Touch screen on mobiles is the new black, but will it overshadow the keypad

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iPhone’s success has sent all the handset manufacturer’s scurrying to come up with a touch screen device of their own. We have seen touch screen devices being launched by all major players, even RIM which is mostly in the enterprise segment has come up with one. This makes good short-term commercial sense, but I wonder if it points to a trend that’ll overshadow the keypad.

Touch screen definitely has it’s advantages, you save space for the keyboard (which takes up a large percentage of the device area), you can change the complete interface for each app and provide the necessary keys and buttons only, you can save weight and due to no keyboard there are no mechanical wear parts.

That said, let’s look at iPhone’s keypad for a second, it’s not really what we were hoping for. It is so harder and longer to develop a response from the iPhone.. you keep wanting “k” but it gives “i” or some key closer to the letter and this goes for any letter. Doing the same thing on the Blackberry, however, is a breeze.

As Dr Buxton puts it: “Everything is best for something, and worst for something else.” Touch screens are best suited to manipulating information, rather than inputting it in the first place—an area in which keypads remain unchallenged. Mobiles with keypads and touch screens could offer the most flexibility, letting users choose the appropriate input method for each task. Google designers have done a great job in this regard, the G1 is strictly touch screen and has a built in keyboard that slides out.

I think touch screens are here to stay, but it’ll be a while before they overshadow the keypads.


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About Sachendra Yadav

Mobilist and Social Media enthusiast
This entry was posted in Mobile, Technology, Usability and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Touch screen on mobiles is the new black, but will it overshadow the keypad

  1. Aura Mae says:

    Remember the Dell Axim? Touchscreen was first and physical keyboards came later!

    One is not inherently better than the other. I believe there is a market for both styles.

    My HTC Advantage has a removable keyboard. I used it during the week for work, but for weekend/casual use, I just keep the tablet portion with me.

  2. Aura,

    Good example there of HTC Advantage. There definitely is a market for both, messaging centric phones will keep coming with keypads and imaging and/or music centric phones can be full touch… and for those in between we’ll have hybrids like G1.

    The only thing that has a slight chance of making keypads redundant is decent Speech to Text which seems light years away technically and comes with a baggage of social and cognitive issues.

  3. Aura Mae says:

    I keep hearing that speech to text is the next “big thing” but I have a hard time envisioning it except for rare instances (like while driving.)

    Much of my usage is in otherwise silent locations (like in bed while my husband sleeps, or while waiting at the bank, etc.) where voice input would be disruptive.

  4. Cone says:

    What I hate about the touch screen (on the HTC touch) is that it’s a royal pain in the a** to dial a number while driving.

    On the other hand, I could have easily punched in numbers if I were using a phone with a regular keypad.

    Else a touch screen is fantastic and I love it. I’d probably like to pick up a phone that has both a touch screen and a regular keypad next time 🙂

    About voice input, I’m not too sure. It hasn’t really been successful after all these years since it was introduced on the PC (has it?)

  5. Voice-based UI won’t be coming to mainstream anytime soon. Not just because of the technical problems but also because of the social and cognitive issues surrounding it.

    Check out the post below that describes these issues in detail

  6. Sachendra, that is a good point.

    I am a Blackberry user and I love the keyboard input. When I have tried the iPhone, I do not get the same speed for writing emails. So I agree G1 combination is great.

    Touchscreens are not new anyway. I was first a Palm Pilot user, then moved to Windows Mobile PDA/phone and I used to love the Palm text entry writing letters with the stylus. Where has the stylus gone now?

    As per the voice recognition, it is a long time that Windows OS supports it and that many mobile phones have voice dialing. Still, how many people actually use it?

  7. Jose,

    Although touch screens are not new, it’s only after iPhone that people realized how to use them properly. I’m not a big fan of stylus and the old touch screen keyboards… maybe it’s just me, but I hate having to squint to type something. I think a combination of touch and keypad is the safest bet that’ll address needs of a mass audience… you could go either way for niche audiences though.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting

  8. Mohtashim says:

    No doubt Touch screen has set a new design definition and more people are buying touch screen phone. But they lack in ‘ease of usage’. I personally find it difficult to use touch screen for message composition. I have used LG viewty and other PDAs. Navigation look flashy with finger tip but composing text is bit tedious.

  9. Just came across this new software. The user simply presses in the vicinity of the required key and need not be concerned if the thumb touches other keys simultaneously. Due to its unique algorithms, software is able to identify the intended keys through a combination of characteristics of the keystroke (size and position of the finger)

  10. phil barrett says:

    let’s also not forget that a big reason why the iphone has taken off isn’t the touch screen – but the user experience on using the screen.

    the pinch, pull, and push interface is not only intuitive, but ground breaking for a mobile device.

    nokia had a touch screen years ago and it failed… and for the same reason many of the new touch screen devices will fail – the experience doesn’t meet the promise

  11. Phil,

    iPhone certainly set a benchmark and I think new touch screen devices will be aspiring to meet or beat it. I think we’re in a wait-and-watch period to see if they can recreate or surpass the iPhone magic.

  12. Tez says:

    I’m in favour of the hybrid phone such as the G1…but that aside…I can’t believe that after all the accidents caused by the likes of that guy “Cone” using mobiles while driving and in some cases people killed!Hello numbskull…get off the road boy before you end up causing a pile up.

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