Physical Keypad vs Touchscreen: Which is Best?

Dec 14, 2015

blackberry-motorolla-motozine-4710259-h It wasn’t long ago when physical, mechanical keypads were the de-facto standard in smartphones, computer systems, and human machine interfaces (HMI). They provided a simple yet effective means for the operator to input commands. But then came touchscreens, introducing users to a new, more interactive, means of data input and communication. With devices today now featuring physical keypads and touchscreens, however, you might be wondering which type is the best.

Work Applications

There are certain work applications in which touchscreens are best, and there are others in which physical keypads are best. If employees are wearing gloves, then a mechanical keypad is the preferred choice, as mechanical keys are easier to use when wearing gloves. But for restaurants and retail stores, touchscreens may prove to be a better choice. Again, it all depends on the circumstances surrounding the work application.


In terms of accuracy, physical keypads trump touchscreens time and time again. Virtual keypads used on touchscreens are often difficult to use. You may attempt to type a sentence, only to accidentally hit several unnecessary keys in the process. Why do touchscreens have a lower accuracy than mechanical keypads? Well, this is because the surface on which you type is completely flat with no distinguishable barriers or other physical characteristics separating the keys.

Keypad Reliability

Of course, the greatest advantage that touchscreens have over their mechanical keypad counterpart is greater reliability. Mechanical keypads may be prone to failure due to dirt and debris becoming stuck underneath the keys. When this occurs, it can either restrict the key from making contact, or it can damage the components. This isn’t an issue with touchscreens, however, as keypresses are performed directly on the electronic display.

Note: you can avoid mechanical problems associated with physical keypads by opting for a membrane keypad. Featuring a flexible membrane-like design, all the keys are embedded directly into the surface, meaning there’s no way for dirt or debris to make its way underneath the keys.

So, which type of keypad comes out on top? As you can see from above, there are advantages to both touchscreens and physical keypads. Physical keypads offer a higher level of accuracy, but touchscreens may be preferred for their reliability and resistance to dirt.

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