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Nokia perfects the clicky tactile touchscreen – iPhone gnashes teeth, swears revenge


It’s taken them 10 years but Nokia boffins have finally perfected a ‘touch feedback’ touchscreen. Don’t be fooled by simple vibrational imitations folks, this is the real McCoy – you press a key on the screen, and it clicks under your finger with exactly the same sort of fingertip feedback as if you’d pressed a conventional keyboard key. Roope Takala, Senior Program Manager at Nokia’s research labs gave me a demo of the technology in Finland the other day on a hacked N770 Internet tablet. 

“The basic technology is not that difficult,” he explained, “We inserted two small piezo sensor pads under the screen and engineered in a 0.1mm movement in the screen itself. What’s taken the time has been fine tuning the movement and response to mimic exactly the sensation of pressing a real key.”

The problem in perfecting the tech – codenamed Haptikos, meaning ‘to touch’ – lies in how our fingers experience a key press. We actually feel two movements, in and out, and these movements and the associated audio have to be perfectly attuned to the speed and responsiveness of a real keyboard. In use, the touch feedback on the demo device was near on perfect. Each press of a key returned a clunky click and tactile snap on the touchscreen, which made typing feel incredibly responsive and very usable on the smooth screen surface. In fact it was hard to remember that you were using a touchscreen keyboard.

“Funnily enough, although you think you’re typing faster than normal because of the feedback, in actual fact you’re not,” said Takala, “There’s just some sort of mental satisfaction that comes from typing with a tactile response.”


The new Haptikos technology will apparently be shipped with the upcoming Nokia S60 Touch phone that has been shown off at recent demos, and the team is busy working on the next challenge, which is to provide exact tactile replicas for scrolling and draw/paint programs. The problem is that while we expect and need ultra fast responses for keyboard use, navigation and things like drag scrolling require a different, slower response map, which is another hurdle for the engineers to overcome.

“What’s nice is that people who are new to handheld devices don’t even notice this technology at first,” says Takala with a smile. “But they really miss it if you take it away from them once they’ve experienced it. It’s kind of addictive.”

One thing I can say is that this is the first technology I’ve seen and played with which could genuinely revolutionise the use of handheld devices in general. The ability to touch type at reasonable speeds on a touchscreen is something which every phone, PDA and handheld computer manufacturer would give their right arm for, and it looks as though the technology is about to reach the marketplace with a bang. I can’t wait.


  • Beautiful! :)

  • I hate to piss on your headline, but Apple patented a haptic multi-touchscreen design months ago, so the iPhone is smugly awaiting its upgrade rather than gnashing any teeth :)
    Nokia have yet to ship anything multi-touch, let alone with a haptic response.

  • The future is here – iPhone.

    Let me know when You can buy Nokia’s answer. Notice I said ‘You”.

  • It’s too bad the iPhone is attached to a single U.S. service provider.

  • I really hope Nokia can beat Apple at this game….the iPhone has eaten up a big chunk of the gadget market

  • too soon to ask about battery consumption?

  • Good question jchizzle. I didn’t get a chance to ask that.

  • The N95 has far more features than the iphone… So what’s the fuss? It’s not even high speed nor as feature rich as the N80. U can keep att…It’s no Orange or Docomo!!

  • Apple has aplied for patents in the filed. Immersion has patents and about 8 million phones in use with Nokia as a new partner, others being Samsung (ultrasmart) and LG (the Prada and Armani) IMMR owns and

  • excellent, one of the failings of touch screens has a a fix .
    You can tell the apple fans by how the jump on any announcement like this and say ‘apple first’ .. funny people.

    – apple being smug

  • Cant wait!

  • They specifically said that you don’t actually type any faster with the haptic response enabled, you just find it more satisfying and yet you still claim that you are typing faster.

    Sounds like a whizzy gimmick to me. I type as fast on my N800 as I do on my Treo 650, sure it doesn’t feel the same, but accuracy and speed are pretty much identical afaict.

  • The iPhone is essentially a phone from about 5 years ago compared to the phones Nokia’s pushing out these days. It is a pity Apple fanboys are so easily swayed by some fancy rounded corner graphics – it doesn’t even do MMS or record video ffs!

  • Alex, that’s a good point. I think the issue here is whether you are a touch typist or not. When I was testing it out, I kept thinking that if the screen was just a little bit wider I could really go to town with some fast 4 finger typing as I used to do with my beloved Psion 5. I could type at near full speed on that device, which was great. :-)

  • So that ron kid at the top that was all THE FUTURE IS HERE -iPhone GTFO! The iPhone was the biggest piece of plastic garbage I ever put my pointer finger on. “The Future is here” Yeah it is, with Nokia. =) It’s amazing how attractive a phone can be when it’s got cute graphics and a little icon for youtube. It was a total waste of a comercial. And I just hope to got that Nokia makes a phone like this for Verizon (which is hands down the best wireless company on the market!) I sure hope that apple comes out with a better iPhone for your sake when everyone is walking around with more advanced phones than you are, and you’re sitting there being a little more than focused on your phone, that’s censors get stuck every couple of minutes! PEACE & LOVE kids C=

  • I think the iPhone haters here are missing the point. The hardware isn’t massively important, anyone can do that. What is important is that Apple have put a desktop class OS with the same libraries and software into this device!

