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7 Different Types of Touch Screen Technology

Closeup view of a man pointing finger to screen.

There are many different types of touch screen technology used in smartphones, tablets and other devices. While most people are familiar with the capacitive touchscreen technology used on the iPhone and iPad, there are several other types of touch screen technology that are used in these devices.

1. Capacitive touch screen

The capacitive touchscreen is the most commonly used type of touch screen technology. It uses a transparent conductor to create a grid of electrical charges. When your finger or stylus comes into contact with the display, it disrupts this charge grid and sends a signal to the device’s processor.

The processor then translates this information into an action such as touching an icon or clicking on an item in an email. This type of technology works best when you’re using your finger because it has moisture that helps conduct electricity through your skin.

However, if you use anything other than your finger for inputting data, it may not work as well because it doesn’t have enough moisture for the display to properly detect its position on the screen.

2. Resistive touch screen 

Closeup of a hand typing on the screen of the gadget.

This type of screen uses pressure to register a touch on the screen. There is no need for special gloves or other tools to use this type of screen. However, moisture and dust can interfere with its ability to work properly.

This type of touchscreen may not be as accurate as others because there is less room for error when using it due to the nature of the technology behind the resistive touchscreen itself.

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3. 5-wire resistive touch screens

The 5-wire resistive touch screen is the most popular and widely used type of touch screen. It has become the standard for many applications, including kiosks and point-of-sale systems. The 5-wire technology provides a high level of accuracy and reliability, as well as durability over time.

The 5 wires create two separate paths for each finger or stylus that is pressed against the surface of the screen. When you press down on one side of the screen, it closes the circuit between two wires (one from each side). This causes an electrical charge to flow through your finger into the screen and back out again through another wire on the opposite side.

The controller board can measure the amount of current flowing through each path, which tells it how hard you’re pressing down on each side of the screen.

4. Surface Capacitive Touch Screens

Close up shot of tablet pencil in a wooden background.

Surface capacitive touch screens are touch screen displays that respond to the presence of a human finger. This type of screen is often used in portable electronic devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.

Surface capacitive touch screens are made up of a number of layers. At the top is an insulator layer, which helps to prevent electrical current from flowing through the glass and damaging the underlying circuitry. Beneath this is a conductive layer, which consists of two electrodes separated by an insulating layer with a small gap between them.

A layer of liquid crystal molecules sits between the two electrodes. When an electrical charge passes through one electrode, it interrupts the alignment of the liquid crystal molecules across its surface.

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When this happens, light is scattered in all directions and cannot be seen by a viewer looking at the display face-on. When no charge is applied to either electrode, however, light passes straight through unimpeded because the liquid crystals line up perfectly with both electrodes at once and do not scatter it at all.

5. Projected Capacitive (P-Cap) Touch Screens

A controlling temperature in the living room with a digital touch screen.

Projected capacitive (P-Cap) touch screens are the most common type of touchscreen in use today. P-Cap touch screens simply use a transparent layer of glass or plastic that is coated with conductive material to create a grid. A small array of electrodes is then placed behind the display panel and connected to a controller board inside the device.

When you touch an area on the surface of the screen, it discharges a specific set of electrodes and sends that information back to the controller chip. The controller then registers where your finger is on the screen and relays this information to whatever application you’re using.

P-Cap touch screens are extremely responsive, but they do have some limitations. Because they rely on light from the display panel shining through them, they can be less effective when used outdoors or in bright light conditions. They also have limited resolution because they only have one layer of electrodes, whereas active matrix displays have multiple layers that can be addressed individually at any given time.

6. SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) Touch Screens

A woman touching the screen of self service device in the store.

SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) touch screens are a type of touch screen technology that is used in many devices, including smartphones, tablets and computers. They are different from capacitive touchscreen displays because they use sound waves that are sent through the surface of the screen.

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How SAW Touch Screens Work?

SAW touch screens work by sending sound waves through the surface of the screen. These waves bounce off objects placed on top of the screen and return to a sensor at the bottom of the device. The sensor then translates this information into coordinates for each object on the screen.

This allows you to move your finger along with an object on-screen, such as a cursor or item in an app, without physically touching it.

SAW Touch Screens vs Capacitive Touch Screens

SAW touch screens offer several advantages over traditional capacitive touchscreen displays:

They are much more durable than traditional glass screens due to their construction materials (ceramic or sapphire).

They allow for thinner devices thanks to their ability to read signals through thin sheets of glass or plastic rather than having to press directly against them like capacitive touchscreen displays do.

7. IR (Infrared) Touch Screens

A camera that detects the infrared light.

Infrared touch screens are an alternative to standard touchscreen technology. Infrared touch screens use a camera that detects the infrared light emitted by your finger on the screen to determine where you’ve touched. This allows for more precise gesture recognition, which is important for applications like gaming and medical devices.

Infrared touch technology has been around since the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until recently that it became affordable enough for mass consumption. Nowadays, you can find IR touch screens on smartphones, tablets, and even laptops, such as the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

How does IR touch work?

In order to understand how the IR touch works, you first need to know how regular touchscreen displays work. Regular touchscreen displays use LED lights behind the screen to detect when a finger has touched down on it. The display then sends voltage through each row of LEDs so that they create an electrical field between them — this causes any object (like a person’s finger) that disrupts that field to conduct electricity back into the display’s controller board and send data about where on the screen you touched.

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The history of touch screens

Closeup view of hand touching touch screen.

Touch screens are not a new invention. In fact, touch technology has been around for quite some time.

Touch screen technology was first developed by E Ink Corporation in 1997 and was used to create electronic paper displays (EPDs). By 2000, E Ink had produced its first color display and by 2005, it had made it possible for smartphone manufacturers to include color displays on their devices without compromising battery life or performance.

