designate them as your default web and photo browsers.


There are other mulitouch apps in the App Market, from games to utilities to simple tech demos. Drop your favorites in the comments, and I'll add them to the post.

That's pretty much it! If you have any tips to tricks for getting the most out your phone's hardware, please drop some links in the comments-your feedback is hugely important to our Saturday How To guides. And if you have any topics you'd like to see covered here, please let me know. Happy pinch-zooming, folks!