NEW YORK - December 10, 2008 - When Apple's iPhone transformed the public's idea of how a mobile handset should work, one of its most impressive - and apparently disruptive - features was its slick touch-screen interface. While resistive touch screens activated by physical force had been around for years, the iPhone's was different: it 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, nothing could be further from the truth. "The reality is that existing operating systems, legacy applications, and regional aspirations make the change to capacitive screens for many devices very challenging."
Applications written for some of the high-end operating systems powering smartphones such as 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 touch screen technologies suited for the various mobile device form factors and sizes and forecasts the penetration of resistive, capacitive and other competing touch screen technologies in mobile phones, PDAs, PNDs, UMPCs, MIDs and Tablet PCs.
It forms part of two ABI Research Services, Mobile Devices and Location Aware Services.
ABI Research is a leading market research firm focused on the impact of emerging technologies on global consumer and business markets. Utilizing a unique blend of market intelligence, primary research, and expert assessment from its worldwide team of industry analysts, ABI Research assists hundreds of clients each year with their strategic growth initiatives.