Creative design and enhancements to the user interface has changed the look and feel of mobile phones. As a result, touchscreens can claim as much credit for the booming success of smartphones as can 3G data speeds.
Since the launch of the Apple iPhone, smartphones with touchscreens have gone from 7 percent of the total smartphone volume in 2006 to 75 percent in 2010.
They were a key driver to the smartphone market growing more than 325 percent over that period. During the next five years, touchscreens will be as pervasive in smartphones as Wi-Fi chipsets are today -- reaching 97 percent of all smartphones by 2016.
The screen is the point of fulfillment for all that a mobile device promises to deliver to its user, so there is little surprise in the impact it can have on its success.
However, it was the evolution of screen and touch technologies that triggered the market's rapid growth. The more economical resistive touch technology has been almost universally replaced in smartphones with the more elegant projected capacitive technology that was first introduced in mobile phones through the iPhone.
Screen and touch technologies continue to evolve and are starting to reshape the markets for other classes of mobile devices.
"Low-cost capacitive touch controllers that use just a single layer of sensors instead of two, and save as much as 30 percent on the cost, are opening the market for lower-end feature phones," says Kevin Burden, vice president, mobile devices at ABI Research.
Moreover, eReaders -- which are the most fragmented device category in both display and touch technology -- now have options that enable finger touch and are at a cost that could standardize the segment's displays.