So, gestures. They are by far one of the coolest things our smartphones can do. And that’s really saying something, considering that our smartphones can do some pretty awesome things. But, it’s true. Using a gesture adds a bit of flair to the everyday usage of our devices. That is, if your device supports it. There are some developers out there who have made it possible for folks to gain access to gestures, but only if they’re willing to jailbreak or root their device. And some apps even have it, but it’s few and far between. Right out of the box, the only company that has gestures as a talking point is HP, but that’s a left-over development decision from Palm. And, if the TouchPad is any indicator to the future, gestures may already be a thing of the past.
When the original Palm Pre broke cover, that gesture area below the capacitive touchscreen blew people’s minds. No, not literally, but it was a pretty cool thing to watch, especially when it came to actually manipulating parts of the mobile OS. The “Wave Bar,” which allowed folks to slowly drag their finger up from the gesture area and into the display, would bring up their quick launch bar no matter if they were in an app, a web page, or something else. It made it possible to quickly switch to another app, or your camera, or whatever else you needed, as long as it was one of the three customizable options for the bar. The gestures didn’t stop there, though. You were able to use “advanced” techniques, and use the gesture area to swipe back and forth between open apps, whether it was to the left or right. You could also use the gesture area to scroll up and down through web pages, which was a great way to make sure that your fingers weren’t in the way of things you were trying to look at.
I’m using the past-tense through the quick explanation because while the ability to do all of that is still very alive in the original devices, and even in the HP Veer (4G), it isn’t available on the HP TouchPad. This has me thinking that the gesture area may be a feature that's only available for smartphones, and HP will be avoiding the technology for other devices, such as more tablets, and their laptop and computer ventures coming down the pipe.
I think it’s a real possibility that, as HP saw it, it wasn’t really plausible to put a gesture area on the HP TouchPad, simply because it’s a device that all four bezels are utilized on a daily basis. Whether we are twisting the device from landscape mode, to being upside down completely, or back on its vertical front, our fingers are all over the bezel, usually all the time. So putting a gesture area all across the front of the device probably wouldn’t have worked, and would have left more people frustrated rather than happy. They could have only put it at the bottom of the device, while you’re looking at it in portrait mode. Then again, the TouchPad is a significantly bigger device than the original Pre devices, and especially when compared to the Veer’s miniscule size. Cost probably played a big part in this, and that’s just something we have to live with.
But, gestures can still play a role in HP’s future, even for the TouchPad. So you don’t want to use a gesture area, we can work with that. Use the display itself. Incorporate multi-finger gestures into specific apps, if that’s where you want to go with it. Multi-finger scrolling in the Web browser. Or perhaps use a certain amount of fingers to swipe across the screen while in full-screen mode for an application, allowing you to swipe to the next application to the left or right. It’s perfectly possible that HP could include these gestures into the OS, and not necessarily have to make space on the TouchPad (or any future HP-branded devices, for that matter) for a gesture area.
The gesture area may be just for smartphones, and that’s probably not a bad thing. I don’t really see a gesture area working on a PC or laptop, unless it’s an accessory of some kind. That’s why I think HP should make use of the TouchPad’s large display, and use on-screen gestures to make sure that the awesome feature isn’t left in the dust, or left in the shadows of the homebrew/jailbreaking/modding community.
Do you wish the TouchPad had a gesture area or gestures at all? Or do you think the feature is one that will fade away, only to be revisited by another company (or maybe even by HP themselves) at a later date? And as for on-screen gestures, do you think that patents may come into play to dissuade companies like HP from doing such a thing? Let me know in the comments below what you think.