Android 4.2 multi-user feature will not support phones, an existing Nokia patent might be why

October 30, 2012

Android 4.2

While there are several new features coming to the recently announced Android 4.2, the most exciting addition is the support of multi-user accounts. Unfortunately, Google has made it clear that the new account option will only be supported by tablets. Wondering why? While Google hasn’t officially given us a reason, it could have to do with an existing Nokia patent for “multi-user mobile telephones”.

The Nokia patent was granted in 2005 and highlights a system where users are able to utilize different settings and account information on one shared mobile phone. Here is the exacting wording from the older Nokia patent:

A mobile telephone is designed to be used by several different end-users at different times. A first end-user can alter the mobile telephone so that it operates in a manner specific to that first end-user and a subsequent end-user can alter the mobile telephone so that it operates in a manner specific to that subsequent end-user; wherein each end-user has only to respond to prompts displayed on a screen in order to alter the mobile telephone so that it operates in a manner specific to that end-user.

The word “mobile telephone” is mentioned four times in the Nokia patent, but obviously it says nothing about tablets. The wording of the Nokia patent could very well be why Google left the feature off of smartphones. If Android-based phones would have supported multiple users it could have opened up the door to a lawsuit, or even required Google and its partners to pay licensing fees to Nokia. Keep in mind this is just speculation at this point.

Is the lack of multi-user support on smartphones really a big deal? For most consumers, probably not. Most of us think of our phones as something very private. Still, it could have a potential purpose in situations such as enterprise use and other areas where this level of account-based control might be useful. What do you think, should Google have included the feature on smartphones running Android 4.2 or not?

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/nithin1993 Nithin Gowda

    Fk patents its just making things worse and limiting future developemenets
    think it will be available in custom roms

  • whatzbeefy

    Man Fuck Nokia!

    • MasterMuffin

      I think you misspelled “apple” :)

  • Qliphah

    I was looking forward to this, especially for my phone. The ability to create a guest account would make it easy to hand the phone over to someone else to let them play around on it but have calling, settings, etc locked out or restricted as to not break anything.

    As far as the patent goes, they seem to word it more like they invented the idea of handing your phone to someone else, the concept of a OS having multiple users has been pretty well established since Xerox did it in the 50′s.

    And yes I agree rooting 4.2 makes this moot for most savy users.

  • Kindroid

    Courts will straighten this out eventually. I mean the concept of a phone having access to multiple accounts is hardly an idea the meets the standard of being non obvious. See: In order to obtain a patent, the invention must be useful, novel and unobvious. Useful means that the invention is capable of serving a useful purpose. Novelty in this context means that the invention was not fully disclosed in a single prior-art reference. The obviousness standard refers to the invention not being obvious to one skilled in the art to which the invention pertains on the basis of a single reference or a combination of references.

  • http://www.facebook.com/commentarian.smith John Smith

    Research! This is not a granted patent.

    USPTO 20050107114
    Status Abandoned — Failure to Respond to an Office Action

    UK
    Application Number GB0322716.2
    Status Terminated before grant

  • companyemails

    Exactly how the hell is that a patent? That’s just a rough concept. where is the technical, patentable, process? they can’t just patent multiple accounts on one device. hell i want to patent black phones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/commentarian.smith John Smith

    Nothing to see here – TechCrunch didn’t research and implied that it was a granted patent either in the US or UK. It is neither and has been abandoned/denied.

    USPTO 20050107114
    Status Abandoned — Failure to Respond to an Office Action

    UK
    Application Number GB0322716.2
    Status Terminated before grant

  • khairul

    To me a phone is more of a personal device, i dont think i would want to share it with anyone.. for a tablet yes.. the tablet can be shared amongst family members.. so its more practical to have multiple accounts on tablets..