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How Google reworked Android to step around Apple’s deadly ‘915 patent

One of the patents Apple (AAPL) successfully asserted in its case against Samsung (005930) caused some alarm in the tech media earlier this week when tech reporters mistakenly believed that it encompassed every single type of “pinch-to-zoom” touchscreen technology. But as The Verge explains, Apple’s ‘915 patent — the so-called pinch-to-zoom patent — is actually fairly limited in scope and has reportedly already been worked around by Google (GOOG) with its latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software update.

The site says that the ‘915 patent “specifically covers a programming interface which detects if one finger on a screen is scrolling or two or more fingers are doing something else” and is definitively not a broad patent for pinch-to-zoom technology. Most crucially for Android manufacturers, Google has designed around the ‘915 patent by “allowing you to always pan around in multiple directions with one finger, whereas Mobile Safari in iOS generally locks you to a one-dimensional scroll when you start moving with one finger.”

The bottom line is that while the Apple v. Samsung verdict may force some significant redesigns on the part of some smartphone hardware and software, it won’t impose tyrannical restrictions on rival operating systems that will prevent them from using pinch-to-zoom or other standard smartphone features.


Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.