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Fingerprints everywhere! