back to article More than half of touchphone users will go back to buttons

World+Dog wants a touchscreen phone, survey results from market watcher Canalys suggest, but vendors still have work to do to prevent users going back to buttons. According to Canalys' figures, 38 per cent of some 3000 mobile phone users questioned in the UK, France and Germany said their next phone will have a finger-oriented …


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  1. AC 4
    Thumb Down


    sample size of just 3,000 for 3 countries? Yeah that's going to give very accurate results.

    In similar news, 100% of El Reg commentards (sample of 1) think touchscreen nokias are awesome and will not revert back to buttons

  2. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Not very useful

    Unless they break it down into which handsets disappointed people then how are they going to determine if it is the touch screen or the implementation that is to blame?

    There are many generic touchscreen phones that are pretty awful and are just jumping on the bandwagon. Some aren't capacitive touch screens and so are useless when used with fingers.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want both!

    Keyboards are good for some tasks, touchscreens are good for some tasks and, to extend into the PC world, mice are good for some tasks.

    Give me all the options and I'll work out how to use them.

  4. Filippo Silver badge


    ...mostly suck. Especially for fast typing, even the best touchscreen can't compare to a mediocre keyboard. Besides the fact that most touchscreen can't detect a press with anywhere close to the reliability of a physical button, tactile feedback is essential for quick typing. I'm going to stick with keypads for the time being.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's because

    Most touch screen phones are un-responsive because the carriers <cough>Orange<cough> put on badly optimised interface skins containing large large detailed graphics that the processors struggle with because it's a low power CPU that sacrifices speed for battery life.

  6. Aortic Aneurysm

    or have both?

    I currently use the Samsung tocco ultra touch, which has both touchscreen AND keypad options. I use both equally as much.

  7. N2


    Oh God, I remember them, those horrid little blimps that you can never quite see properly all squashed in so you can have a screen as big as a match box....

    Please no, no, not buttons, aaagh!

  8. Number6


    While I miss my old P800 with the handwriting recognition (great for sending texts and emails), a modern phone with a decent keyboard wins every time compared to the iPhone and various HTC WinMo touchscreen phones I've tried. None of those lasted more than the short evaluation period.

  9. dave hands
    Jobs Halo

    touch screens

    I had a Samsung Tocca Lite - it was hideous. The screen scrolling didn't work, menus were very hard to get through.

    I have an iPhone - it works beautifully. It is a delight to use.

    All these phone companies saw the iPhone and thought - "let's copy it" and they did it badly. They would have been better off saying "wow, let's go into a different area of the market". Competing against Apple, especially against a product as strong as the iPhone, is a mugs game.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Touchscreen - the essential problem

    Is that they are made for people with small or just about average sized digits of the person trying to operate them. Just like Sony Camera.

    Yep, I've got very big hands and my fingers are, well shall we say large in size. Operating a touch screen device designed for midget is very very frustrating.

    So, its back to buttons for me thank you very much.

    Mines the one with "gorilla" on the back

  11. Neil 6

    The Iphone... nice, but you can't beat the keyboard on the HTC Touch Pro 2.

  12. Ross 7

    Touch is ok

    I eventually gave up on my K500i a couple of months ago as the joystick thing was getting dodgy (understandably) and got an LG KP500 "Cookie". Cheap as chips but the touch screen thing seems ok to be honest. Capacative would have been a nice improvement but for the money you can't complain. Oh, and a battery that wasn't designed to be used in a Casio watch...

    I guess like all such things it comes down to UI. Once you make it more like a PC experience ppl expect more. I personally dislike the iPhone on the grounds it's the size of a shoe box (and I ain't paying a grand for a phone for 18 months*), but the UI is pretty nice from what I've seen. The Nokia 5800 (?) seems to be quite nice as well.

    The main attraction is probably the screen size. All that shiney looks nice, and finally makes web browsing (almost) bearable. Touch screen also makes it far more PC-esque than half a dozen keys.


    *until we get hyper inflation in 6-10 months of course. I should start shorting the £ now...

  13. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


    ... used to have it right, but threw it away when they dropped Graffiti on the Treo, and opted for a keyboard.

    I put an addon back on my 650 that allowed quick relatively accurate use of a stylus for texts, mails and notes, but I could not quite get the hang of Graffiti 2, especially when trying to follow a letter l with a space (comes out as a "t"). Used to wear the screen, though, so screen protectors were a must.

    Putting a keyboard on the Pre and Pixie is a definite retrograde step. I'm sure that there must be a market for an Graffiti addon plus a useful case with space for a stylus, or possibly a purely screen based Pre.

