Capacitive buttons can be 'tuned' (which is to say one can adjust how sensitive they are) somewhat depending on their antenna design and the ambient conditions. What is really hard for them is in a high emf environment (think lots of fourescents and shag carpets) there is so much charge available at your fingertip that even turned waay down they fire with the barest touch, reverse the circumstance like a modestly humid day out in a field somewhere and they are lucky if they can see your finger at all. If you're finger is wet (and thus charge will tend to distribute more evenly around you body) they are nearly worthless.
I recently saw some interesting 'piezo' buttons where they were effectively capacitive buttons but covered by a bit of piezo material so that you had to push on them to get them to activate. But while better in many ways, the cost difference between a button that is just a trace on the PCB (essentially free) and one that has a bit of piezo material in it (even if it only costs 2 or 3 cents) is easily someones salary when you're activating 500,000 devices a day.
What really irks me (and what I'm surprised to see so few people spell out) is that there's no tactile feedback on capacitive buttons (or microwave-like buttons). Tactile feedback makes every aspect of the UI profoundly better.
(Tactile feedback is possible on capacitive buttons... the first company which brings capacitive touchscreens with tactile feedback to market will make it huge (and the recent huge investment from Apple may have been into that technology). But no one has come out with a decent implementation yet...)
Developed by CPI here in Palo Alto.
Besides, with the smart phones that cost hundreds of dollars these days, adding a couple of dollars worth the cost to these buttons seems like a wise investment.
I have no idea how well they would work for the evil called capavitive buttons. I am consistently fighting with every electronic item I own that has those damnable things. I guess my fingertips just don't hold a charge.
Probably not a good idea...
The more likely time is when stopping for a minute to look at the map or change playlists. It is obnoxious to always be taking the gloves off for it.
I don't like to talk on the phone when I'm not riding; why would I ever choose to do it during my decompression time? :)
Also, a lot of touch screen phones (iPhone in particular) have been adapted for modern use. With my Klipsch Image S4i headphones (or with the natural iPhone 4 headphones), you can answer/hang up calls using the headphone controls. I've yet to figure out whether I can activate voice control for dialing, but that'd be even better.
When I need to dial on my iPhone in the winter, thin cabretta leather (damascus d302 for example) works wonders, at the same time keeping your hands dexterous and warm. I feel a lot of the problems you're describing are more functions of outdated technology, than poor design in general.
People who have never managed to figure out whether it's a single click, long click, double-click, or whatever else on the headphone button to answer the phone.
People who have never figured the above out because they have a couple different sets of headphones that have made different choices from the above options.
People who don't habitually wander around with headphones on.
People who have already taken it out of their pocket to see who's calling.
Or put to break this question into two parts:
1. Who would like to answer their phone when it rings, whatever the weather?
2. Could the phone sometimes be the "other" way up when you take it out of your pocket?
1. You already can, by using headphone controls.
2. Sure (if you don't feel it out), but how does a buttoned phone eliminate this problem? The issue is not mutually exclusive to touch-screen phones, and I'd argue it's worse on buttoned phones, since you risk the water seeping in between the button cracks.
Someone who lives in Seattle?
Long hold on the headphone button.
I also make use of a pair of headphones with a control dongle to answer/reject/end calls and/or increase volume.
Of course, said buttons are always next to impossible to press correctly (except by accident), so the standard use case is to mash your finger onto it until some form of feedback occurs.
More often than not, that feedback comes in the form of 3rd degree burns as a result of mashing your finger onto a magically hot stove.
I hope there's a special little room in hell where the guy who designed that stove is forced to repeatedly burn his thumbs on it for all eternity.
That's not an induction stove. An induction stove uses electromagnetism to heat a ferromagnetic cooking device positioned above a coil. The stove surface only becomes hot due to conduction away from the pot or pan. If you put nothing above the induction coil, nothing gets hot.
Here's a picture from Wikipedia. It's boiling water through a newspaper positioned between the induction coil and pot, with no damage to the newspaper: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a6/Induction_Cook...
