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Capacitive vs Resistive displays; Are resistive screens still used?

Capacitive and resistive touchscreens are the most popular types of touch screens available on the market although capacitive screens came first resistive screens were hugely popular when phones were transitioning to touch screen displays.

In this article, we’ll explain about the both of them and answer if resistive screens are still used.

Capacitive displays

Even though capacitive displays were developed before resistive touchscreens, manufacturers were hesitant to put them on consumer grade products as they were expensive to make. But today almost all touch screens on both consumer and commercial grade products are capacitive as over the years they have become cheaper to manufacture.

How do they work?

Unlike resistive screens, capacitive screens use electrodes on the corners of the screen to detect the conductive properties of your finger upon a touch input, thereby, allowing the phone to recognise your touch.

Advantages of capacitive touchscreens

  • High touch sensitivity — less input pressure
  • Proper multi-touch, gesture support
  • Better colour reproduction compared to resistive screens
  • Works even if it’s slightly damaged
  • Better accuracy on touch inputs

Disadvantages of the capacitive touchscreen

  • Expensive to manufacture compared to resistive screens
  • Require special stylus to be compatible with touch inputs
  • Almost impossible to use with gloves
  • Too sensitive and causes inadvertent touches on the screen

Also read: Why do smartphones explode? A nerd guide

Resistive displays

Resistive touchscreens technology is primitive in comparison with capacitive screens. It comprises of layers separated by thin gaps of air. The layers comprise of plastic (polycarbonate) on the top and glass at the bottom separated by invisible dots to prevent them from touching.

How do they work?

When you use your finger or stylus to register the touch input, you press the layers together, causing a fluctuation in the current allowing the phone to recognise the input point and respond accordingly. Although sounds rudimentary, it’s not without its merits.

Advantages of resistive touchscreens

  • It will recognise almost anything — finger, gloves, stylus
  • It does not need a special stylus like the ones capacitive touchscreens require
  • Better resistance to dust and water compared to capacitive touchscreens
  • Better suited to handwriting recognition
  • Ideal for minuscule and exact clicks — a link on a website

Disadvantages of resistive touchscreens

  • Low sensitivity, which means a lot of pressure is required to register an input compared to a capacitive display
  • Poor colour reproduction as the display is buried under a layer of plastic
  • No native support for multi-touch and gestures although programming tricks can make it possible
  • Any damage, even if it’s minor, to the screen will render your display beyond repair
  • Improper usage will cause dead spots on the screen (unresponsive spots) which would ruin the user experience and even make the phone unusable

Today, almost all the modern devices including the cheap ones have switched over to capacitive touchscreens. You can only find resistive touch screens on industrial machinery where its strong points such as dust resistance and usability with gloves lend it an incredible value.

Capacitive and resistive screens have unique value to them causing them to be perfect for different applications and will continue to do so until a better alternative is developed.

Also read: LCD vs OLED displays: What’s the difference and which one is better

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