    Why Palm did not graft a phone onto a Tungsten T5 or TX I don't know. Would have been a progressive and very desirable product years before the iPhone.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What has it taken so long to figure this out?

    And this is news?

    Anyone that's worked in the military field, or in aviation has known for donkeys years that touch screens are completely cr*p.

    There's a reason why they won't use them in aircraft in the cockpit! It's a basic part of the man-machine interface, ergonmics is critically important.

    Nothing gets used in military fighter aircraft unless it's been thoroughly evaluated by test pilots, at what used to be the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Bedford or Farnborough, or the Aircraft and Arnament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down, all now subsumed into Quinetiq. And this has been going on since the 1980's, if not longer.

    TomTom satnavs are a classic example of how not to design an interface. Sure, the menu structure is quite good, but why no multi-function buttons around the side of the screen?

    It never ceases to amaze me how companies such as TomTom, designing a product where the MMI is absolutely key, simply not understanding the basics.

  15. Rusk

    some good some bad..

    I had a LG Viewty and the touchscreen was the worst I have used. After using that I was one of those people who swore I would always stick with buttons in the future.

    I now have a iPhone and the screen is beautiful. I can text and email very quickly and the functionality of a touch screen when zooming into pics and things is great. So now I am a touchscreen fan again.

    Unless this survey also takes into account the type of device then it is pointless.

  16. Obvious Robert

    Best of both

    I currently have a G1, and while it's been superceded in the Android world by the likes of the HTC Hero with it's flashy Sense UI, I could never consider 'upgrading' until there's another Android phone with a hardware keyboard to match the G1's. I love the touchscreen for general interaction with the UI, making selections, scrolling etc, and I'm happy using the on screen keyboard for small strings of text like entering url's and searches, but anything beyond a couple of sentences and I revert to the hardware keyboard. It's so much faster and easier. After my experience with the G1, my next phone will have three definite features: Capacitive touchscreen; Hardware qwerty keyboard; and Android OS. I'll just be looking for some more RAM, a faster processor and maybe some of that flashy HTC Sense next time.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Button design flaws

    It's half dozen of one, half dozen of the other.

    Button based phones are not all created equal - there's some right duffers out there.

    Therefore, it stands to reason, that the same will apply to Touch screen interfaces.

    It's the subtleties of design which make the difference - that design *has* to consider previous user experience on other handsets and user experience in general.

    Apple have arguably done the best so far, with the exception of the operator exclusivity deals and the cost.

    Touchscreens on mobiles have been around for years, but it's only now the technology is starting to make it a solution as viable as a series of buttons.

    When it works right, the benefits significantly outweigh an entirely button based interface, simply because the screen displayed representation of buttons change to suit the application.

  18. Ed

    As everyone else says...

    It depends on the phone - I tried out my sister's LG something phone and the screen was apauling - you had to press it pretty hard, and the responsiveness was awful. She tried out my iPhone and was amazed how smooth it was! All the other touch screens I've used - those kiosk CRT ones museums (used to?) have and the ones in stations are frustrating and unresponsive. How this is down to software I don't know!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get a HTC Touch Diamond II

    I previously had a HTC Touch (1st gen) and found the touch screen input rather miserable... however I did appreciate the decently large screen and smaller size factor, both pro's vs resp. a phone with buttons at the bottom and phones with slide-out keyboards. The prior are pretty crap too for input, while the latter simply don't work for those of us who don't show up to work in baggy pants (or simply don't mind the 'are you happy to see me' comments) but like to keep their phone close. There is obviously also the lower price compared to full keyboard equiped smartphones.

    So I decided to stick with touchscreen when I switched over to a HTC Touch Diamond II. Now this phone is brilliant, based on this I would never want anything with a physical keyboard again. The key differences are a) the TouchFlo interface which is very much optimized for 'finger usage' (very rarely even need a stylus, in fact only in 'native' WinMobile applications) but more importantly, b) the impressive haptic feedback. The latter really makes the difference - a touch keyboard that doesn't physically let you know that your inputs hit home really doesn't work.

    Conclusion: touch, if well implemented, is the future for most of us. And those who really type so much as to need a physical keyboard, would probably be better off with a mini-laptop.

  20. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Agreed w/ Rota

    I agree w/ RotaCyclic. Well, I haven't worked in the military, but it's true -- you can make a pretty nice touch screen, but buttons (at least for the common functions) will win out every time. Double agreed on the TomTom -- my mom's got one and it's nice, but it'd be faster and easier to have at least a choice of using a couple buttons to go through the menus than it is to touch what you want to do.

    It's MUCH easier to type on a keyboard (even the miniature phone ones..) than it is to type by hitting buttons on a touch screen. The newer ones have feedback to tell you when it thinks you've hit a key, but that doesn't help telling WHICH key you've hit -- it IS possible to touch type on a phone with a keyboard to some extent, it's strictly impossible with a touch screen keyboard.

