Smartphones have become increasingly common over the past few decades. According to a Pew Research Center survey, four in five Americans now own a smartphone. To put that number into perspective, only 35% of Americans owned a smartphone in 2011. But while most smartphones now capacitive technology to detect touch commands, this hasn’t always been the case. When smartphones first hit the market, they used resistive technology to detect touch commands.

The First Capacitive Smartphone

Some people assume that the Apple iPhone (first generation) was the first smartphone to use capacitive technology, but this isn’t necessarily true. According to Wikipedia, the world’s first true capacitive smartphone was the LG Prada. Launched May 2007, it wasn’t a particularly popular smartphone. Rather, it was overshadowed by the iPhone, which was released around the same time. The LG Prada was groundbreaking, however, because it was the first smartphone to detect touch commands using capacitive technology.

What Is Capacitive Technology?

Unless you’re familiar with touchscreen devices, you might be wondering what is capacitive technology and how it works. Capacitive technology refers to the use of capacitance to detect touch commands. They are designed to project an electrostatic field across the display interface. When you touch the display interface, your finger — or a capacitive stylus, if you are using one — will absorb some of the device’s electrostatic field, thus allowing the smartphone to detect the location of your touch command.

Today, most smartphones, including Android and iOS models, now use capacitive technology to detect touch commands. There are still a few resistive smartphones on the market, but you’ll probably discover that over nine in 10 of all smartphones are powered by capacitive technology.

Why the Switch to Capacitive Smartphones?

Smartphone manufacturers have embraced capacitive technology for several reasons. For starters, capacitive smartphones are more responsive than resistive smartphones. In many cases, you can trigger a touch command simply by hovering your finger over the display interface, whereas a resistive smartphone requires a stronger and more forceful touch on the display interface.

Another reason manufacturers have switched to capacitive technology is because it’s less likely to trigger false commands. If you carry a resistive smartphone in your pants pockets, it may result in false commands. If your pockets press against the display, for example, your smartphone may identify this as a touch command. Capacitive smartphones don’t suffer from this problem, as they require contact with a conductive object, such as your finger, to trigger a touch command.