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The Capacitive Button Cult Must Be Stopped (ignorethecode.net)
166 points by ddagradi 2207 days ago | hide | past | web | 113 comments | favorite

Its interesting to hear designers on a rant about capacitive buttons. Switches are the bane of most electrical engineers because they cost a lot and they have a finite lifetime. So generally they are thing that is going to 'kill' the product. And because they are both mechanical and have moving parts (in the non-capacitive variant) when they break the users just push harder trying to get them to work and that can crack traces on the circuit board and end the life of an otherwise working piece of gear.

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.

I'm sure my neighbor, who's blind, would appreciate piezo buttons. I had to help her deduce why her screen reader would "die" on her Dell laptop periodically. It turns out that it has capacitive buttons for Mute/Volume, and the only feedback from them is an LED. She would occasionally brush her fingers over the buttons and end up inadvertently muting the laptop.

The devices themselves have a finite lifetime. As long as the switch outlives the projected time to obsolescence of the device, it's fine. And I know there are switches out there which can do that...

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...)

an idea for tactile feedback if used in low power version, well below "pain" level:


Developed by CPI here in Palo Alto.

I thought you were going to say an electric shock. Although an electric shock would also use a lot of power and probably be a terrible idea just like microwave heating of the skin, at least the shock would provide fast feedback

Though I agree that the capacitive buttons are more reliable as compared to physical buttons and also look nicer, I think the mechanical buttons only have to be reliable enough. Particularly in case of phones, that typically get replaced every couple of years, the buttons dont necessarily have to last much longer than that.

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.

Another issue people don't bring up: the weather. Living in Seattle I frequently wore mittens. With the physical buttons it would not be a problem to operate the phone, with the touchscreen there is this long ordeal of pulling off the mitten to answer the phone. If it is raining (or rather, when is it not raining?), the rain will mess with the touchscreen, making it sometimes impossible to answer a call. You might say there is a solution: either cut off the fingers or sew in some conducting thread to the tip of the mittens. This doesn't solve the rain problem though.

I use my nose, it works well if you can aim it.

My wife and I just discussed this solution, less than a minute before seeing this, with walk signals in the winter while wearing gloves. We found a problem: what if you get stuck? A cold, runny nose is almost as bad as a tongue (yet another solution).

I don't think you have to worry about getting stuck due to the cold, I don't think the phone will get cold enough for that to happen.

I've been thinking about getting some of these (http://WWW.THUMBDOGS.COM/) to deal with my phone while I'm on my motorcycle. There are also solutions based on sewing conductive thread through the ends of the gloves.

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.

>phone while I'm on my motorcycle

Probably not a good idea...

Take all the fun out...

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? :)

I bought an iPod classic for this very reason. I don't want to have to take off my gloves in the winter to operate a simple machine. Real buttons have the benefit of being usable while the device is in your pocket which is nice as well.

Who answers their phone in the rain with the face up? Isn't that a little ridiculous? I think every piece of technology has its limitations. I could argue that button phones are loud, and I can't text with them during class or meetings. If you answer your button phone while it's raining, the rain will likely also screw up your button-phone... probably with more permanent damage than touch-screens.

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.

"Who answers their phone in the rain with the face up?"

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.

I honestly feel that as an intelligent human being, our first response to meeting an inconvinence problem should be to think of a solution, rather than complain. All the things I've mentioned are by no means difficult to think of, or implement. iPhone comes with buttoned headphones. Thin Leather gloves serve other purposes and are decently cheap. To me, this sounds like: "I've opted to close my eyes, and I can't see my monitor! Design flaw!" rather than just opening my eyes.

I never walk around wearing headphones. I simply don't understand people who think that every waking moment of their life needs a soundtrack.

They don't need to be playing music, you know? I got a cheap ($10) bluetooth headset and I walk around with it in my ear all the time just to answer calls.

Some of us don't want to walk around with a thingy stuck on our ears.

> Who answers their phone in the rain with the face up?

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?

I think you're misunderstanding.

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.

"Who answers their phone in the rain with the face up? "

Someone who lives in Seattle?

Lifetime Seattleite, never had a problem with the rain and capacitive touchscreens. I know I'm just one data point and all that but it's not a common complaint AFAIK.

> I've yet to figure out whether I can activate voice control for dialing, but that'd be even better.

