Swipe gestures are now quite common and allow access to one or multiple functionality by swiping a list item to the right or the left.

Inbox by Gmail provides such a functionnality

Even if I know a few apps having such a feature, I wonder which app introduced it. It must not be very old, I reckon 2012 or 2013 but I would be interested to know where you first noticed it.

4 Answers 4


The gesture goes back at least to 2009, when it was already being used by Apple and Google, and especially Palm (webOS).

I Googled ‘swipe to delete’ and restricted the results to pre-2010. I learned that the iPhone had it in Mail, while Gmail’s mobile app had ‘swipe to archive’. But, as far as I can tell, swipe-to-perform-an-action was used most extensively by Palm webOS, introduced that year at CES.

In webOS 1.0, you could remove cards ( = document-centric windows) by swiping them away:

swipe away cards on webOS

You could swipe to act upon notifications (this was later improved so that you swiping exposed more possible actions):

swipe away notifications on webOS

You could swipe away e-mails:

swipe away e-mails on webOS

I’m not sure where the swipe-to-x gesture started, or who inspired whom, but it does seem like the gesture really started becoming popular around 2009.

  • 3
    Palm was way ahead of its time.
    – Alan
    Dec 12, 2017 at 19:01

I found an article which was published on February 20, 2012 written by Jason Mick (blogger) "Neonode Patented Swipe-to-Unlock 3 Years Before Apple"

Neonode -- a small Swedish phone manufacturer was the first to deploy the technology commercially.  And it also appears to be the first to have patented swipe-to-unlock.

U.S. Patent No. 8,095,879.

  1. The computer readable medium of claim 1, wherein the user interface is characterised in, that an active application, function, service or setting is advanced one step by gliding the object along the touch sensitive area from left to right, and that the active application, function, service or setting is closed or backed one step by gliding the object along the touch sensitive area from right to left.

In the case that the patent was deemed non-novel at some point and redundant with existing drag-and-drop IP, Neonode attempts to strengthen it with a secondary claim.

  1. The computer readable medium of claim 1, wherein the touch sensitive area is 2-3 inches in diagonal dimension.

Neonode's display is resistive (diodes-based) touch design. This does not have any major affect the algorithm.

Neonode patent simply did mention this: If you swipe halfway across the Neonode phone (reaching the middle diode) and stop, you can't just click the endpoint several seconds later. (Neonode's algorithm was less explicit, but it appears to have the same mechanism as Apple's).

U.S. Patent No. 8,095,879.

The present invention relates to a user interface for a mobile handheld computer unit, which computer unit comprises a touch sensitive area, and which touch sensitive area is divided into a menu area and a display area.

The computer unit is adapted to run several applications simultaneously and to present any active application on top of any other application on the display area.

It relates to an enclosure for a handheld computer unit, also relates to a computer readable medium. A computer program product with computer program code is stored within the computer readable medium, which code, when read by a computer, will make it possible for this computer to present a user interface (according to the invention).

  • While this is certainly interesting, can you take the relevant elements from the article / patent to include in this answer? Otherwise everyone is going to have to go and read the articles themselves, which is not ideal (especially if the details of the article / patent get taken down for whatever reason).
    – JonW
    Jan 26, 2016 at 11:32

They were invented by Apple, here you can see the patent here

Swipe gestures for touch screen keyboards

US 8059101 B2


Systems, methods, and devices for interpreting manual swipe gestures as input in connection with touch-sensitive user interfaces that include virtual keyboards are disclosed herein. These allow for a user entering text using the virtual keyboard to perform certain functions using swipes across the key area rather than tapping particular keys. For example, leftward, rightward, upward, and downward swipes can be assigned to inserting a space, backspacing, shifting (as for typing capital letters), and inserting a carriage return and/or new line. Various other mappings are also described. The described techniques can be used in conjunction with a variety of devices, including handheld devices that include touch-screen interfaces, such as desktop computers, tablet computers, notebook computers, handheld computers, personal digital assistants, media players, mobile telephones, and combinations thereof.

They also had the following related patents previous to the specific swipe patent above:

Apple's Granted Patent Incorporates a Great Number of Important Patents

Apple's granted patent is related to the following U.S. patents and patent applications, each of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety: U.S. Pat. No. 6,323,846, titled "Method and Apparatus for Integrating Manual Input," issued Nov. 27, 2001; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/840,862, titled "Multipoint Touchscreen," issued May 6, 2004; U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/804,361, titled "Touch Screen Liquid Crystal Display," filed Jun. 9, 2006; U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/883,979, titled "Touch Screen Liquid Crystal Display," filed Jan. 8, 2007; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/367,749, titled "Multi-functional Hand-held Device," filed Mar. 3, 2006; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/228,737, titled "Activating Virtual Keys of a Touch-Screen Virtual Keyboard," filed Sep. 16, 2005; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/228,700, titled "Operation of a Computer with a Touch Screen Interface," filed Sep. 16, 2005; U.S. Pat. No. 6,677,932, titled "System and Method for Recognizing Touch Typing Under Limited Tactile Feedback Conditions," issued Jan. 13, 2004; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,570,557, titled "Multi-touch System and Method for Emulating Modifier Keys Via Fingertip Chords," issued May 27, 2003.

However, there were companies that used swipe gestures before Apple, even patented then, such as Swedish company Neonode, who patented the swipe to unlock gesture as early as 2002. You can see their patent here


MyOrigo phone used swiping in 2002. There's a mention and short demonstarion of MyOrigo in the document The Rise and Fall of Nokia. MyOrigo part starts at 40:30 https://youtu.be/PhB7bJ4yfno?t=2432

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