Synaptics' Hsu said costs have come down for capacitive touchscreen technology as more manufacturers jump on board. "Growing acceptances of capacitive touch panels on the market and the number of devices on the market have rapidly matured the supply chain and logistics, which have led to the rapid lowering of capacitive touch panel prices," he said.
The changing dynamics could give capacitive technologies more leverage in the market. "Most importantly, as volume picks up, we can negotiate for better prices," said Gokul Krishnan, the director of marketing for the user interface group at Cypress, which produces capacitive touchscreen solutions. "Those are the big drivers that really change the cost dimension."
But it may not be as simple as achieving economies of scale, according to Roberto Loria, HTC's executive director of product planning. As with many trends in the wireless industry, the role of the carriers cannot be overlooked.
"There's a lot that goes into the cost of a touch device," he said. "The retail price is often tied to a contract with an operator. They subsidize it and bring it to a range."
The user experience
The majority of HTC's devices are touch-enabled. Samsung has said it wants to push touch not only in its smartphones but also its mid-tier devices. Why? Over and over again, the phrase "rich user experience" came up in discussions with those working in the industry--touchscreens are an enabling technology.
"Touch-enabled devices allow you to provide a bigger display surface that allows you to provide more content to the user," and a more feature-rich experience, HTC's Loria said.
However, with all of this enabling comes a great responsibility to customers, Hsu said. Smartphone adopters usually are pretty tech-savvy, and will work through problems with responsiveness or usability that may crop up with touchscreens. But if handset makers are pushing touch more to the mass-market, vendors need to ensure a quality user experience, "And if it's not there, the phone's just not going to sell," he said.
Nonetheless, the touchscreen market appears set to grow significantly over the next few years. "Touch is really going to take off and mobile is the big gorilla that it's going to start with," Krishnan said.