    Fail, because that's what touch screen keyboards are.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Not me!

    Had an SE P1i for the past two years, and I HATE having to borrow anyone else's phones as I keep prodding the screen to do anything! Touch is just so much more natural than navigating with wheels, buttons, joysticks, etc. Of course the P1i *does* also have a real keyboard for when you need to type a lot/fast.

    My network recently gave me a Nokia E63 as a free upgrade (the P1i is unlocked), and I hate it! Not 'cos it's bad, but because it doesn't have a touchscreen, which is just back to the Dark Ages.

    Touch *IS* a much more natural interface, akin to using a mouse (or trackpad) instead of cursors.

  22. Catherine Keynes

    Touch is so 2009

    I said as much back in August:

  23. Bruce Ordway

    Why use phones anyway?

    I'm still trying to figure out why people put up with cell phones anyway.

    I just don't get the appeal of overpriced poorly designed gadgets.

    I dumped my cell phone a long time ago & I've never missed it.

    I keep an "emergency only" phone in my glove box just in case.

    Maybe it is an advantage to be connected.

    I think we may instead be reaching a point where we can't get anything done because of all the connection time.

  24. Mike 61

    sidekick lx2009

    If I want a touch screen I use my palm TX (it will talk to all of my phones), but my sidekick just rocks, unlimited data and text on a PAYG phone, the cool switchblade action, and button layout that works for the fattest of fingers ;)

  25. Petrea Mitchell

    They still have styli?

    I'm still using a really ancient Palm device because I haven't been able to find something up-to-date that still uses a stylus. Yet this survey strongly implies that there are still a significant enough number of stylus-based devices out there to ask about them. Someone tell me what those are?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    survey accurate for a change

    I had a touch screen device that was not very impressive, i currently have a button device that is rudimentary which means my carrier is constantly trying to get me to upgrade.

    I am in no rush to move to touch only based on past experience, so although i may get an iphone at some point in the future, i am in no rush... my patience has already brought 3g to iphones which was a basic requirement in europe and arrogant of apple to have missed on the original.

    By the time i get around to maybe getting an iphone, i expect the touch interface to be perfect, anything less will mean buttons probably for a few years more.

  27. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    And here's my own spot survey results!

    This afternoon's meeting involved nine people from four companies all with company phones. On display were eight Blackberrys and a lone iPhone (yes, a 3Gs as a company phone!!). The BBs were all keyboard models (9700, 9000 and an 8520, not a Storm in sight) and their owners all had that crackberry email twitch whenever they saw an email alert on screen. I'm guessing that if I asked any of those BB users to give up their keyboards and try emailing by touchscreen then they would look at me with horror. I personally have perfected the Max Schreck claws of the confirmed crackberry addict and I'm not sure I could reach even half the typing speed on a touchscreen device, not unless it had a slide-out keyboard like the HTC TyTN 2 so I could get the best of both worlds. An iPhone slider would also make an interesting device if it could securely synch with RIM's BES.

  28. Robert E A Harvey
    Paris Hilton


    Why do we keep going round in circles like this?

    The phone I want would be 100% voice operated for most things, and would use it's camera to watch me touch typing on the table top for creating documents.

    I don't care about touch screens or buttons - when am I going to be able to get DAB radio on it? or stream BBC radio 4 Long Wave by wifi, at least?

    stop tiddling about - innovate. Or at least put the SDHC slot on the outside so you don't have to take the battery out to change it.

    Paris, cos she doesn't care about being touched either.

  29. Neoc

    Happy with touch-screen

    Started with a Sony/Ericsson P800 and it wasn't bad (removed the detachable numeric pad, used the screen only). Then S/E screwed it up with the P900.

    Moved to a HTC Hermes with a slide-away keyboard. Didn't mind it, the keyboard was OK, but I found myself using it less and less as I became used to the on-screen keyboard. (yes, I do have thick fingers as well).

    I have now upgrade to a HTC Touch HD and layered SPB Shell on top, no keyboard, and as for going back to a physical keyboard "the thought hadn't even begun to consider the possibility of crossing my mind".

    Of course, YMMV.

  30. CitizenErazed

    Use something good, and change your mind.

    Having used a HTC Hero, I doubt I'd ever use another non-touchscreen phone. However, had my first touchscreen phone been a Blackberry Storm or something similar, I'd be swearing off touchscreen as the sign of the devil. A cheap or badly designed touchscreen is almost no touchscreen at all - I'm thinking of the ones they put on ticket machines in National Rail stations, which are awful to use and massively unresponsive. Oh, and the one on my old TomTom One - shocking to use, you have to /really/ push down hard on the screen and one day I'm sure I'm going to put a finger through it.

