Patents are a company's greatest weapon in the mobile industry melee, and Apple has just picked up a dangerous one: a pinch-to-zoom patent. It could potentially cover a good deal, though probably not all, of your smartphone screen-squeezing.
Engadget points to the relevant passage:
1. A multitouch display detects at least two contacts. 2. Those contacts perform a first gesture. 3. That gesture adjusts an image in some way: magnification, orientation and rotation are specifically claimed, but the patent is broad enough to cover virtually any adjustment. 4. The first set of contacts is broken. 5. A second set of contacts is detected. 6. The second contacts perform another gesture within a pre-determined period of time. 7. The gesture continues to adjust the image in the same way.
Step five, specifically the bit about the second gesture coming "within a predetermined period of time" is where things get a bit murky. It's unclear what that time period is, and it could well be the difference between the patent applying to a pinch-to-zoom action, say, in a web browser, where it's done once in a while, and a maps application, where it's presumably done more quick fast, one pinch after another.