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Touchscreen phones

Touchscreen phones have changed the way we use use handsets forever. Read our guide to touchscreen technology for a simple guide.

Touchscreen phones do away with traditional, physical keypads. They allow the user to operate the phone using a touch-sensitive display that responds to taps, swipes and other gestures you can make with your fingers. Some touchscreen phones can also be operated by a stylus, which combined with handwriting recognition software makes them brilliant for taking notes and annotating.

Touchscreen or physical keypad?

Since featuring on the first-generation iPhone, touchscreens have been rapidly adopted by all the major manufacturers now offering a host of touchscreen phones. However, whether you need a touchscreen or a phone with a physical keypad will depend on how comfortable you are using a touch-sensitive display.

Some people feel more comfortable with physical keys to press and find them better for typing messages and writing emails. However, just as many people report that using a touchscreen is more intuitive and makes accessing features easier.

There is also a new wave of phones that combine a physical QWERTY keyboard with a touchscreen display, meaning you can get the best of both interfaces. Simply use the touchscreen for calls, games and other interactive features, then switch to the physical keyboard when you’re composing an email or text message.

What types of touchscreen phones are there?

Although not a feature of all touchscreen phones, some models employ haptic technology. This provides users with a satisfying vibration from touch inputs so that they know when a command has registered.

Other advanced touchscreen handsets, such as iPhones, offer users a feature called multi-touch. Resistive touchscreens, mainly featured on older or cheaper handsets, are capable of registering only a single point of contact, meaning one touch at a time. However a capacitive touchscreen phone registers several points of contact simultaneously, allowing users to pinch the screen to zoom in on a map, or spread their fingers to enlarge pictures or a web page.

Although multi-touch started with the iPhone, it has now spread to other high-end handsets, including those that use Google’s Android operating system and smartphones that run on Windows Phone. Some BlackBerrys also now support multi-touch touchscreens.

The advent of multi-touch touchscreens is regarded by many as nothing short of revolutionary. In fact, so game-changing is the interface deemed to be that it has been compared by some industry experts to the arrival of the mouse for home computers back in the 1980s.

Touchscreen phones and handwriting recognition

In order to take advantage of this great feature, handsets are supplied with a special stylus (like an electronic pen) which allows users to write directly onto the screen. The hand-writing recognition software installed in the phone then translates the movements into text. This is a great feature for when you’re out and about and need to pen memos and take impromptu notes.

Why have people taken to touchscreen phones so quickly?

The majority of people have adopted touchscreen mobiles because they find them easier to use over older models. However, another reason for touchscreen phones' amazing popularity is that because the handset doesn't need extra room for a physical keypad, the screen is much larger than standard phones. This makes a touchscreen mobile phone simply excellent for watching videos and movies on your handset and allows users to enjoy a much more satisfying mobile web browsing experience.

Some of the latest touchscreen handsets, such as those from Apple, Samsung, LG and HTC, feature richly colourful screens over 4-inches in size. It is precisely these handsets that are driving the massive growth in consumers' enjoyment of portable media on mobile phones.

The future of touchscreen technology

Touchscreen user interfaces are increasingly spreading beyond mobile phones and into newer devices and form factors. Apple’s iPad, for instance, employs the same multi-touch technology that features on the iPhone, and there are many internet tablets also in the market featuring touchscreen panels.

Many experts predict that touchscreens will one day replace standard keyboards in laptops and even PCs.