    But the new generation of screens are wonderful, and when backed up by proper haptic feedback and software designed to take advantage of it (IE, not Symbian) they're almost as good as a physical keyboard, with the added bonus of changeable key layouts for different apps (Example, the Hero's layout changes slightly on e-mail entry boxes in the web-browser, giving you @ and .com as seperate keys) and loads more screen real estate, which makes web-browsing a much nicer experience.

  31. Il Midga di Macaroni
    Thumb Up

    Obvious Robert has it!

    Obvious Robert is correct. A physical keyboard is much faster to type on than a touchscreen keyboard, but for navigation and stuff a touchscreen can be very effective.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A must for ex-pats

    Living in France it took me two weeks to receive a Blackberry with a QWERTY keyboard from my local dealer. Thirty seconds to re-configure a French iPhone to Qwerty.

  33. Tim Cook

    Brand preference??

    "Apple and HTC both had much larger numbers of users who who said they will remain loyal to touchscreen technology, Canalys noted, though we wonder whether that's more to do with brand preference than favouring touchscreens, especially in Apple's case."

    Really? Do you really wonder whether that's down to brand preference, or do you not suppose it might just be because Apple's touchscreen experience is generally better than the competition's?

    I've worked my way through five touchscreen phones since my first in 2002, I still obsessively play around with all the new demo phones in shops now, and I've never come across a touchscreen phone or UI that's as consistently fast, intuitive, and responsive as the iPhone. It's head and shoulders above the nearest competition even now, as far as I can see, and we're now two years on from its introduction.

    I played around on a Palm Pre the other day - three of them in fact, just to make sure I hadn't just happened across a "bad" one - and as nice as everything looked on screen, the whole thing became a janky, jerky, unintuitive mess as soon as you actually tried to touch anything or perform any function. As hard as they've tried to ape the iPhone, they've simply created the polar opposite, in all the worst ways possible. I'm not pleased about that at all, Apple need some decent competiton, but it's not come about yet - and if that means they get to benefit from their user's "brand preference" next time around then who exactly is to blame for that?

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Re: What has it taken so long to figure this out?

    > TomTom satnavs are a classic example of how not to

    > design an interface. Sure, the menu structure is

    > quite good, but why no multi-function buttons around

    > the side of the screen?

    AddButton() is cheaper for them to use than to actually add a physical button. These Tom Tom type gadgets are just cheap (well, grossly expensive) consumer shite, and if they did the design right then consumers won't throw them away in 18months to get the next model.

    But I agree with you - these touch screens are terrible design. They are especially bad in vehicles though, where things can move at a moments notice, meaning "pressing" the wrong thing is trivial.

  35. tiggertaebo


    I love a touchscreen for generally navigating around the phone but when it comes to text input IO really need a physical keypad. Hence I'm looking with some interest towards the N97mini which seems to offer the best of both worlds.

    I'll fully agree that the general slickness of the experience on the iPhone is one of (possibly the) best touchscreens I've ever used, not just on a phone but full stop - and having that same slickness is the reason why I want to pick up an iPod Touch rather than go for a larger capacity classic. Still fails the text input test for me though so as a phone its a non-starter even before I get to the other problems I have with the iPhone. Other touchscreens I've used have varied from being rather good to downright abysmal, and overall I would say that the poor ones have outnumbered the good so I'm not massively suprised by the results of this survey.

  36. Greg D

    the problem with most touchscreens

    is that they use resistive touch technology. While this allows for the option of a stylus, it really sucks for responsiveness and accuracy when using fingers.

    apple, and more recently HTC (magic, hero and hd2), are all using capacitive touch technology, which is why they are so much more responsive. you wont be able to use a stylus though, unless HTC can perfect their magnetic/capacitive touch hybrid thing they were working on.

  37. Campbeltonian

    Am I the only one...

    ...that can type faster on a touchscreen than a physical keyboard?

    All the physical QWERTY phones I've tried seem to make the assumption that because I can feel the keys, I will always be 100% accurate, which for me isn't true. I tend to miss keys, hit two at once, etc. If I owned a phone with a physical QWERTY keyboard, the backspace key would be the first one to wear out.

    I don't have any of these problems with my capacitive touchscreen phone because it's designed to deal with these problems, and because I'm typing on a flat surface that requires no pressure my fingers don't start to hurt after a few dozen words.

    I might yet become a luddite and return to the SE W350i that I have lying around (which I love despite its shortcomings), but I'll never ever go back to a physical QWERTY phone.

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