A touchscreen is a touchscreen, right? Nope. Many users of the finger friendly devices are not aware that there are two major styles of touch displays, capacitive and resistive. The screen on the iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm is capacitive. These screens work with your finger, but can not work with a stylus or with a gloved hand. The ability of the human body to conduct electricity allows for the changes in current needed to make the objects on the display move. Capacitive displays are faster than resistive ones, but are much more expensive and less precise. They allow for the use of multi-touch and other gestures. Those with long nails will find these screens almost impossible to use. Resistive screens, like the one on the LG Dare or the HTC Touch Diamond, allow for the use of a stylus for precision data entry. These screens work by pressing two layers of the screen together to cause a change in current and can work with any object that can press down on a display such as a finger or a pen cap. With the big difference in cost, most of the middle to low end touch screen devices are fitted with this type of screen.
RIM has just filed a patent application for a display that combines the best of both worlds. These screens will have the smooth, fast touch like a capacitive model with support for multi-touch and gestures, and the resistive model's ability to make precision data entry with the use of a stylus as well as allowing for those with long nails and covered hands to move objects on the screen. The one thing that the combination screen doesn't fix is cost. The hybrid display will remain expensive which limits its use to high end touchscreen models. One cellphone manufacturer has already brought something new to the market. Samsung's Jet feature phone (smarter than your average bear, uh, smartphone) uses a technology called R-Resistive which is supposed to combine the best of capacitive and resistive screens.
It is not known how far along RIM is in terms of actually employing this hybrid technology. It could be something that will debut on the BlackBerry Storm 2 or it might just have to wait for another high end RIM model.