Touchscreens have taken off in a big way. Each year, touchscreen phone sales have grown by 25% in the UK, though remember this includes a great number of individuals updating their phones, rather than new members to the demographic. More telling is the fact that almost 90% of active telephone contracts were tied to touchscreen devices in 2012. Pay as You Go is still relevant, but heavy phone users have clearly come down in the touchscreen camp.
Smartphones have existed since 2000, but the real boom started in 2007 after the first iPhone launch. With the popularity of mobile applications and browsing, button interfaces were found too intrusive on screen space, and Blackberry is currently the only significant OEM populating the buttoned niche. Small, mobile devices seemed perfectly suited to touchscreen, and the two became inseparable.
Yet 2012 marked a major change in this dynamic, with touchscreen inputs venturing out from their mobile foxholes. While mobile browsing relies on our styluses, thumbs and fingers, touchscreen making the jump from our hands to our desks.
Tablets have been growing for a while, but they’re mainly seen as a phone with better games. The launch of Windows 8 on October 20th, 2012, was perched to change this. Microsoft Surface, the laptop cum tablet combo capable of transitioning from touch to mechanical input seamlessly, headed the hardware line-up.
Windows 7 forayed into touchscreen PCs, but they were a generally unwieldy product. The new OS is set to change this, with products like the Lenovo Horizon marketed as touchscreen, multi-user PCs, serving as workstations, televisions, and communal media hubs.
Other developments are taking the touchscreen trend further. Canonical announced they’re bringing Ubuntu, an OS developed from the Debian Linux distro, to tablets, phones, and desktops. Rather than producing an Operating System optimised for switching inputs, the single OS is intended to adapt to the device it’s installed upon, introducing support for window resizing or mouse input as appropriate.
Whatever you think of the various brand wars, one fact is inescapable. Touchscreen capable and optimised devices are on the rise, and not simply in our phones. Our laptops and PCs are now being designed with these features in mind, and the trend hasn’t peaked yet. Soon enough, the idea of stripped-down ‘mobile’ websites and applications for touchscreens may not be enough. Consumers will want fuller platforms optimised for touch on their large, work-ready devices.
It’s still too early to make safe estimations about the nature of coming hardware and software, but there’s little doubt it’ll continue to change substantially. Wherever the industry ends up, you can be fairly certain touchscreen will be there with it.