Touchscreens have been a boon for smartphones and tablets, but on cameras, radios and printers I’m left longing for a dial revival. When buttons do the job better, why don’t manufacturers just provide them?
Now don’t get me wrong, I love touchscreens when they make a task quicker, simpler and more intuitive – pinch to zoom on my phone, marvellous. But the fad for touchscreens on anything and everything, with seemingly little thought for what actually works best, is frankly disappointing.
This is particularly true when it comes to products like cameras where interaction is key.
Button, button, who’s got the button?
Take the Panasonic GF5 – Panasonic’s latest micro-four-thirds camera which retains the touchscreen control of the previous model.
The touchscreen is resistive, not capacitive – the first minor disappointment – so it requires a much firmer prod to make things happen than my smartphone.
All menu navigation is via the touchscreen, requiring a couple of prods to call up the menu when selecting a shooting mode. Now maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t a dial that constantly displays my options and requires one twist be simpler and quicker? Particularly when shooting in sunlight can make screens difficult to use.
This Panasonic is just one example, but most of the camera brands we’ve tested have touchscreen cameras in their product ranges that work with varying degrees of success. And it doesn’t just stop at cameras.
Cameras aren’t the only culprits
Take the Pure Sensia digital radio with its large touchscreen display. It’s a versatile radio with lots of features that use the screen. This definitely makes the most of its web connectivity, but the touchscreen volume slider is anything but controllable (certainly for me) and practice didn’t improve my ability to select the right level.
Thankfully, there are also volume buttons on the remote control – although I’d have preferred a volume dial on the radio itself.
I understand that packing buttons and dials into products takes up space and that top-quality touchscreens cost money, but when functions I use regularly aren’t super-easy to control I start to regret my purchase.
Surely the best products are those that do their jobs well and are easy to use? So, if a combination of touchscreen and analogue controls would make frequent tasks simpler to tackle, why not have both?
How do you prefer to control your gadgets?
With physical buttons/dials (33%, 109 Votes)
I don't mind which (it depends on the product) (32%, 107 Votes)
With both a touchscreen and physical buttons/dials (25%, 82 Votes)
With a touchscreen (10%, 32 Votes)
Total Voters: 330