    Mac developers are now free take ~95% of their knowledge and create amazing software for the iPhone almost immediately – yes it is coming, in February there will be an official native SDK for the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

    It’s really amazing to me that even with no support, there were seemingly hundreds of software titles for the iPhone and iPod Touch within a few months.

    Sure there have been hurdles but come February I expect to see these programs running on the iPhone more or less officially. No other phone on the planet can claim anything so grand, not even the Windows Mobile phones, which have had years to develop a healthy software ecosystem and simply haven’t.

    I have no dislike for Nokia, they’ve made every phone i’ve ever owned. That said this ‘same old’ software simply wont create a thriving community in the same way as OSX Mobile has.

    If Nokia really wants to blow the gates wide open and storm the iPhone palace I would suggest focusing on creating some ground breaking frameworks. I for one would jump at the chance to create software in a brand new way.

    Still, credit where credit is due: great work Nokia! I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

  • Why do you need MMS if you have email, which is free?

    • Somethings require far more details than 160 characters mate

  • Mark, Nokia put a “desktop class OS with the same libraries and software” into a mobile device two years ago – the very same device modified version of which this article is talking about.

    And unlike Apple, they actually gave us the tools to develop right away, instead of vague promises that may or may not come true, and even if they do, it’s a year after the device.

  • Nokia still makes the best cell phones in the world… bar none.

    The iPhone is for suckers.

    ..and Verizon? The best cell company on the market? You obviously don’t travel outside the U.S., where a Verizon phone is completely useless.

  • Quotes from earlier comments:

    It’s really amazing to me that even with no support, there were seemingly hundreds of software titles for the iPhone and iPod Touch within a few months.

    Mark, Nokia put a “desktop class OS with the same libraries and software” into a mobile device two years ago –

    The answer is:

    software packages that have been out for years for this platform, runs linux, and if you don’t see the program you want then write it.

    Qtopia Green Phone

    oops, just now viewing their site I see they are sold out, glad I got mine.

  • The iPhone is not the most feature-rich phone on the planet, it’s true. If you measure your phone by how many bullets it consumes listing all that it can do, the iPhone is not for you. The thing the iPhone has that absolutely blows away every other phone on the planet is its usability.

    Until Nokia can make a phone that’s as much of a joy to use, that works exactly how you expect it to and even works when you’ve been trained by other phones to NOT expect it to, it cannot compare with the iPhone.

    It really comes down to the little things that Apple does so well. They take the dial, and turn it to 11. Simple as that.

  • i had written about this some time ago.

    The technology looks way to attractive.
    some more info on tactile feed back can be found here

  • Very interesting! It is hard to know what the exact dynamics is, but “Each press of a key returned a clunky click and tactile snap on the touchscreen” sounds interesting. On the other hand human haptic perception is very rich, more than just the click sensation but also the button’s shape and border “previews” before you press down, so I wonder how well “Haptikos” could match a physical key feel. It is puzzling that Haptikos did not really improve performance, because the cheap “vibrato-tactile” feedback does improve soft key performance (so does audio feedback) in controlled studies.

    Overall, this feels like a good step forward, but probably not a virtual haptic rendering of a physical keyboard. Touchscreens have many other advantages, one of them being enabling fluid strokes and gestures and solutions like ShapeWriter (

  • “The ability to touch type at reasonable speeds on a touchscreen is something which every phone, PDA and handheld computer manufacturer would give their right arm for(…)” I did not know PDAs had arms, maybe if ever mine is amputated I could buy a PDA and connect it on my shoulder. Go Nokia Go!

  • Just because it feels like the screen clicks doesn’t mean you’ll be able to touch type — that would require being able to tell that your fingers were in the right place without looking: That’s why real keyboards have curved keys, and it’s why the home row has little ridges where your index fingers rest … and most importantly … it’s why touch feedback alone doesn’t let you type any faster even if you’re a touch typist.

  • Ah actually Joel, that’s not really true. I touch type (Pitman trained) and as long as my fingers start off in the right place (which I can do by looking at the keys) I don’t look at the keyboard thereafter. It’s simply a matter of getting used to the keyboard which happens anyway over time. My current keyboard is losing all the lettering, but I’m not noticing really.

  • Red–Joel made no comment about needing to “see” the keys. There’s generally nubs on the f and j keys to remind your fingers where home is, and each key is curved to keep your fingers from “accidentally” slipping off onto another key over time.

    And both of you–the article specifically said people _felt_ like they were typing faster due to the responsiveness, but also that THEY WERE NOT ACTUALLY TYPING FASTER.

  • Kaolin, yeah I see what you both mean. It’s a fair point. Regarding the typing faster, I actually felt that if the screen had been wider, I might have been able to type faster. It was just that the 770 screen is a tad too narrow to accommodate four fat fingers at a decent speed.

  • giving your right arm to be able to touch type sorta defeats the purpose

  • The iPhone is for simplistic individuals who have nothing to do all day but play games, listen to music, and drool over the fancy graphics their phone has.

    The iPhone is a bimbo beauty queen while Nokia phones is the smart bespectacled girl who ends up at the top of the class.

  • apple didn't perfect it.
    read this:

  • The touchscreen is so awesome with Nokia

  • Lol When I read this post in 2010 is very fun, nothing to do against iphoe or google phone

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