Touchscreen Handsets: the Future?

This story posted earlier today on Gizmodo with pictures of what appears to be a new Android handset from HTC. Tentatively dubbed the ‘G2’, it looks to be the successor to HTC’s T-Mobile G1 released earlier this year.

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looking at the two side-by-side, you can see that the menu section at the bottom has had a redesign, and the bezel at the bottom of the screen has gone (I think the screen is the same size as the one on the G1).

You may also notice that it looks a lot more glossy and curvaceous compared to the G1. On top of that, they’ve decided to scrap the QWERTY keypad that was present on the G1, and, in my opinion, made it one of the main reasons in people choosing it over the iPhone.

The world of mobile phone technology hasn’t really been the same since that little-known company in Cupertino came out with the iPhone. It sold 4.4m units in the Q4 of 2008 alone, and it has quite an impressive share of the smartphone pie:

It easily claims over 25% of the smartphone market share – despite not having a QWERTY keypad and not even supporting Cut & Paste!

Ever since the phone came out there have been countless copies and some strong competitors, but none have gotten close… yet. This year Nokia are set to release their superb looking N-Series N97, and Palm surprised a lot of people at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month with the announcment of the Palm Pre.

These two new handsets aim to achieve the best of both worlds, by including touch interfaces and QWERTY keyboards. But is that too many input options? It’s not so bad on the G1 because you can use the mechanical buttons for everything if you wish and it doesn’t feature a touch keypad.

Does the rise of touch interfaces on mobile phones mean the end for the traditional mechanical side of things? Will we only see more than three buttons on the high-end/business-oriented smartphones? If this is to be the case, then I think it’s about time that people looked for revolution, or even evolution, as opposed to blatant plagarism of competitors models.

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One response to this post.

  1. I don’t think that keypads will will disappear any time soon. At least I think it would be a mistake if they were to.

    As fashionable as touch screens may be, touch-only user interfaces are only appropriate in certain usage scenarios, and mobile phones is not one of those cases.

    Even with haptic feedback, there is no substitute for the tactile feel of physical buttons.

    Here’s an example. As with computers, phones often require you to concentrate your eyes on the screen while you are pressing the keypad with your thumbs. Having to pitch your eyes down to the keypad slows you down.

    Even if your touch-only phone has haptic/vibrational feedback for when you press a virtual button, it doesn’t help you know you’ve pressed the right button. However, because a touch screen is smooth, how can you know without looking, that you’ve put your thumb in the right place. With a physical keypad, you have several physical references to tell you where your thumb is without needing to look.

    There is also the matter that constantly fingering your screen is going to make it a horrible greasy mess leaving you a mist to peer through at your user interface.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a combination of keyboard and touch (as long as you have a stylus). Although I think touch-only is unnecessarily restrictive.

    Reply

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