Goodbye Buttons: The Future of Cell Phones

Yes, the Onyx looks very cool.
Yes, the Onyx looks very cool.
Photo courtesy Synaptics

Aug 23, 2006 | Post Archive

Since you first possessed the faculties to ask for brand names, the tides of fashion have been rolling in and out of your wardrobe. And it isn't just about what's in your closet, either. Fashion has tried to influence your choices in appliances, housewares and more. With the rapid advancement of technology, especially concerning electronics and computing, it was inevitable that fashion would touch these areas, too. What’s it coming for next? Your cell phone, if it hasn’t already.

A recent article in Business Week outlines the next wave in mobile-phone technology. By the look of things, we'll soon be looking back at our "clamshells" and "candy bars" with the same disdain-and-snicker treatment you give your old Zack Morris phone. The new designs Business Week profiled included a watch-alarm-clock-phone combo, a solid-gold phone adorned with 120 carats of diamonds and an electronic ink phone with a flexible display.

Most interesting, in my humble opinion, is Synaptics' prototype design for a no-button phone called Onyx.

Business Week reports that, instead of buttons,

...the Onyx device understands signs and gestures, thanks to the sensitive touch pad covering most of its surface. It opens and closes applications when swiped by one or two fingers. The phone recognizes shapes and body parts. Lift Onyx to your cheek and it will pick up a call.
Photo courtesy Synaptics

The no-button, breakthrough interface the phone will use is called ClearPad, a new touch screen technology that will be available on the consumer market later in 2006. Top Tech News has more details:

According to Synaptics, "this creates new possibilities such as assigning functions to two-finger taps, closing tasks by swiping an 'X' over them, sending messages by swiping them off the screen, or answering a phone by holding it up to your cheek."

Sounds great, right? Here’s a friendly reminder that the Onyx is only a prototype at this stage. For you gadget junkies, the good news is that Synaptics plans to market the technology to mobile phone carriers by the end of this year. Link.