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Super Sensitive Touch: Blessing or Curse

As did thousands of others, I watched the Nokia/Microsoft Live Broadcast earlier this week with excitement and anticipation. But when Nokia’s Kevin Shields slipped on those Nanook of the North gloves and started navigating the screen of that beautiful Lumia 920, I got nervous.  Those WinMo 6.X, “screen stays on” thoughts started flowing through my head. What was Nokia thinking! When reality brought me back down from my bad memory trip, I was reminded that the phone does have a pretty responsive proximity sensor, so “most” of the problems that plagued the earlier generation of resistive touch screens “should” not be an issue with modern capacitive screens.

I remember seeing a video about three years ago from a Show (possibly CES) where a no-name company was working on a resistive-capacitive screen that had the accuracy of single pixel touch registration, stylus (or anything) touch, and multi (more than two) finger touch. But almost as soon as that video was posted it was pulled. Could it be that Synaptic gobbled these guys up and that’s what Super Sensitive Touch is based on. Not sure, and too lazy to do the research.

What about Super Sensitive Touch though. I don’t have long fingernails and living in Florida, gloves are definitely optional. But even if I traveled up North I wouldn’t attempt to pull my phone out of its belt case with gloves on as I would be sure to drop it in a puddle of slightly icy water. Nor do I have any intention of using a stylus again. So this new tech does nothing for me, although it may for a select group of others. My take on features of this sort are, “if it does not take away from my positive user experience by making it more difficult to use a device, or bog it down, then I don’t have any issues. Bring it on”.

But I am not quite 100% sold that Super Sensitive Touch will only have bullets listed on the plus side of the whiteboard. I had to squeeze my L900 into this (see photo) Surround case, and the proximity sensor did keep the phone from turning on (it is slightly right of the FFC) when i received a text, but other cases lacking a full front flap “could” allow the screen to wake. And if you are moving around at the time, pressure on the screen “could” keep the phone awake for a prolonged period. Or, if the phone is in a handbag or backpack, it is possible the prox sensor will not be blocked when an alert arrives, possibly waking the phone and keeping it on if there is sufficient pressure on other parts of the screen. Or how about, while the screen is on, simply touching  it with your shirt cuff or some other object besides your finger, opening apps or changing views unexpectedly. Many users already have issues with inadvertently activating the Bing search button. Will Super Sensitive Touch make this a bigger issue?

I did play around with the proximity sensor using the Diagnostics app and will admit it worked quite well in bright light or total darkness (shouldn’t matter anyway but wanted to be sure). A solid object, like a block of Post-It notes or a desktop will trigger the sensor at about 2”. Something a little less dense, like a knit shirt reacted at about 1.5”. And a clear object, like clear plastic or glass triggered the prox at between 1” and 1.5”. So the chances of false triggers waking your screen and keeping it on, potentially making unwanted phone calls, opening apps inadvertently, and ultimately draining your battery, are slim but still possible.

I suppose it will take a couple months of real user feedback to determine if Super Sensitive Touch is a blessing or a curse. Just worry that some suit at Nokia was so “wowed” by a Synaptic presentation six months ago that he (or she) said, “we gotta have this”, without fully thinking it through. Good for me that I will be holding off on a WP8 until early 2013. Enough time for things to work themselves out.