While they aren’t as sensitive as their capacitive touchscreens — nor do they offer the same level of image quality — resistive touchscreens offer a unique advantage over their counterparts: stylus support. If you’ve tried to control a capacitive touchscreen using a standard stylus, you should know that it doesn’t work.
Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or any other device, capacitive touchscreens generally only support bare finger commands, meaning they won’t work a stylus. The only exception is some of the newer projected capacitive touchscreens (PCTs), which support thin gloves. But even these typically won’t work with a stylus. To use a stylus, you need to a resistive touchscreen. So, how are resistive touchscreens able to register stylus commands?
Resistive Touchscreens Use Two Layers Separated By Air
Resistive touchscreens can register stylus commands because of their unique design consisting of two layers separated by air. Both layers are usually made of plastic or flexible glass. When you touch the display interface with a stylus — or any object for that matter — the top layer will press into the bottom layer, allowing the resistive touchscreen to identify the location of your stylus command.
The two layers of a resistive touchscreen typically featured rows and columns of electrodes that face each other. Touching the display interface with a stylus completes the circuit by joining the face-to-face electrodes at the location of your touch. It doesn’t matter what you use to touch a resistive device. As long as you apply pressure, the device will register your touch command.
Capacitive Touchscreens Use a Different Design
Capacitive touchscreens are unable to register stylus commands because they use a different design than resistive touchscreens. While resistive touchscreens are pressure sensitive and rely on physical pressure to detect touch commands, capacitive touchscreens are not pressure sensitive and, instead, rely on capacitance to identify touch commands.
Although there are different types of capacitive touchscreens, including projected and surface, they all detect touch commands by producing and measuring a uniform electrostatic field emitted across the display interface. When a capacitive touchscreen is turned on, it applies a small amount of electricity to the display interface. And if you touch the display interface with your bare finger, your finger will absorb some of this electricity. This allows capacitive touchscreens to detect touch commands performed with a bare finger but not touch commands performed by a stylus or thick gloved finger.