As the world slowly tuned into the benefits of capacitive displays over the last few years the main goal seemed to be attaining a handset fitted with one, but not all capacitive displays are equal...
Following up its earlier video last year, research company the Moto Development Group has been good enough to re-approach the topic of capacitive display performance from a scientific, lab-based perspective and discovered some extremely interesting things. Not least: Motorola capacitive screens really do leave something to be desired!
Put against one another were the BlackBerry Storm 2, iPhone 3GS, HTC Droid Eris, Motorola Droid (Milestone in Europe), Palm Pre and Google Nexus One. The test is explained in detail in the video above, but what we learn is that the iPhone remains streets ahead of the competition in being able to accurately recognise contact across the screen. This may well mean much of the credit which currently goes to the iPhone OS for its smooth performance could well be a hardware factor.
The Nexus One and Droid Eris were joint second (unsurprising given they are both made by HTC), the Pre showed slightly more inconsistencies and the Storm 2 some concerning inaccuracies. Most amusing, however, was the truly awful performance of Motorola's own Droid which not only failed to track motion across the screen with any real accuracy, but also even failed to detect contact at all in certain areas of the display.
The good news: Moto says it doesn't expect this high degree of touchscreen variation between handset manufacturers to continue in such dramatic form.
"Right now, capacitive touchscreens are a relatively new feature to appear in consumer electronics products," it concluded. "And as we’ve pointed out several times before, creating a seamless touchscreen experience is hard work that requires a high level of commitment to technology integration and interdisciplinary teamwork. Over time more brand-name manufacturers will acquire the expertise required to deliver excellent touchscreen products. We know for a fact that the solutions in these phones (other than the iPhone) are all last-generation silicon and touch panel components – the other touch screen makers are hard at work perfecting their new solutions, and they may just leapfrog Apple in some areas when they arrive on the market over the next year."
Ultimately, I think this report is extremely encouraging since many of the inconsistencies we see in capacitive touchscreen handset's performance today can be put down to hardware - a relatively simple fix - not core flaws in operating system code.
This is one battle which is going to heat up fast.