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Article: Touchscreen technologies in phones

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Three types of technologies are used for the manufacturing of mass touchscreen mobile phones: resistive, capacitive and infrared.

Images depicting the different technologies are courtesy of planarembedded.com

Resistive (Pressure sensitive) touchscreen:

As we’ve mentioned above, this is the most widely used touchscreen scheme for the production of mobile phones. It is most common in the Windows Mobile Professional phones, for example HTC TyTN II or HTC Touch Diamond; it is resistant to water and dust, but it is easily scratched and cannot be used with sharp objects. It is represented by three types: 4-wire, 5-wire and 8-wire with the second one being the most used. In contrast to the other types it is composed of three layers, rather than two with the additional layer ensuring greater durability and a much longer life (35 million clicks, instead of 1 million), without impacting the price.
Article: Touchscreen technologies in phones

HTC TyTN II, HTC Touch Diamond

HTC TyTN II, HTC Touch Diamond

This type of technology works according to the following method: there are small plastic dots (spacer dots) between the two layers, which prevent them from touching if there’s no pressure used. There’s electricity going through each one of the layers and in the event of contact, a chain is formed. The amount of the electricity, passing between the layers is then measured, in order to determine the point of touch. Unfortunately, this method cannot report more than one touch at a time and lets through about 85% of the light, emitted by the screen. The good news is that this is the least expensive from all three types of touchsreen systems we are discussing here (you can read about them later on in this article) and you can use any object to touch it, e.g. a stylus or a finger.

Article: Touchscreen technologies in phones

Capacitive (Electrostatic) touchscreen:

Lately, this type of technology has been gaining popularity in the mobile phone industry, its most renowned representatives being Apple’s iPhone and LG PRADA. The smaller market share of phones with such screens is due mostly to their high price, since this is not a cheap method. It has two main subtypes, one of which cannot register more than one touch at a time, while the other, called „MultiTouch” by their creators (Apple and used in iPhone and iPod) can. In addition, despite not being the first to employ it, these two devices made this type of technological method popular.

Article: Touchscreen technologies in phones
LG PRADA, Apple iPhone

LG PRADA, Apple iPhone

This system employs just one layer (a grid), covered with an electroconductive material (most often indium tin oxide), providing continuous current with a certain frequency. When touching the screen with an object emitting a constant electric flow, for example a human finger (the human body generates electricity), a change in the current occurs and that’s how the contact point is determined. The pros of this type of technology are that it is scratch, moisture and dust-proof, it lets through about 92% of the light, emitted by the screen and has a very long life (about 225 million clicks). The bad news is that this touchscreen type cannot be activated by contact with inanimate objects (e.g. the gloves that you might be wearing).

Article: Touchscreen technologies in phones

Infrared (IR) touchscreen:

Article: Touchscreen technologies in phones
The infrared technology is not so popular in mobile phones, compared to the other types, since it is the most expensive one. Therefore, the manufactures themselves do not use it in their touchscreen models. It is divided in two subtypes, heat-sensitive and optical. However, the two types are drastically different from one another in the way they work.

Samsung SGH-E900, Samsung SGH-U600

Samsung SGH-E900, Samsung SGH-U600

The heat-sensitive subtype is the more widely used one, but it is applied in other components of mobile devices. Such an example are the buttons of Samsung SGH-E900 and Samsung U600, which can only be touched with warm objects (e.g. fingers). Unfortunately, you’ll be unable to operate the phone if your fingers are “frozen”, because of cold weather.

The optical technological method uses infrared beams, which are not visible to the human eye and its only representative among the mobile phones is Neonode N2. It works, using a number of sensors, arranged above and around the screen, forming a grid of invisible beams. If an object (e.g. a finger or a stylus) touches the display, it interrupts the rays in a certain area and thus the touch point is determined. For this system it is not necessary to use physical force and just a gentle touch is enough. 100 % of the light, emitted by the display, is let through and its life depends only on the sensors’ lives, which spans for about 7 years of being constantly lit up. Further on, it is not influenced by dust, moisture or scratches, since actually the display’s glass simply shows the picture, while the sensors above it do the rest. However, a rather big disadvantage of this type of technology is that a strong ambient light can have a negative impact on its productivity and precision.