The kind of stove you're thinking of is a glass-ceramic resistive cooktop. It's just a piece of glass that sits between a big old resistor and your food. (Annoying about how easy it is to burn yourself, but very easy to clean!)
True induction cooktops require use of iron or steel cookware which is directly heated with an electromagnetic field, not a transfer of heat from a heating element.
Honestly, I think there are companies and products lines which take the time and care to do the human factors engineering whatever interface is selected for the design, and there are products which don't have that attention paid to htem - blaming the button technology itself is sort of a side show to the actual focus on user experience which may lead you to optimize the interaction - tune the buttons, or speed up the software, whatever. Physical buttons can be just as bad if the user experience is ignored.
There is certainly much more to getting controls right than the style of buttons.
Most stove buttons I've seen are membrane switches with plastic over them, presenting a smooth, easily cleaned surface. These seem to be the optimal way to put buttons on a stove.
As an aside, I'd rather cook on a 50 year old gas stove than most stoves I've used that had any kind of buttons. There's nothing quite like fire for cooking.
I really don't get the anti-(physical-)button trend.
That makes no sense. The iPhone does not have any capacitive button. It has 3 (or 4 depending on the way you count the volume rocker) physical buttons and a capacitive touch screen.
And no, it's not the same.
1. Feedback. This turns out to not be important for most people for most tasks. Still physical feedback (of layout and of action) important tool of physical interaction and required for eyes-free operation. I fully expect this problem to be solved within two years.
2. Software bypass. This is mostly useful in case of complete software lockup (low level/OS crash), but while most phones are built to be "always on" you can't always avoid low-level lock-up. And in that case you need to reset all transient device state. I expect the final fail-safe to remain a physical button, although some kind of watchdog running alongside the OS itself may be able to take care of 99% of the lockups.
 I don't consider press and hold, double-tap or similar to be good general-purpose solutions to this
EDIT: I didn't know about the proximity sensors and other mechanisms until the replies below informed me. I still prefer tactile though :)
The issue here is buttons that you physically press down (like the iPhone home button) vs buttons that are an extended part of the touch screen element (the back button on most Androids).
Of course, the downside is that people sometimes buy a product that seems to be "as good as an iPhone," and they have no idea that their user experience is worse than the iPhone's, they just assume the iPhone works just as poorly as theirs.
I currently have to carry two phones, one is an Android device and the other is a Windows Phone 7 device, they both implement the proximity sensor and it works the same way as the iphone.
IIRC correctly HTC (back in the days of Windows Mobile 5) already employed this feature in their "slate" phones before the original iPhone was released. They then improved it by adding some rather unique features, like being able to flip the phone over (i.e. laying screen side up on a table) to silence/reject an incoming call.
Just to counter the "brilliance" part of your statement, there was an issue with the proximity sensor in iPhone 4 that took a couple of months to fix :)
I think this bug matches part of the issues people have with capacitive buttons - those buttons are prone to be active when they shouldn't causing mishits.
I think that capacitive buttons are just too difficult to tune because the conditions they are used in vary so much. My phone doesn't even register touches at all if my hands are slightly sweaty.
With normal buttons you at least have a shot at nailing them with an elbow or a foot.
I remember how for 15 years VHS movies cost from $79.95 to $119.95 because they figured their only customers were video rental stores. The problem was they were selling each movie once for $80 instead of selling it 500 times for $20. Since fixing their flawed pricing model, far more movies are sold than before, to the point that rental stores have all but disappeared.
Could a similar thing be happening with books? Perhaps they are pricing for library use, where many users are expected to read one book. Or perhaps they are targeting captive audiences like in colleges where impoverished youth are shaken down.
Usability failure? Market failure? Or smart pricing model?
I'd buy a decently bound paperback as is being offered of this length and interest for $9.95 to $17.95. But I won't pay $35-44, not even close.
The question is, how many others are out there like me that represent lost sales. Maybe I am the only one. In that case, $44 is the right price. Or why not even $99.
Sure there are tech books on antenna design for satellites that don't sell many copies. But there are other topics that are of far more board interest. Usability is one of them.
