Attendees of last week’s CTIA Wireless event saw major mobile phone makers like Sony Ericcson, Samsung and LG all tout new touch-screen-based devices. By 2011, handset makers will ship some 178 million phones with touch screens according to new predictions from Multimedia Intelligence, a market research firm. Compare that to the “rounding error” touch devices represented in the context of the entire handset market in 2007, in which 1.12 billion devices were shipped, and you see a very significant jump.
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One major catalyst for this change: Nine months ago, Apple took the entire mobile industry by storm when it released the iPhone. Apple’s first smartphone, based on its innovative and easy to use touch screen user interface (UI), already has made the company the number three smartphone maker in the world based on sales, according to research company Canalys. And it only sells one device, compared to the dozens of devices sold by its rivals, like Nokia and Research In Motion, numbers one and two in the market, currently offer.
Though handsets with touch screens had been available for years from companies like Palm and HTC–Apple even offered a PDA called the Newton throughout the 1990s–none had combined touch screen tech that doesn’t require the use of a stylus with such a simple and innovative UI.
With the iPhone’s success in the market–Canalys says Apple sold some 2.3 million units through Q4 2007–came a huge consumer appetite for touch screen tech, and Apple’s competitors have been quick to try to meet that demand.
Before CTIA, HTC debuted devices like the T-Mobile Wing and Sprint Touch, both of which have touch screens. LG released the touch-based Voyager. Palm’s Pilot and Treo devices, which have been around for years, have all featured touch screens. GPS maker Garmin plans to release a touch-based smartphone. And even BlackBerry-maker RIM is rumored to be working on a touch screen device.
At last week’s show, Sony Ericcson showed off its Windows Mobile-based XPERIA device, which has both a touch screen and a slider keyboard, not unlike the one found on T-Mobile’s popular Sidekick device. Then Samsung surprised the crowds with an iPhone lookalike called the Instinct, which will be available soon from Sprint. And LG showed off the Vu device with its touch screen and AT&T mobile TV support.
And the growing trend won’t likely stop at handset makers. AT&T recently said it would soon staring using Microsoft’s Surface desktop PC, which is users control by touching its large surface touch screen.
Panasonic recently unveiled a digital camera with a touch screen UI
And iSuppli recently predicted that global shipment revenue for cutting-edge touch-screen technologies will rise to $4.4 billion by 2012, up from $2.4 billion in 2006.