Article: Touchscreen technologies in phones

Neonode N2

Neonode N2

  • Options

posted on 20 Oct 2010, 01:42

1. xmguy (unregistered)

Very good story.

posted on 26 Aug 2008, 12:25

2. (unregistered)

Just wait until the iPhone fanboys come in

posted on 26 Aug 2008, 19:26

3. (unregistered)

Primitive technology. Wait til the Blackberry Thunder comes out. Apple fanboys will be STUNNED!

posted on 26 Aug 2008, 23:37

5. (unregistered)

primitive? thunder uses capacitive technology..same as iphone...thunder is just setup differently

posted on 26 Aug 2008, 20:41

4. Dexter (unregistered)

Bravo Phone Arena. Great piece and you managed not to work in a spy story or other unwanted coloring. Very educational, please write more articles like this.

posted on 29 Aug 2008, 14:39

12. Anomalies (Posts: 61; Member since: 08 Jun 2008)

I agree, this was an amazing article and I learned a lot. I however do like leaked information on phones =/

posted on 27 Aug 2008, 09:32

6. (unregistered)

Ha, makes me want to buy a neonode 8P

posted on 27 Aug 2008, 11:32

7. (unregistered)

very nice story...keep em coming

posted on 27 Aug 2008, 13:03

8. Shelley (unregistered)

Great article---so, who makes the technology? It would be great to purchase the stock/s.

posted on 27 Aug 2008, 13:35

9. mmeee (unregistered)

Yes, very good article. Informative and interesting, keep em comming!

posted on 27 Aug 2008, 13:47

10. (unregistered)

i second #12 phonearena who are the major producors of the infared tochsceens? and the only thing ur site is missing is more articals like this one. keep em coming, please.

posted on 27 Aug 2008, 20:31

11. PC (unregistered)

Wow, could you image a phone that supports all 5 fingers. I want microsoft to get into the cell phone industry themselves. That would make Steve Jobs crap his pants.

posted on 29 Aug 2008, 19:20

13. (unregistered)

when would u use five fingers simultaneously on a phone? just out of curiosity

posted on 30 Aug 2008, 09:30

14. (unregistered)

I'm sure i read this at the resistive touchscreen: "Unfortunately, this method cannot report more than one touch at a time" Am I right? If yes, than the writer is too uninformed. Resistive touchscreen can report more than one touch at a time. I you don't beleive, visithttp://www.simasystems.com/index.html kthxbye

posted on 05 Sep 2008, 19:02

15. zForce FanBoy (unregistered)

The Neonode zForce Technology which is opitacal/infrared touch screen based can do Multitouch, has no issues in working direct sunlight, which would be the brightest of ambient lights, and also when comparing to Capacitive and Resistive touch-screens on a same production volume, the zForce Technology is actually the CHEAPEST!!!

posted on 05 Sep 2008, 22:10

16. evman (unregistered)

the iphone so far has the most advanced touch screen

posted on 13 Sep 2008, 22:07

17. X3V3N (unregistered)

i agree, i like the apple Touch UI its sweet, just wish the phone part of it was better. ( i drop hella calls)

posted on 16 Oct 2008, 09:54

18. (unregistered)

thats because of the network, not the phone.

posted on 18 Jul 2009, 09:44

19. mickuza (Posts: 4; Member since: 18 Jul 2009)

Good article.

posted on 16 Sep 2011, 08:24

20. hi (unregistered)

ikr dats lyk so coool

posted on 14 Nov 2015, 10:17

21. Seth570 (Posts: 2; Member since: 14 Nov 2015)

Any updates here? Even in 'full'-search in the Phone Finder, you don't have the option to search for infra-red as a screen technology, at least as-of yet. Has there been any more progress made with infra-red touch-screen tech? Or have they made further gains with capactive-screens to close the gap between the two?

posted on 14 Nov 2015, 10:18

22. Seth570 (Posts: 2; Member since: 14 Nov 2015)

WOULD like an update to this article in regard to what I mentioned in my earlier comment. Actually found it really neat when I first read it...

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