As much as some of us might dislike them, there’s one undeniable advantage to hardware-based buttons and keys, whether they’re dimples or keycaps or blisters or switches: most of the time, you can fee what you’re doing. So if you’ve ever tried using a touchscreen-enabled phone or other portable device and thought to yourself, "Gosh, this is awkward, I can’t feel what I’m doing!" then Samsung might have a solution for you.
Samsung‘s new SCH-W559 phone is a touchscreen-based mobile phone which offers tactile feedback in response to onscreen commands using Immersion‘s Vibetonzfeedback system. When users press onscreen buttons and controls with their fingers or a stylus, the phone emit tactile cues to provide feedback on the user’s actions. The phone offers five feedback profiles, helping users get the functionality they need by phones even in situations where screens are partially obscured by fingers or washed out by bright light and glare.
"Implementing keypad functions in a touchscreen has allowed Samsung to give its customers a first-class multimedia and messaging experience in a remarkably light and slim handset," said Hunbae Kim, Samsung VP, in a statement. "As the first to integrate VibeTonz technology for touchscreens, we’re giving users the reassuring sense of interacting with a real keypad, supplying gentle touch feedback that unmistakably confirms each of their actions. As far as advanced mobile interfaces go, it offers the best of both worlds."
The SCH-W559 operates on both CDMA and GSM networks, offers a 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth wireless networking, and handwriting recognition for its touchscreen display…but its currently being sold by China Telecom, and no date has been set for any sort of U.S. release. However, as screens expand and controls increasingly shift to touchscreen interfaces (a la the pending Apple iPhone) touch feedback technology may leap to Western markets in short order.
"We believe that market conditions are almost ripe for an explosion in touchscreen phones, and that by 2012 as many as 40 percent of mobile phones could be using some form of touch sensitive technology," said Stuart Robinson, director of the Handset Component Technologies service at global research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics,. "The integration of any technology that improves ease of use will be important for market adoption, and Immersion’s VibeTonz technology certainly fits that description."