Have you ever tried to tap or touch an icon on a touchscreen device using a gloved finger or a stylus, only to discover that it didn’t register your command? This is an all-too-common scenario encountered by consumers and professionals who use touchscreens. The touchscreen may register your commands if you use a bare finger but not if you use a gloved finger or a stylus. As a result, you might be wondering why, exactly, some touchscreens only work with a bare finger.

It’s All About Conductivity

The reason some touchscreens only work with a bare finger lies in the human body’s naturally conductive properties. There are different types of touchscreen technologies on the market, though none are more popular than capacitive. Statistics show that nearly nine in 10 of all touchscreens shipped and sold globally are powered by capacitive technology. Capacitive touchscreens such as these rely on conductivity to detect touch commands. If you use a gloved finger or a stylus to control them, they won’t register or otherwise respond to your commands.

Capacitive Touchscreens: What You Should Know

Capacitive touchscreens live up to their namesake by measuring capacitance. In other words, they look for changes in a uniform electrical charge that’s applied to the top layer. When a capacitive touchscreen is turned on, an electrical charge will be applied to its top layer. Upon touching the top layer with a bare finger, your body will absorb some of the electrical charge. The capacitive touchscreen will then detect this change in capacitance as a touch command.

Back to the question at hand, capacitive touchscreens can’t register touch commands performed with a gloved finger or a stylus because they are nonconductive. If you wear gloves while attempting to control a capacitive touchscreen, the gloves will prevent your finger from absorbing the device’s electrical current. In turn, the capacitive touchscreen won’t register your touch command.

This same principle applies to styluses as well. Styluses are typically nonconductive, and like gloves, they won’t absorb a touchscreen’s electrical current. To control a capacitive touchscreen, you typically need to use a bare finger.

What About Resistive Touchscreens

While some touchscreens only work with a bare fingers, others work with just about any object, including a bare finger, a gloved finger or a stylus. Resistive touchscreens, for example, support touch commands from any object. They don’t rely on conductivity to detect and register touch commands. As a result, you can control resistive touchscreens with a bare finger, a gloved finger or a stylus.