hand touching a smartphone screen on blue background

Types, advantages, and disadvantages of touchscreen

The touchscreen also known as a touch panel or touch monitor are devices that help the computer user to give command using direct touch. Touchscreen monitors are part of most of today’s modern computing devices. They are usually made up of sensors, controllers, and software that are used to coordinate and detect when the panel has been touched and interpret it appropriately.

The main types of touchscreen monitors are resistive, capacitive, surface acoustic wave, and infrared imaging. These touch panels are used in many areas such as smartphones, laptops, car radios, ATMs, and system control panels, among many other places. Their main benefits are that they make user interaction more user-friendly and eliminate the need for a physical keyboard and mouse.

Types of touchscreen monitors

Touchscreen monitor technologies come in different forms but all are used to achieve the same objective of giving a user a simple way to interact with the device. For other types of computer monitors, you can read a comprehensive article here. Below we discuss some of the most common touch panel technologies that are in use today.

Resistive touchscreen monitor

These are the most basic types of panels and they use pressure on the surface to detect the touch point. They are made up of 2 thin metallic layers and a gap in between. When the user presses the layer makes contact which creates electrical flow hence the point is detected. They can be touched by any object that can exact pressure on the surface.

They are the cheapest technology to develop and they also consume less power compared to others. However, they have low image clarity and are more susceptible to scratching compared to other technologies. Resistive touch panels don’t support multi-touch

Capacitive touchscreen panel

The panel is made up of an electrode layer. When the user touches a specific point it reacts to the electrical static charge where some charge moves to the finger. This decrease in capacitive at that point and it detected as a touch.

These screens can only be used by human touch or a stylus pen with an electrical charge. They have better image clarity than resistive are more durable and offer high scratch resistance than resistive screens. 

There are 2 types of capacitive panels, surface capacitive and projected capacitive. Their operation is almost the same but the projected capacitive can be touched even when the user is wearing thin gloves and they support multi-touch.

Surface acoustic waves

The screen creates an ultrasonic wave which when disrupted is sensed as a touch. The panel is made of a piezoelectric transducer which when touched creates a wave disruption. They are water and scratch resistance and have excellent image clarity. The touch can be done by finger, stylus, or even with gloved hands.

Infrared imaging technology

These touchscreens are made up of infrared emitter and receivers which create a grid of invisible light under the panel. When the user touches the panel they interrupt the light beam which is recorded as a touch by sensors. They use only one screen and not an overlap of two which makes the image clarity the best among all the touchscreen technologies.

They are more susceptible to interference by dust buildup, they are sensitive to water, and light interference and they are more expensive than others.

Advantages of touchscreen monitors

  1. The multi-touch screen enables zoom and drags among others. Screens that support multiple touch positions simultaneously can be used to zoom or drag and drop them from one location to another.
  2. They are simple to learn how to use. Most users of the touchscreen are self-learning. This is because the screen is simple to use for all levels of users.
  3. Since no physical keyboard is to be included manufacturer can have a bigger screen.
  4. Touchscreens offer an improved user experience when compare with traditional interfaces such as physical keyboards, mice, and monitors.
  5. Touchscreen combines the functionality of a mouse, keyboard, and monitor into one. This makes it easy to access the 3 device functionality at one point. 
  6. It saves time to operate the touchscreen since its functionalities are combined.

Disadvantages of touchscreen

  1. It is hard to operate when the interface uses small icons. Users may click on the wrong part of the icon or give the wrong command.
  2. When dealing with huge data entry touchscreens are not the best since it takes longer to key in data compared to using the physical keyboard.
  3. When using a wireless mouse and keyboard user can operate the device from a distance while with touch you need to be close enough to reach the screen to give commands.
  4. For devices like smartphones, you may have unintended touch maybe when you put your phone in your pocket. This means you give an unintended command.
  5. A touch screen can get dirty and they require regular cleaning to ensure they operate optimally.
  6. Touchscreens that many users use may become unhygienic specifically during this time of COVID-19, examples of biometric user authentication systems that use touchscreens and interfaces.

Application area of touch screen monitors

Touch screen radio.

These are types of radios that are mostly used in modern cars. They still use the above types of touchscreen technologies to allow users to interface with the device. Most come with both buttons and touchscreen capabilities. They have FM radio and other frequencies available. Other than just being a radio they are also used for other functions.

Functions of touch screen radio on cars.

Other than just being a touch screen radio they can be used for other functions such as

  1. A touch screen can be connected to a back camera that can be used when reversing your car.
  2. Touchscreen radios can have an inbuilt GPS that can be to display a navigation system for the driver.
  3. Some types of modern touchscreen car radios can be connected to the smartphone and are used to receive calls when driving.

Smartphones screen

These are the primary type of devices that uses a touchscreen as the main human interface. Today all modern smartphone uses one or another kind of touch-sensitive screen.

Desktop computer and laptop screen

Apple desktop computers are the main user of touch screens. However other laptop manufacturers such as Chromebook are designing new devices that have touchscreen monitors.

Restaurant ordering system

When you visit a restaurant the waiter may use the touch display to enter your request and print a receipt. Some restaurants have even gone a step further and included an ordering system at each table where customers can do self-ordering.

Smart home and  appliances displays

Smart home display system uses the touch screen. Home appliances like refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines among others use touch displays.

System control panels

In the industry setup control panels can have a touchscreen to monitor and control the system. They can be used to control both electrical and mechanical systems.

Point of sale system (POS)

Retail shops are not left behind and they are also incorporating touch displays in their business.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs)

Banks are using touchscreen displays to help users operate ATMs.

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