When it comes to touchscreen technology, there are two types: capacitive and resistive. We know what you are thinking. Both share similarities since they are based on touchscreen technology right? The answer is surprisingly no. The main reason they’re so different from one another is based upon the way they react to the commands of your finger and the technology behind both types.
Capacitive touchscreens don’t rely on pressure, but rather they use electrodes to sense the conductive properties of objects, such as your finger. The human body is known to be an electrical conductor, so when parts of the body such as your hand comes into contact with the capacitive touch panel, the touch panel’s electrostatic field becomes distorted. It is this distortion that is then read by the touch panel controller and will activate various features found within your head unit.
Capacitive touchscreens head units in the market are typically are more vibrant in color contrast compared to resistive models due to their glass screen design. Capacitive models are highly responsive, as even the slightest touch will activate the screen. By comparison, the vast majority of resistive touchscreen phones won’t normally react at all to a very light swipe. Capacitive touchscreens can also implement multi-touch gestures such as pinch/zooming as well as swiping.
Ever try using your capacitive touchscreen head unit or cellular phone while wearing a pair of gloves? If you ever encountered such a scenario, chances are, you had problems swiping or selecting an item due to its unresponsive functionality. The type of response or unresponsiveness when attempting to use the touchscreen with gloves is the biggest drawback for the capacitive models in comparison to a resistive touchscreen. On the flipside, some end-users have complained that the touch sensitivity on their capacitive models is too “sensitive” and creates problems for them when attempting to change radio stations or navigate through the menus while driving on bumpy roads.
Resistive technology works the way you might first imagine a touchscreen would function – it senses pressure. Resistive touchscreens are constructed from several layers of material with a space between them. When you push on the outer screen, the top layer made of polyester film flexes and pushes back into contact with the back layer, effectively completing the circuit and telling the head unit which part is being pressed. Because the system works on pressure, it can be activated using inanimate objects such as fingernails or a gloved finger. The biggest advantage to using a resistive model is the pinpoint accuracy of your selections when selecting a specific item or area. Another highlight is resistive touchscreens are considerably less expensive than capacitive screens.
The drawbacks of resistive touchscreens include its inability to support multi-touch gestures and reduced visibility in direct sunlight. The top layer on a resistive touchscreen is made of soft, flexible material that can be damaged much more easily than glass and can leave a permanent mark on the screen after periodic usage. Sensitivity has always been an issue with resistive models, as you have to press down harder when making a selection.
Which is better?
It’s difficult to say whether resistive or capacitive touchscreens are better. The experience of using the two is quite different. Capacitive touchscreen technology is newer, and is thus more expensive but features multi-touch gestures and a glass screen. However if you are using Apple CarPlay pinch to zoom will not work, Apple felt it was a distraction to use multi-touch for navigation. Resistive touchscreen technology has improved over the last few years and have been engineered to be much more touch sensitive in hopes of narrowing the technology gap with its capacitive technology counterpart. Head units in the market have become more advanced but also more affordable than ever before.