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Study: it's a touchscreen world for mobile phones

Posted: 15 Dec 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:interface touchscreen capacitive? touchscreen resistive? display mobile phone?

When Apple Inc.'s iPhone transformed the public's idea of how a mobile handset should work, one of its most impressiveand apparently disruptivefeatures was its slick touchscreen interface. While resistive touchscreens activated by physical force had been around for years, the iPhone's was differentit was of the capacitive type, activated by a finger's electrical charge.

The great appeal of this interface led many in the industry to conclude that they had seen the future of most mobile handset displays. But according to ABI Research director Kevin Burden, "The reality is that existing operating systems, legacy applications and regional aspirations make the change to capacitive screens for many devices very challenging."

Capacitive's major issue
Applications written for some of the high-end operating systems powering smart phones (e.g. Windows Mobile and Symbian) don't lend themselves to capacitive navigation: There is a long legacy of third-party applications designed for five-way navigation, keypad or stylus touch input. A change to capacitive screens would make it difficult to ensure continuity and backward compatibility.

Cost is also a major issue: Resistive screens are far less expensive than capacitive.

But the most important single factor supporting the continued use of resistive screens is the huge opportunity in the Asian market and its need for screens that support handwriting recognition input with a stylus. A capacitive screen or QWERTY keyboard just won't suffice in markets like China, given the nature of its alphabet.

"Capacitive screens will continue to make inroads into high-end models," concludes Burden, "but with the overall market volume still primarily in midrange devices, the resistive screens in devices in this tier will continue to keep resistive technology far ahead of capacitive."

ABI Research's recent study "Touch Screens in Mobile Devices" examines the various touchscreen technologies suited for the various mobile device form factors and sizes. The study also forecasts the penetration of resistive, capacitive and other competing touchscreen technologies in mobile phones, PDAs, PNDs, UMPCs, MIDs and Tablet PCs.

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