Touch is great thing, suddenly you can touch, tap, double tap, flick, pinch and stretch to manipulate virtual object. It really revamped the whole mobile business mainly with the release of the iPhone and the capacitive touch screens, used in most smartphones today. But also in the stuff using infrared matrix screens like the Neonode back in 2004 that had quite good gesture control but never took off.
But let the touch stay there in a virtual interface on the screen. We all know and love what we got there. But if you have a real physical nice button DON'T MAKE IT A TOUCH BUTTON. Physical buttons should stay physical, a touch button is actually just an approximation to the real thing. That was cool in the 80-ties. If you really, really, can't help yourself, at least keep them safe from accidental touch. I’ll give you some example from bad to worse …
The new XBOX 360
This device uses touch to open the tray door and for the on/off switch. Its not a big problem here, the XBOX isn’t moved around much and mostly you don’t touch it by accident. But sometimes, you need to move it. I have it hidden away and I was opening the doors and accidently opened the tray. The sound it made when it hit the wall wasn’t too pleasing but it survived.
This one is even more annoying. The buttons are placed close to where you normally would have physical buttons and it works well when you and navigate them. But there are a few occasions… If you accidentally cover them they start to do all sorts of crazy stuff until the stove, as a security feature, shut down totally. Also, when you have a big handle cover one panel it reacts, suddenly you wonder what happen until you realize that you have turned off the heat.
My Samsung Omnia 7
This is by far one of the worst examples of touch buttons. It doesn’t provide any functionality other than looks (and I think you could have gotten the same look with real buttons, with the right materials). It is constantly in the way and trying to play a game is almost impossible as you have your whole thumb over the buttons. I nearly thrown this out the window…
Are there any good versions?
Well I think my old Bang&Olufsen sound system from 1991 is ok, touch button is not a killer feature but adds coolness to this piece of machinery, not that I know what I’m going to use my CD-player or cassette deck for anymore
B&O 4500 with the military grade remote - could easily take out any enemy
It’s also good in that it’s easy to keep clean, it does not produce any false taps or clicks (being placed on a wall and all). It’s only a design thing using touch here but it doesn’t make it worse, besides, it’s the massive one pound remote that is used to control this…
The stove, again, is actually also a good contender for touch buttons:
Easy to clean
There is one really good reasons for using touch here and it compensates for the problems. It’s so easy to keep clean.
So, a final plea!
I first thought of this when I moved in and started the fight with my stove. Then there was mockups leaks of the Windows Phone 7 HTC models. Then when I got my Samsung Omnia 7 in October. I think this is THE most annoying “feature” of the Omnia. But now there as a bigger threat - the mockups that Nokia made for the new Windows Phone 7 models. Look here:
This is really scary, touch buttons, and even worse than the Samsung Omnia, the home button is also touch here. This is going to drive at least me crazy. So please forget about touch here!