Long hold on the headphone button.

Living in Toronto, I bought a pair of gloves (can't recall the name right now) that were "touchscreen friendly". They were something like $20 bucks and they look good IMO (look like average grey wool gloves).

I also make use of a pair of headphones with a control dongle to answer/reject/end calls and/or increase volume.

You could always just carry around a bit of hot dog in your pocket. I've actually seen this in Korea in the winter for operating capacitive screens and buttons on mobile devices.

It's not a hot dog, actually more like a kind of cheese, and by "kind of" I mean just about the most disgusting artificial cheese you can imagine. Very popular over there and sold at every corner store near the register in the impulse-buy section.

I was wondering if it was one of those little cheeses (in the yellow wrappers) or a small fish sausage.


Those buttons hit their maximum disaster level when installed on an induction stove. You know, the ones that are one flat shiny panel with areas that magically turn red and hot at the push of a button?

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.

Those buttons hit their maximum disaster level when installed on an induction stove. You know, the ones that are one flat shiny panel with areas that magically turn red and hot at the push of a button?

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!)

He probably meant smooth cook-top as someone else already pointed out.

Small nit, most of the smooth cooktop stoves are not induction stoves, they are still heating the cookware by radiant or direct physical contact transfer of heat.

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.

I thought induction stoves caused metal pots to get hot via induction. They don't get hot on their own.

That is correct.

On the other hand, on my oven they work great. No worries about grease or flour on your hands to setup a temperature or timer. It all wipes off later.

Just to be clear, I think that the article is about touch-sensitive buttons that provide no feedback — not about the more-common kitchen appliance buttons which live behind a plastic sheet but actually click when you push them.

Those membrane buttons are more common on ovens, but I did mean capacitive buttons on my oven.

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.

Indeed! Our dishwasher has membrane buttons on the front to operate it, and everyone in our house has accidentally turned the washer on by accidentally leaning on a button.

This is a great point. A friend of mine has a calculator, with big, traditional buttons, on his desk. It gets set off all the time (and prints out useless lines of tape) when people lean against the desk, simply because of where the calculator sits.

There is certainly much more to getting controls right than the style of buttons.

This is why I liked the older Android devices (as opposed to the new ones). Having physical buttons and a trackball were significantly better than both capacitive buttons and optical trackpads. Trackballs are significantly better than optical trackpads from a use-perspective. They work in all orientation, have finer grains of control, don't require awkward flicks to work, and have a much easier learning curve. The industry really needs to stop trying to the trendy thing and focus on things that work.

I don't agree with his comment about the stove - Sure it's more fiddly than a real button or dial, but the ease of cleaning more than makes up for it IMHO.

For most purposes, I find the idea of buttons on a stove inferior to plain old knobs. I can see some merit to the idea of programming an oven to change temperature after a certain amount of time or some such, but a lot of stoves have buttons without any such capabilities.

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.

I like the concept of knobs on stoves. But there doesn't seem to be any sort of standard so when one breaks or goes missing you're on the hunt for a replacement. Not so bad for a fairly new one, but when you have a 50 year old gas stove.... I'm sure visegrips makes good money on people that need pliers for their hobs.

I figured the knobs on old gas stoves would be roughly interchangeable, but had no particular reason for believing so.

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.

There are some touch buttons (not capacitive, just think mobile phone keypads) that are under a plastic film. Those are really easy to clean as well.

Back in the good old days, the old-school knobs weren't made of crappy plastic and were easy to remove and clean.

My guess is capacitive buttons have a lower failure rate than physical buttons. It's probably a decision born of cost.

I don't doubt it. The problem is that consumers are still viewing them as a high-end feature instead of the cost-cutting measure they are, so they keep showing up in high-end products with prices that could support the superior and more costly physical buttons.

Indeed it is. Data point: until this discussion I too believed that capacitive buttons are much more expensive and much more "high-tech" than physical buttons.

Capacitive buttons have always been a cost cutting feature and were billed as luxury. They can NOT suck, but the firmware has to be highly tuned.

tldr: Did they never play a game in landscape mode, and accidentally back out of the whole game by merely holding the device wrong?

I really don't get the anti-(physical-)button trend.

less moving parts, less overall parts, cheaper to make, looks cooler in the marketing...

