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Is a touchscreen phone your next buy?

We take a look at the two types of touchscreens used in smartphones, how they work and which one you should buy.

India has around nine million smartphone users out of a total of 530 million mobile subscribers, and if you are planning to join the league of smartphone users there’s a good chance that your new smartphone will have a touchscreen. While planning to buy a touchscreen phone, though, you will come across terms such as capacitive or resistive in the spec sheet of the phone, which might get you confused and may derail your plan to buy a smartphone altogether.

Resistive and capacitive are two types of touchscreen technologies used in smartphones. The experience of using each is quite different, so we suggest you understand the basics of both before troubling your wallet.

Resistive vs capacitive

The basic difference between resistive and capacitive technologies is the way they respond to the touch of your finger or stylus.

Resistive touchscreens are made of several layers, the topmost of which flexes under your finger or stylus, and is pushed back to touch a layer behind it. This completes a circuit, telling the phone which part of the screen is being pressed.

Capacitive touchscreens don’t rely on pressure, and instead use electrodes to sense the conductive properties of your finger. So, they don’t rely on having an object pressing particularly hard on their surface, but react only to touch of your finger.

User experience

The type of touchscreen can easily be recognised by the user.

Capacitive screens don’t require the user to press hard to initiate an action; a light swipe across the screen usually produces the desired action, such as scrolling through contact lists or photos etc, zooming in and out of web pages and maps, and typing e mails and text messages.

Capacitive technology also often supports multi touch so that it can detect more than one finger at once. This can be used for advanced gestures such as pinch to zoom, as on an iPhone or devices.

In contrast to capacitive touch, a vast majority of resistive touchscreen phones won’t normally react at all to a very light swipe — the user has to exert some pressure to initiate action.

While it may sound as if capacitive touch is the best choice, that’s not entirely correct. Resistive offers more potential for accuracy when used with a stylus, while capacitive touchscreens can only be touched with a finger. They don’t respond to touches with a regular stylus, gloves or other objects.

Which touchscreen technology is better?

The general consensus among smartphone users is that a capacitive touchscreen is the way to go, but one thing that needs to be kept in mind is that capacitive screens, being made of glass, are more susceptible to damage by sharp objects such as coins, keys, scissors, tweezers, pens and so on, which invariably give your cell phone company in handbags and pockets. In the case of a resistive touchscreen, on the other hand, you can buy skin guards, which won’t be as responsive, but will work. The same solution can’t be employed on capacitive screens, on which tolerance is so low that any sort of barrier will prevent operation.

Touchscreen smartphones

Among the best capacitive touchscreen phones in the market are Apple’s iPhone or 3GS, HTC Desire, HTC Wildlife, Motorola Milestone, Huawei Ideos and Samsung Galaxy. Barring Apple’s devices, which run on iOS, the others use Android operating systems.

For a resistive touchscreen from the Android family, you could consider Micromax A60, Dell XCD28 and Samsung Galaxy POP.

In you are looking for a touchscreen phone which will work on Symbian you can have a look at Samsung Omnia and Nokia N8, both of which have capacitive touchscreens, and if want a resistive screen, you could get either Nokia N97 or Nokia 5800 Express Music.

Alternatively, you can explore phones as well. Samsung Jet, LG KS360 and LG Cookie are good resistive touchscreen devices; and LG Crystal, LG Viewty Smart and Samsung Corby are among the better capacitive screen devices running operating systems owned by their respective producers.

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