Yesterday's news about Apple's victory in a slide-to-unlock case against Motorola has certainly increased the weight of other, similar cases against Android manufacturers, and has also caused me some worry for Google, Android manufacturers, and smartphone users in general. Without using a "gesture on an unlock image" to access our phones, how can we unlock our touchscreen devices?
Google seems to have at least some idea, as it was recently revealed that they filed a fairly complex patent for a device unlocking interface. Instead of just unlocking the device, the "Input to Locked Computing Device" patent specifically covers unlock inputs which also execute actions, such as launching the dialer or email app. Usually, this would work by dragging a certain icon or notification into the screen unlock area. HTC actually had a similar system in its Sense 3.0 software where users could drag the unlock ring to an application in order to open it.
As well as accepting touch inputs, the lockscreen can also accept things like passkeys and even voice commands. Considering that the patent was actually filed well before Siri, this seems fairly innovative. There is also a section in the patent which deals with ring unlock, a feature currently found in Android Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich devices.
If it is granted, the patent would serve as a formidable defense against Apple's slide-to-unlock, even though all of the actions but the voice command still require some sort of gesture. Even so, while having a defense against lawsuits is nice, I really wish these kinds of patents weren't an issue. If Apple didn't sue everyone over slide-to-unlock, then maybe Google and others wouldn't be so worried about grabbing patents to counter it.
Perhaps this patent isn't so bad, though. After all, it might force the likes of Motorola and Samsung to update their devices to Ice Cream Sandwich, if only to be protected from slide-to-unlock.[USPTO via Engadget]