Capacitive vs resistive touchscreens

What is a resistive touchscreen? What is a capacitive touchscreen? Read on and find out!

The launch of the original iPhone in 2007 created upheaval in the mobile phone market. Though many business smartphones (particularly those powered by Windows Mobile) and PDAs had touchscreens long before Apple entered the market, the iPhone was one of the first consumer-focussed smartphones to use a capacitive touchscreen. This paved the way for today's range of touchscreen smartphones including the wealth of Android smartphones currently available on the market, and the upcoming launch of Windows Phone 7.

If you're planning to take the plunge and purchase a touchscreen smartphone, you'll should be aware that there are two types of technology used in touchscreen mobile phones — resistive and capacitive.

What is a resistive touchscreen?

Resistive touchscreens work on the basis of pressure applied to the screen. A resistive screen consists of a number of layers. When the screen is pressed, the outer later is pushed onto the next layer — the technology senses that pressure is being applied and registers input. Resistive touchscreens are versatile as they can be operated with a finger, a fingernail, a stylus or any other object.

Examples of current smartphones with resistive touchscreens include:

LG Optimus
LG GW620
Sony Ericsson Vivaz
Nokia N97 mini
Nokia N900

The LG Optimus Android smartphone is an example of a phone with a resistive touchscreen.

What is a capacitive touchscreen?

Capacitive touchscreens work by sensing the conductive properties of an object, usually the skin on your fingertip. A capacitive screen on a mobile phone or smartphone usually has a glass face and doesn't rely on pressure. This makes it more responsive than a resistive screen when it comes to gestures such as swiping and pinching. Capacitive touchscreens can only be touched with a finger, and will not respond to touches with a regular stylus, gloves or most other objects.

Examples of current smartphones with capacitive touch screens include:

Apple iPhone 3GS and Apple iPhone 4
HTC Desire
Samsung Galaxy S
Samsung Wave

Apple's iPhone wasn't the first capacitive touchscreen consumer smartphone on the market (that honour goes to the LG Prada), but it has been one of the most popular since its launch in 2007.

Though resistive touchscreens are often quite responsive — especially in many new smartphones hitting the market — capacitive touchscreens usually provide a more pleasant user experience. Actions like swiping through contact lists, zooming in and out of Web pages and maps, typing e-mails and text messages and scrolling through photos are best suited to capacitive touchscreens; unlike resistive screens, you can swipe across them gently and still get a response. Resistive screens are often found in cheaper devices, as they cost significantly less to manufacture.

Become a fan of GoodGearGuide on Facebook

Follow GoodGearGuide on Twitter: @GoodGearGuide

Stay up to date with the latest reviews. Sign up to GoodGearGuide’s Gear Daily newsletters

Tags touch screensapple iphonesamsung galaxy smobile phonessmartphonesHTC Desire

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide

4 Comments

David

1

Capacitive touch screens aren't accessible to people with prosthetic limbs. Accessibility should be given more consideration by the smartphone manufacturers. I wear a prosthesis and have yet to find a decent Android phone in the US. Resistive touch screens work amazingly well with a prosthesis. For the time being I'm stuck with a Windows Mobile Treo Pro. I'd like to have more choices and for accessibility to be given some consideration by companies like HTC and Motorola. I can't believe that a multi touch screen can't be designed that will work with a stylus, gloved hand or a prosthetic hand.

waz

2

You can use a capacitive stylus

Tiro Motaung

3

Capacitive stylus + prosthetics = inaccessible device

Can be tricky to hold those tiny stylus.

Sony SATIO great resistive touch screen.

Stefan Fischer

4

Given the small display-size of most smartphones (<4 inch diagonal), but their high resolution (better than 480x320), it is obvious that their information density (pix/cm^2) cannot be adressed by a thick finger-tip. Only the thin tip of a stylus (or of a ladie's long finger-nail) can make good use of that information density. A typical example: cut-and-paste of text, starting and ending at a precise character. This is impossible for a finger-tip, since it is unprecise and the finger occludes the view.

This means that capacitive touchscreens, which require an extended surface of the finger to be in contact with the screen to register a "touch", are not at all appropriate for pocket-sized devices like smartphones when one tries to do more than just viewing information, but tries to actually modify the text/picture/etc. that is shown on the screen.

So far, only resistive touchscreens allow to work with a stylus or a finger-nail. For many users, this is really a more useful feature than being able to zoom with gestures (multi-touch feature of capacitive touchscreens). Zooming can be achieved in many other ways (for ex. by having a zoom-button, etc.). But nothing can replace pointing accuracy. Note that track-balls and other similar poiting-devices are no substitute for the ability to directly point to the screen with high accuracy.
In any case, technology already exists that allows to combine the advantages of capacitive and resistive displays, see for ex. http://www.stantum.com/ (to whom I am related in no way). Unfortunately, this is being ignored in the newly released smartphones.

PS> I cannot wait for Steve Jobs to introduce iFood, the revolutionary way to eat with your fingers, instead of with fork&knive ;-)

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest News Articles

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?