Why I changed my mind about touchscreens

A year ago I was still pretty skeptical about touchscreens. I felt that total reliance on a touchscreens was a mistake, and that devices needed some physical controls, like d-pads, keyboards or keypads.

Having decided to get an iPhone regardless of these fears, and watching the development of apps over the last year, I have changed my mind. While I still can’t touch-text under tables like I used to, I can now tap out emails pretty quickly using the virtual keyboard. I think a physical keyboard is more natural to use, but I have been surprised how quickly I’ve got comfortable to life without one. The gains from touchscreens certainly outweigh the losses: Navigating around a device with a touchscreen is easier and faster – browsing is fantastic. A smartphone without a touchscreen would be a nightmare!

I own a Nintendo DS and a PSP, and never thought the iPhone could compete in game quality. There are areas where that’s still true – driving games on the iPhone are only ever surprisingly good considering they’re on an iPhone. They don’t stand up to systems with more controls – the accelerometer is too imprecise and sensitive (see Real Racing). But when games are developed especially for the touchscreen, they can be fantastic. Space Invaders Infinity Gene is perfect, while Beneath a Steel Sky and Broken Sword show that touchscreens are the best system for point and click adventures.

All in all, touchscreens are a great way to interact with computers – there is plenty of space for them in my life, although that doesn’t mean my joypads and laptop keyboards will be going anywhere soon. Is it a bad idea to say that on the eve of another Apple launch?

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