Touchscreen lowdown — Capacitive vs Resistive

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If you’re after a new phone, there’s a good chance the one you wind up with will have a touchscreen. More and more often, new phones feature them these days, and if you’re on a higher-end contract, contact with them is virtually inescapable.

However, if you’re planning on giving into the touchscreen trend, there are a few important things to consider. The most important of these is that there are actually two types of touchscreen predominantly used in phones – resistive and capacitive. The experience of using the two is quite different, so we’d recommend getting clued up on the two technologies before taking the plunge in either direction.

How they work

The main reason they’re quite so different to use is that the way they register the presence of your finger and its prods are poles apart. Resistive technology works the way you might first imagine a touchscreen would function – it senses pressure.

The resistive touchscreen itself is made up of several layers, the topmost of which flexes under your finger or stylus, and is pushed back onto a layer behind it. This effectively completes a circuit, telling the phone which part of the screen is being pressed.

Capacitive touchscreens don’t rely on pressure, but rather they use electrodes to sense the conductive properties of objects, such as your finger. So, they don’t rely on having an object pressing particularly hard on their surface, but will only react to certain objects. Prod one with a standard stylus and you’ll get nowhere.

In Practice

Thanks to these core differences, the experience of using each type of touchscreen is almost instantly recognisable. The most famous phone of the last couple of years, Apple’s iPhone, uses a capacitive touchscreen, which helps to give the phone its ‘light touch’ interface.

As capacitive screens don’t need much contact at all, you can swipe across them very lightly and get just as good a response as you would with a slow, full-fingered drag. By comparison, the vast majority of resistive touchscreen phones won’t normally react at all to a very light swipe.

More recent resistive touchscreen phones, such as the Nokia N97, HTC Tattoo and Samsung Jet have made their resisitive touchscreens much more sensitive than those of previous years, helping to bridge the gap between the two technologies, but we’re yet to see a resistive touchscreen that convinced us it was capacitive for any length of time. Using a finger, capacitive screens will seem much more responsive.

So, it may sound like a capacitive touchscreen is the way to go, without any doubt, but things aren’t quite that simple – resistive touchscreens have their benefits too.

The simplest is that they don’t rely on the organic properties of your finger, so can be operated with just about anything – just not necessarily successfully. A more important plus point of resistive screens is that they offer more potential for accuracy.

If you try to operate a either sort of touchscreen phone with your finger, accuracy will fly out of the window, but use a resistive phone with a stylus and you’ll be able to get relative pinpoint accuracy.

< previousAcer has opted for the Android standard of three home screens which you can fill with widgets. We are used to the HTC Hero’s seven home screens and found three rather limiting, but fully accept we may be a little geeky in this respect.

Acer’s widgets include a media carousel through which you can scroll getting quick access to photos music and video, and another carousel of Web shortcuts. These are fun, but they do take up a lot of space on a home screen, reducing the number of other widgets you can use.

The Liquid runs Android version 1.6. It is an HSDPA device with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There is A-GPS for geo-location. You get a 2GB microSD card to boost the 512MB of internal memory.

The five-megapixel camera on the back of the phone takes a fair enough shot if the lighting conditions are good and there is autofocus which is a boon. But there is no flash so as soon as lighting conditions start to fail image quality becomes poor. The camera won’t work until you insert a microSD card and to do that you need to remove the battery. Those who like transferring data by hot swapping cards will find this a real nuisance.

Call quality was good, and battery life ditto. From a full charge the 1350mAh battery kept the phone going for more than a day if we were light on the GPS and Wi-Fi. As ever, though, heavy use of these features and 3G data could cause you battery problems.

If you want bells and whistles look elsewhere, if you want solid, dependable performance, the Liquid could be a good choice. It has plenty of features and it performed well during our testing period. It has a somewhat plasticy chassis design, but we can live with that, and the price is attractive.

Acer Liquid info

Typical price: £350 SIM free

Pros:
3.5mm headset connector
Large screen
Capacitive display so responsive to the finger

Cons:
Vanilla Android OS only allows for three home screens
Chassis quality is not wonderful
No flash for the camera, which delivers average performance

Verdict: A dependable and well featured Android handset with a high quality large screen

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More info: Acer website


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