Apple is causing more mischief over in Germany today, having received an injunction from a Munich Regional Court against phone manufacturer Motorola for utilizing slide-to-unlock style lockscreen methods patented by Apple. Motorola intends to appeal the ruling. The basic point to take away is this: the court ruled that Apple's patent on the concept of moving a tracked image from left to right in order to unlock a phone is valid, and it seems likely that every slide-to-unlock implementation on Android would be infringing in their eyes.



The appeal will likely take months, and after a Hague court in the Netherlands ruled that Apple's slide-to-unlock patents were invalid for obviousness and existence of prior art, it seems that there are still some very relevant substantive issues in need of higher review here. A similar slide-to-unlock patent Apple holds in the US is the subject of the company's ongoing litigation against Samsung in California, the full complaint for that case having been made public just today.

Obviously, this ruling has almost no long-term significance for Android, as the last two major versions of the operating system (3.0 Honeycomb and 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) have utilized circular unlock screens that the Munich court specifically indicated were not infringing on Apple's intellectual property rights, primarily because they operate agnostic of the direction of the unlock gesture.



Of course, companies like HTC and Samsung have been using similar lockscreens for some time now of their own accord. While it is possible that Apple's patents on slide-to-unlock methods went into consideration during the development of these new lockscreens, it's obvious they have other advantages over older slide implementations.

Namely, custom implementations (such as the popular app WidgetLocker) allow the use of multiple functions in conjunction with the circle-to-unlock mechanism (eg, a different function for each direction - phone, unlock, SMS, camera). This actually makes the circular lockscreen, at least in my opinion, a far more versatile (and better-looking) solution than slide-to-unlock.

What do you guys think? Is slide-to-unlock on the way out, regardless of Apple's insistence that it's somehow superior? Because that's definitely where I see myself landing on this.


David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Shane

    why can't we be friends....why can't we be friends...

    • TomRowly

      This. More than anything.

      Surely if Apple and Google joined forces, they could make the best phone(s) in the world and still make a ton of money.

      • Aaron

        Monopolies are bad, mmkay?

      • Freak4Dell

        What did the world do to you to make you suggest such evil?

  • Robert Lamb

    I used the 3.0 unlock and 4.0 unlock that widget locker supplies you. And now with the GNEX, I dont have to use anything of the sort. Apple has gotten so rediculous with all this patent b/s! And I've owned 2 iphones and could have once been considered a fanboy...but thanks to android innovation, I havent looked back!

  • Will

    Slide to unlock is dead! Everyone should have a password anyways, and Android's Face Unlock is by far the most convenient!

    • Misti.xf

      ...and by fa the easiest to crack.

    • Tee

      And steering a car with a steering wheel is also a very unique way and should be implemented to Fords only?

  • Seraph

    No doubt the next iteration of iOS will have some new, revolutionary unlock feature, like using a circle unlock. It will be completely original, but I'm sure Android will try to copy it.

    • Misti.xf

      Yup, smack the iphone twice against your head, spit on it and sing "I will always love you" in C note. The new, revolutionary way of unlocking iphone 4.5S.

  • Blahbal

    Lets hope google patented their new method. let me guess: they have not.

    • http://prodigy.jigsoar.com/ Ian

      Don't worry; prior art.

  • Daniel

    Always liked the Apple products and have been running with OSX for a long time. I know for sure after this past year of events though that I will not purchase anything Apple until they stop this crap and hardly even then. Windows, Linux or running a Hackintosh with my already bought licenses will be they way to go from here.

  • Treknologist

    Well, I certainly hope the Android manufacturers have patented their versions of the lockscreen so THEY can file a lawsuit against Apple should they ever decide to "reinvent" their slide to unlock "feature." At the very least, so they can make it quite difficult for Apple to find some other way of unlocking their iDevices.

  • Gunnar

    This is fucking bananas!
    Keep doing phones and OS-es. I don't want pay for this suing crap!

  • Toshistation

    Hey, you guys, where can I get a Device 400 (pictured above)? That looks like one sexy device. And a classic name, too.

  • Alex

    Love the circular slide unlock like on the GNEX. Looks really nice!

  • Amrin

    Apple iOS users are stuck using a "simplistic" lock function, while Android users can customize their lock screens to however we want. I like having the choice to slide to unlock to four different apps of my choice! Having these decisions is what separates iOS and Android users. I am pro choice.

  • Freak4Dell

    Slide to unlock is definitely outdated. I don't really use the circle unlocking thing for anything other than unlocking the phone, but it just looks so much nicer than slide to unlock.

  • Jon

    The circle unlock is innovative compared to teh slide unlock because, as in in Android 4.0, sliding to one icon opens the camera while sliding to another unlocks teh screen. In short, it offers superior flexibility. Now, if only the circle unlock screen could be customized to easily place cusotm icons there, that would be brilliant.

    • Marco

      As with all things Android, this is easily customized. You simply download an app called widgetlocker (or something similar) and customize away.

      While I wish this was stock Android functionality, the beauty of this OS is that you can easily do things your way. And without killing your warranty, I might add.

  • Micah

    This does still matter. It shows how flawed intellectual property rights are. To think that android's slide to unlock was even remotely close to iPhone and should be considered a "copycat" is bad enough. But to rule it as intellectual theft? Just wow...

  • http://portablepirates.com marc
  • DanielM426

    I swipe left to right on the circle just to spite apple