These days, touch screen displays are found everywhere from ATMs to digital clocks and even some household appliances like washing machines. Touch screen technology is also found inside our smartphones, tablets and smartwatches – but where did it all begin?

The history of touch screens in mobile phones began with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 by Apple Inc. Since then, smartphone manufacturers have been trying to outdo each other by releasing smartphones with bigger screens and higher resolutions than ever before.

Popular companies that produce touch screen products

Apple

A photo of iPhone 12 Pro New model smartphone from apple.

Apple has been in the business of touch screen products for quite some time now. The company started with the iPhone and has since moved on to create other products like the iPad, MacBook Pro and Apple Watch.

Samsung

Samsung is another company that’s known for producing a wide range of touch screen products. The company is known for its large phones, but it also produces other types of devices such as tablets, laptops and televisions.

Google

The search engine giant Google has been making touch screen devices since 2010 when it launched its first Chromebook laptop. Since then, Google has continued to develop more products, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and even TVs.

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Sony

A flat-screen TV set displaying logo of sony.

Sony Corporation offers a number of electronic products like televisions, cameras, music players, laptops, computer software and mobile phones. The company also manufactures touch screen monitors for computers.

Microsoft

Microsoft makes a range of Windows computers that come with touchscreens built in. It also has its own line of Windows phones that use touchscreens instead of keypads.

BlackBerry

BlackBerry was once a major player in the smartphone market but has struggled in recent years due to competition from Apple, Google and Samsung. Its last remaining product is the Passport phone, which has a square display rather than rounded edges like most other phones do today.

How are touch screens made?

Three different touch screens in one photo.

Touch screens are made up of several layers.

One of the most common types of touch screen is the LCD (liquid crystal display) touchscreen, which uses a liquid crystal layer sandwiched between two layers of glass. The glass is coated with indium tin oxide (ITO), which acts as a conductor, allowing electricity to flow through it.

Below the ITO coating is a transparent conductive layer that allows electricity to pass through. When an electrical current flows through this layer, it creates an electrostatic field around the entire panel and distorts the orientation of the liquid crystals.

When this happens, light cannot pass through the panel and it appears black when viewed from above. The final layer is made up of electrodes, which are used to detect touch input from a finger or stylus. Each electrode is connected to an individual capacitor on the circuit board beneath it.

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When you touch your finger onto one of these electrodes, it disrupts the electrostatic field generated by all other electrodes on that row or column on the screen and allows light to pass through that area again — in other words, it lights up that particular part of the screen.

Which touch screen technology is best?

Closeup photo of finger touching screen on tablet-pc.

The answer to that question depends on what you need your touch screen to do. Here’s how it breaks down.

Resistive touch screens are the most traditional type of touchscreen. They’re made of two layers of conductive material, with one layer slightly raised above the other. When you press on a resistive touchscreen, your finger makes contact with both layers and completes an electrical circuit.

Resistive touchscreens are cheap and easy to manufacture, which is why they’re used in most basic smartphones and tablets today. Capacitive touchscreens work by sensing your finger’s electrical field instead of its mechanical pressure.

When you put a finger on a capacitive touchscreen, it sends out an electrical charge that can sense when your fingertip is there and when it isn’t. Capacitive screens are more responsive than resistive ones because they don’t require any physical pressure from the user — just make sure that you’re not wearing any metal jewelry or clothing when you plan on using one!

Surface acoustic wave (SAW) touchscreens – these are similar to capacitive but use ultrasonic waves rather than electrical fields to detect when you’re touching them. SAW screens have higher accuracy than capacitive but aren’t as durable as they can be damaged by scratches and fingerprints.

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What are some current touch screen trends?

A hand holding smartphone with fingerprint scanner in the screen.

From fingerprint sensors to eye tracking, here are some of the key trends in touch screen technology.

Touch Sensitivity: Touchscreen sensitivity is a major factor in how well the screen works, and different technologies can be used to enhance this. For example, capacitive touch screens use electrical charges rather than physical pressure to detect touch, which means they work from any angle and don’t require you to press down on them.

Fingerprint Sensors: Touchscreens are often used for security purposes, so it makes sense that manufacturers would want their screens to be able to identify users by their fingerprints. Fingerprint sensors have been around since 2011 but have only recently become a common feature on smartphones.

Eye Tracking Software: Eye tracking software uses eye-tracking cameras built into devices to know where you’re looking on a page or screen. It’s not yet available in many consumer devices, but it has been used by professionals in areas such as design and advertising for years.

Wider Screens: Wider screens are becoming more popular because they allow for more information to be displayed on the screen at once. This makes it easier for users to navigate through their phones and find what they need quickly and easily. People who are interested in buying new phones may want to consider getting phones with wider screens if they want something that will make their lives easier while they’re using their phones!

What is the future of touch screen technology?

A smartphone comes with in-display fingerprint sensor.

Touchscreens are here to stay, but where will they go from here? Here are some of the ways you can expect touchscreen technology to change in the years ahead:

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Better Touchscreen Sensors: We’ve seen a lot of innovation when it comes to touch screen sensors over the past few years, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. These sensors need to be faster and more accurate so that they can detect even the slightest touch on the screen.

The faster they respond and the more accurate they are, the easier it will be to use your device without having to worry about accidentally touching something you don’t mean to touch or opening an app when you just wanted to scroll through your newsfeed.

Innovative designs: Touch screens are continuously being innovated upon by manufacturers so that they become more versatile and easier-to-use than ever before! 

More human in nature: Touch screen technology could begin to take on more humanistic traits as well. This means that interactions may become more natural and less robotic than they are now. For example, if you were shopping online for clothes, you’d be able to ask the website questions about different items and get answers about them from a person instead of having to look through everything yourself.