Synaptics Lab Shows Why Capacitive Touch on the HTC PRO.Three or HD2 Will be Hot!


While I was in the San Francisco Bay Area for Mobilize 09 at the launch of the Motorola MOTO CLIQ, I was able to stop by the Synaptics lab to get a closer look at multi-touch technology, and in particular, capacitive touchscreen technology.

The HTC PRO.Three, otherwise known as the HTC HD2 or Leo, will be one of the first Windows Mobile devices with a capacitive touchscreen. However, HTC isn’t new to the capacitive touchscreen market. The Windows Mobile manufacturer also makes Google Android handsets, like the T-Mobile G1. In fact, Synaptics is a key partner to HTC, providing its multi-touch capacitive touchscreen technology on the HTC Hero.

Read on to find out how capacitive touchscreens have evolved and how HTC can lend a hand to shaping the user experience for Windows Mobile.

Synaptics is a household name when people think of laptop trackpads and touchpads, but they are more ubiquitous than you’d think, appearing on televisions via touch sensitive TV controls, monitors, phones like the LG Chocolate, the Logitech Harmony remote control, and a number of other devices. I was privileged to see a number of devices at the Synaptics Demo Room in Santa Clara, California, but we’re going to focus on the mobile space, and here are some ways that Synaptics is changing this space:

Ten-Finger Input:

Many Windows Mobile users may look to the iPhone with envy with two-finger gestures, like pinch and zoom. What you don’t know is that Synaptics’ latest 3000 series capacitive touchscreens support up to ten fingers of input. At the Demo Room, Synaptics demoed its concept for multi-finger inputs, though the possibilities are endless. Check the video below to find out more!

I apologize for the poor video quality. I had borrowed a camera from a friend, which was charged the night before, but the battery didn’t hold its charge.

Crumple, erase, pinch and zoom, rotate, piano, and multi-player gaming on a single device are a few possibilities. The multi-finger support also is said to minimize typing errors for fast mobile typists. Other applications may be to tap five fingers on the screen to bring up additional commands or show some additional menu layers–which would be beneficial to Windows Mobile users as we know there are layers of menus on the OS.

Durable Solid State Technology:

Compared to resistive touchscreens, which requires two layers (you press on the screen and the layers touch each other and registers your input this way), capacitive touchscreen is one solid display, meaning it’s a bit more solid. Additionally, like the iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm, manufacturers can place a glass overlay on top of the touchscreen. Synaptics’ technology has its advantage here as it is seen as more compact and comes as a solution ready for developers and manufacturers to embed and select which components or gestures to support on their devices.

Additionally, the touchscreen sensors can even extend below the screen or be embedded into buttons. An example of this would be the Palm Pre and how the gesture area extends below the screen. Another possibility for this would be having the touchscreen and the zoom bar slider with the hash marks on the Touch Pro2 be one whole sensor–maybe even the buttons can be capacitive touch as well.

Other Applications:

Synaptics will be enabling a whole new way to interact with your devices with up to ten fingers for input and display sizes up to eight inches, which could power small tablets, mobile internet devices (MID), personal media players (PMP), smartphones, and more. With Windows Mobile many contextual menu layers, the possibility will be there for easy access and control of the device. Let’s hope that Microsoft will natively support capacitive touchscreens in future iteration of the mobile OS.

The possibilities are really endless for developers and for device manufacturers. Windows Mobile always boasted a variety of form factors,and with capacitive touch, the form factors can also grow. Manufacturers can also embed capacitive touch capabilities on keyboards and keypads. The advantage for having a touchpad elsewhere is that users won’t be obstructing the screen while trying to control various things on the phone.

Although Synaptics demoed that on an LG Clear feature phone, a similar capability was found in the HP iPAQ 610 Windows Mobile phone. This will open up more form factors and more ways for users to interact with their devices.

Many thanks to Robyn Palmer at Synaptics and Tara Yingst for making this demo possible.

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Chuong Nguyen