As of May, 2002, the U.S. Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are approximately 562,700 computer programmers in the U.S. That's just one job title and the field has grown since then. There's also software engineers, web designers, programmer-analysts, etc. Easily a couple million jobs.
Paperback like you have there costs $2.87 to print in quantity 3000 in Singapore. There's a lot of flexibility in working with the price. I would experiment with it but that's just me. Presumably your publisher has experimented. But maybe he hasn't. Perhaps he assumes that the potential number of people interested is less than 2 million. Perhaps he thinks it is 100 or 200. I bet it's more than that though.
As for engineers moaning about the life time of switches, puh-please. Show me one phone with buttons that has outlived its buttons. You can't? Didn't think so.
What really needs to go is this touchy cult. It's ridiculous. There are a couple of things where it makes sense. Angry Birds is not one of them. Anything else is just a useless fad. Especially touchy keyboardy crap that NO ONE can type on. Show me one person who can type 150WPM (and I don't mean swipe or predict or any such crap) on a touch screen and I'll go out and buy an iPhone.
My point is that proper "physical" controls are better for almost every task out there. The obvious downside is that you can't make them appear and disappear depending on the current application being executed ;)
The PS3, on the other hand, has its capacitive buttons on a surface that's at right angles to things that might brush up against it. Which is, IMO, the best design.
Playing with a friend's Android (probably the Omnia 7 mentioned in the linked article) I'm finding the capacitive buttons on the bottom (the standard Android four buttons) really annoying because once they're active, they're all active and you can brush one meaning to touch the other.
EDIT for punctuation.
EDIT: Oh, I see now. They are buttons that respond to electric impulse from the fingers on touchscreens.
The solution the author seems to be seeking is: everyone should use the old Nokia bricks?
Similarly, the Nexus One had hardware buttons below the screen. On the other hand, the Nexus S uses capacitive buttons.
Hardware buttons are typically easier to press, have better feedback (even when compared to haptic feedback), and easier to find when your eyes are closed. Hardware buttons do not imply "Nokia bricks".
yes, it sucks that i can't press the buttons on my phone with mittens on. but i wouldn't give up my capacitive touchscreen in exchange for a phone that operated solely by physical buttons.
Note that while you're using it, you never accidentally hold your phone with a finger covering your screen. That's because you're looking at the screen. You know where it is. It's bright. It's easy to see its edges. It's the focus of your attention. The bezel around the screen, on the other hand, is not, but merely touching it in the wrong place will cause your phone to do unexpected things.
Normal touch-screen phones all have context sensitive operations, for example you are playing a game and no where on the screen can you accidentally press the "Fart noise" app button or the "Hangup" button -- because they just aren't there.
With Android there are those 4 or so required buttons (Home, Back, Menu, Call/Search) and moving them from mechanical buttons to capacitive you CAN find yourself in the middle of a YouTube movie or game where your thumb just barely touches the back button, closing the app and taking you home.
Or as another user mentioned, you are on the phone talking and part of your chin or face (if you try and neck-cradle the phone while doing something) may hit the hangup button, menu button or Home button to suddenly start activating other things on the phone, ending or interrupting your call.
It is absolutely MADDENING.
The iPhone never suffered from this because it always had the one single mechanical button and the proximity sensor was good enough that when it got close enough to your face, all input on the pad was deactivated. Most of the Android phones that have mechanical core buttons don't suffer from this either for the same reasons.
It's once you get those damn touch-sensitive buttons on there... oh boy, there are a few times a week where you just want to throw your phone right into the ground and wish it a happy birthday.
The difference, in my opinion, is that there is on-screen feedback when you press a screen button, vs a capacitive button which is just a backlit touch element. I agree with your solution to link their active state to the software unlock, but in practice it seems to not be how devices have been implemented.
I supposed this depends on the design/location of the capacitive buttons, but speaking for myself, I haven't really had the issues you mention in your post.
It's even pretty useless without gloves, if I've been doing anything that gets my hands dry, or had the iPod in my pocket so that it became relatively moist. I often have to breathe on my fingers before changing the volume!
Now I'm not partially sighted, but I'm not always looking at the display.
They're just not related to this discussion.