A Touch Missing: A Glance at the Limitations of Touchscreens

By on March 17, 2012
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To text or not to text, that is the question

It doesn’t take a PhD to decipher that no industry has boomed like the cellphone industry in the last decade. Squinting further reveals that the cellphone industry has its own revolutions materializing with the introduction of touch and motion sensitive cellphones. For me, one feature has refused to budge from the legacy it has managed to build: texting.

The iTouch phenomenon may have lured the world into falling in instant love with the addictive and contagious blockbuster called Angry Birds, finding that perfect woman in Siri, and revolutionizing paper wastage in Paper Toss, but when it comes to texting, people still find their hearts and hands longing for feel-able keypads.

It would take regular text-aholics more than all of the goodies iPhones offer, to give up the rounded keys and the satisfying click at every button pressed on a physical keypad. Physical keypads have a language of their own, which stands in stark contrast to the silent, unresponsive and temporary keys that appear on touch-screens. Although the “vibrate on key press” option does its best to compensate for the deprivation, the effort is only adorable at best. It takes me back to the introduction of Tamagotchi pets half a decade back, which only ended up as feeble attempts at making people develop feelings for virtual pets which anyone would struggle to remember now.

Apart from sheer pleasure at discovering how superhumanly fast you can type, its common for people to discover God made their fingers too thick on each side to be able to touch a single letter key at a time. It takes considerable time mastering the techniques to get “in touch” with the letters

even on the qwerty keyboard format you have spent a childhood trying and succeeding in deciphering. Android did come up with creative ideas to try to counter this dilemma. It introduced Swype texting which entails the continuous connecting of letters on the virtual keypad to make up a word. The idea is rich only till you promise to have glossy fingertips every one of the hundred times of the day you need to text back the best friend who knows your sleep patterns better than you, so that your finger wont make premature stops on the G and Y as you struggle to type “fun”.

But then there comes the extent of usability of touch phones for the visually impaired college student. Being a sizeable chunk of the target market means we have a voice that must be heard. This faction of the society must text back while focusing on anything BUT the screens of their cellphones. Their fingers know their way around the physical keypads like the backs of their hands. Their typing speed is admirable as they multi-task; pretending to give a crap to the calculus being taught and texting back pronto. The plastic keypad is braille to the blind. The tragedy of the touch phone is most visible and incurable when the visually impaired (by my definition) use it. They’d be lost on the texture-less surface of the touch screen. Their fingers would wander aimlessly, bearing hope of stumbling across familiar wedges, scratches and raised dots.

Not that I don’t like that glossy bright touch screen as a whole, on the contrary. But apparently some manufacturers seem to know our sorrows too. HTC and Samsung both have mainstream offerings with both a touch screen and a slide-out keypad. Blackberry retains the ubiquitous keypad on almost all its products.

However, it is only too early to make such swiping rulings against the texting conundrum touch phones offer. Who knows what an App tomorrow might bring?


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Bloodthirsty gamer moonlighting as a movie buff.

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