I remember when I bought an LG Chocolate when it first came on the scene about 5 years ago. It had capacitive touch buttons that were in such a bad place that if I was talking, and the button brushed against my ear it would hangup the call. It was awful and I vowed never again. Its the very reason I never got an iphone, opting for blackberry instead.

> Its the very reason I never got an iphone, opting for blackberry instead.

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.

When the touch screen is used as a replacement for physical buttons - to answer or ignore a call, for example then using the screen is roughly equivalent to having a capacitive button for the same function.

Except the iPhone was damned clever in that regard. It has a proximity sensor next to the earpiece that would shut off the display. So, as soon as you go to answer a call, the phone detects your ear and shuts off the display so you don't accidentally do something stupid with your cheek.

Only very, very roughly. The issue is dedicated capacitive buttons. On-screen buttons can give visual feedback, and are only present when they are contextually appropriate. Capacitive buttons are dedicated spots on the hardware that are always present no matter what you are using your device for at the moment.

Yes, it's an important distinction. Still, there are valid reasons for preferring physical buttons that virtual buttons or other on-screen controls do not address.

I only know of two, do you have more?

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 was going to say tactile positioning, but you seem to be rolling that in to feedback/layout. I would also add the distinction between putting your finger on a control and actually activating it. Capacitive technology doesn't provide a good way to handle that[0]. For an extreme example of the type of control you'd like to make such a distinction, consider the trigger of a gun. It may be important to be very ready to activate the control, and even more important to not activate it prematurely.

[0] I don't consider press and hold, double-tap or similar to be good general-purpose solutions to this

Wait, I don't understand this argument. iPhones are one of the few phones that don't have this issue.

If I can activate a touch button with my finger than why not my ear?

EDIT: I didn't know about the proximity sensors and other mechanisms until the replies below informed me. I still prefer tactile though :)

Because the iphone uses accelerometers and other sensors to work out when the phone is even near your ear when on a call and disbles the screen, both saving battery and disabling input.

The iPhone's proximity sensor disables the touch screen when it is near your head. Sounds dicey, but in practice has worked nigh flawlessly since launch.

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).

This is an example of Apple's design brilliance. They have a feature that just works, and it's perfectly normal for users to have no idea why it just works or why other products that seem to have the same features are so frustrating to use.

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 think this is a standard feature of most modern touchscreen smartphones and not some "design brilliance" relegated to only Apple devices.

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.

I didn't use the HTC phone that you mention, but it would be interesting to know if the feature was implemented as well as it is in the iPhone. This feature has literally never failed for me in 2 years of using my iPhone (it sometimes gets false positives when the phone is in my hand, but it's not too bothersome).


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.

Because there is an IR proximity sensor which turns off the screen when your head is against the phone

The iPhone has a proximity sensor to prevent this from happening.

They totally have this issue. Wash your hands and get them 98% dry, try to use phone. Be frustrated.

The author mentions his experience with capacitive buttons that are too sensitive. I have the opposite problem on my phone—the buttons aren't sensitive enough.

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.

Not to mention that your tusks dont register at all.

How about capacitive buttons in elevators? It's very annoying if your hands are full and you can't easily find some other exposed body part to touch the button.

With normal buttons you at least have a shot at nailing them with an elbow or a foot.

As soon as I saw the title, I thought of my Samsung Omnia 7, heh. Back button is manageable, but search button has caused a lot of swear words!

I would totally buy his book if I didn't find the prices of tech books to be completely absurd.

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.

I didn't set the price, but I will note that tech books typically only sell small numbers, regardless of price. It's a small target market.

It's only a small market if your publisher keeps telling himself that. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

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.

Fair enough. You make a good argument. Maybe lowering the price would increase revenue; I don't know.

My Samsung TV has capacitive buttons - in the shiny black surround, labelled with tiny iconographs in very, very dark grey. It took me several minutes to even find the 'on' button when I first got it.

My Samsung monitor is like that. Navigating its on-screen menu is an ordeal. I have to look back and forth between the menu and the bottom right of the bezel, where the 'buttons' are, carefully placing my finger for each 'key press'. Forget about trying to do this in low light conditions. But - it was cheap.

