When Google announced the latest iteration of its mobile operating system Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the feature that appealed the most to us was the ability to create multiple user accounts. Just like in a PC, this Android feature will allow users to maintain their own settings, home screen widgets, game scores, personalizations and more. But Google clearly mentioned that this new feature will only work with Android tablets and not smartphones. We all wondered why. Carrier issues perhaps? Tech Crunch’s Steve O’Hear has a different theory. He thinks Google has restricted multiple user account feature to tablets because Nokia already owns the patent to use the feature in phones.
The patent he is referring to is a particular one filed in 2004, which was granted by the patent office in 2005. Patent number US 2005/0107114 A1 titled ‘Multi-user mobile telephone’ filed by Tim Ocock, a then-Symbian employee states the following:
“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; 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 patent description leaves no room for doubt that in every way possible way Nokia owns the right to introduce multiple user accounts feature in mobile phones. And anyone who wants to use it will have to pay royalty to Nokia. The patent description also restricts itself by clearly stating “mobile telephone”. Thus freeing a device like a tablet from its clutches. And hence Google is free to use the feature in its Nexus range of tablets and any other tablet that uses Android 4.2.
But all is not lost. While Google might not be able to introduce the feature directly, Android’s open source nature means that enterprising hackers will certainly find a way to introduce the feature to Android 4.2 running smartphones.