by Al Sacco

Touch Screen BlackBerry Storm UI Takes Cues From Google Phone

Oct 09, 20083 mins
Data Center

Yesterday, after weeks of Verizon Wireless marketing leaks, and with the Internet rumor mill churning at full force, Research In Motion (RIM) finally announced its first touch screen smartphone, the BlackBerry Storm 95xx. The news immediately took the Web by storm—zing!–and every tech site worth its servers quickly posted some sort of Storm-related coverage. Hidden amongst it was some interesting news on the user-interface-front.

A great post on, entitled “Storm Is Packing A Synaptics Touchscreen” explains that the UI technology behind—or should I say, beneath—the BlackBerry Storm’s touch screen ClickThrough technology is based on none other than Synaptics’ ClearPad custom module. That’s the same touch screen tech that’s currently being used within the first Google Android-powered smartphone, T-Mobile’s G1, which is manufactured by HTC.

Synaptics ClearTouch Screen
Synaptics ClearTouch Screen

About ClearPad, from

“A ClearPad sensor is typically placed over a viewable surface, such as an LCD. The underlying graphical user interface buttons and controls are activated by touch. ClearPad sensors are ideal for use with dynamic GUIs. The size and location of GUI controls can change according to application or mode of use.”

“ClearPad technology supports a wide variety of advanced navigation methods and gestures for superior usability such as single-finger Tap, Double Tap, Tap & Hold/Tap & Drag, Scroll, Press, and Flick as well as multi-finger gestures such as Pinch. One-finger “flick” scrolling makes it quick and easy to navigate long lists. Two-finger “pinch” gestures can be used for zooming-in and zooming-out.”

What the BerryReview post doesn’t really explain is that even though the same base technology is employed in both the BlackBerry Storm and T-Mobile G1, the implementation of that technology allows for different touch functionality.

According to, the touch screen BlackBerry Storm also uses force sensors along with Synaptics’ capacitive sensor technology, allowing for enhanced precision and advanced functionality.

More on capacitive force sensing, from Synaptics:

“Synaptics’ proven capacitive sensing technology can also be applied to force sensors. In a capacitive force sensor, two metal plates, separated by a small air gap, are positioned close together. Force applied on one of the plates changes the capacitance between them. Synaptics has developed a capacitive force sensing technology suitable for applications as diverse as pointing sticks, vacuum gauges, and high-resolution pressure sensors.”

Synaptics Capacitive Force Sensor
Synaptics Capacitive Force Sensor

So while both the BlackBerry Storm and T-Mobile G1 use Synaptics’ touch screen UI technology, the Storm’s provides a different sort of tactile feedback and UI experience than the G1.

How the two devices will measure up overall remains to be seen; though there are already feature comparisons available for the T-Mobile G1, BlackBerry Storm and Apple’s iPhone 3G.


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