Anything that vaguely pretends it's a button without being one deserves to burn in hell for all eternity. This includes touch screens, capacitive or otherwise, and any other such nonsense. If I'm meant to press it, make it obvious and use a button. If I'm meant to slide it, give me a slider. Turn? Give me a knob. How hard can it be, seriously?

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.

Alright then. Nothing wrong with peculiar opinions but you know that your opinion is very peculiar, right? Software keyboards, for example, can be valuable for people even if nobody can type 150 words per minute on them.

What input device would be the best way to play Angry Birds, then? Having played the Mac App and Chrome App versions, I definitely think touch makes the most sense.

A custom device including one knob to control the angle and one (physical) slider to control the strength. I know this is stupid when thinking about a casual game, but it would totally make sense to me if my job was to "play angry birds 8 hours a day".

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 ;)

Can anyone type 150WPM on a non-touch screen phone?

That's twice what the typical professional typist can do. But I'm sure some people might be able to hit that speed. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Words_per_minute for more.

One place I found that capacitive buttons have worked well is on the newer xbox models. The power and tray eject buttons are capacitive and it works well there.

Nearly broke the CD tray on my 360 when I was leaning over my TV stand to get at the wiring in the back, brushed the power/eject button with my knee, and jammed the tray into my leg. I'd rather a button.

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.

It's more appropriate on a device you're not as likely to brush up against accidentally, or need to interact with very deeply.

The worst offenders are android phones like my nexus one with capacitive buttons right beneath the software keyboard. Overshoot the space bar just a tiny bit? Hello home screen, goodbye app. Some apps handle this and you can just press back -- others lose all of what you just typed.

what is a capacitive button?

A button you don't push so much as touch because it's got a capacitive touch sensor underneath. It means that random touches suddenly become meaningful.

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.

A button that works on the same principle as the trackpad on your laptop.

Just to clarify, I believe mkr-hn means the trackpad itself, not the buttons on the trackpad. Most trackpad buttons these days are physical. The trackpad itself, however, is capacitive.

What is a capacitive button?

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?

The iPhone doesn't look like a Nokia brick, yet it has a hardware home button.

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".

The Nexus One's below-the-screen buttons are capacitive. The Nexus One only has a mechanical trackball.

as long as my phone's primary interface is a capacitive touchscreen, i don't see a problem with the buttons being capacitive as well. it's really just an extension of the screen interface, dedicated to a specific purpose.

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.

The touch buttons aren't just an extension of the screen. For example, they don't provide visual feedback when they're active or activated, and when you're looking at the screen, they look like they're part of the bezel.

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.

isn't the entire screen of a smart phone a capacitive button? It's pretty hard to accidentally dial my ex or launch the "fart noise" app in a meeting on it so why not link the "capacitive" buttons to the same software unlock as the device already has. (referring to my Android / HTC desire)

ed, I know what you mean -- it seems like an empty argument until you get one of these phones (specifically Android) with the fundamental buttons all touch sensitive.

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.

FWIW I haven't had a single problem like this since I got a hard case for my phone (HTC Desire HD) with raised edges. Of course this changes the aesthetic quite a bit - a trade I'll make for the protection of the case - and doesn't help if your phone has no proximity sensor, but it is at least a partial solution.

In Honeycomb (and presumably 4.0), the capacitive buttons have been replaced with on screen elements, so sort-of yes.

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 believe I've personally had more issues with misclicks on the honeycomb buttons as there is not as much of a clearly defined delineation between screen and softkeys as with the screen and capacitive buttons on my smartphone.

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.

Stop putting fruit on your stove.


I absolutely despise the touch-sensitive 'wheel' on my iPod Classic. It's useless if I'm working in the garage with nitrile gloves on. I've resorted to using my elbow or nose at times.

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!

I can tell you that that's the specific device's fault. My phone's capacitive screen works wet or with nitrile gloves.

Anything which is not tactile is bad if you ask me. That means capacitive buttons, touch screens etc. Even Star Trek shot themselves in an episode when a blind person had to use a panel:


Now I'm not partially sighted, but I'm not always looking at the display.

Sounds like /somebody's/ never used an iPhone.

iPhones don't have capacitive buttons. They have a touchscreen which while capacitive is much more sensitive, relatively expensive, and backed up with a IR proximity sensor and lots of engineering to make it just work.

They're just not related to this discussion.

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