Thursday, April 15, 2010

Touchy Feely: Capacitive vs. Resistive Touchscreens

I don't really know what the big deal is about capacitive touchscreens on mobile phones. Whenever I read reviews of a new touchscreen phone, there is usually complaints about the display not being capacitive.

Is it just because the iPhone does it?

For those who don't understand the technology behind the two, the best way I can sum it up is resistive responds to pressure and capacitive responds to touch.

Here's my short list of pros and cons for both:

Pros: Better for finger input, will not respond to keys or other objects, supports multi-touch
Cons: Less accurate for pinpoint precision, can't be used with a stylus, can't be used with gloves (non-leather)

Pros: Can be used with stylus, more precise, can support multi-touch (technology dependent), can be used with gloves
Cons: Not as sensitive to light pressure touches, Can be accidentally activated by keys etc

Now I've heard people say that resistive isn't good for finger input because of the pressure requirement but I haven't really seen that as an issue. And on smaller screens, capacitive touch becomes harder as you need to be able to activate a smaller area... which is why most of these capacitive screens are larger and the OS is built around larger activation areas.

The problem with that for me is it is limiting. Sure, capacitive is nice as you don't need to worry about "pressing harder"... but at the same time, how do you select things that require more detail? Say a web page with multiple links that are close together, how do you pick the right one without pinch zooming? It's also the reason why I think that any type of capacitive screen should also have some external navigation that allows you to focus on smaller items (much like the trackball/optipad you see on many Android devices). For the consumer, capacitive works... but for a business user, being able to use a stylus or focus on smaller areas if more helpful and that's where resistive is better. You can do things with resistive that you can with capacitive (although there are arguments regarding multi-touch) but not the other way around (of course unless you like to use a sausage stylus). It just seems I would rather have more than less.

I'm just not sure one technology is "better" then the other. One example of resistive technology that no one has really complained about... Nintendo DS units (DS, DS lite, DSi and DS XL). There are so many out there and why isn't there an uproar about "Oh... it would be so much better if it had a capacitive screen."

I just don't get it. Some people may prefer capacitive but I don't think it makes the experience or the phone any better. After all, it's easier for me to play Bejeweled with my fingernail than with the face of my finger.

No comments:

Post a Comment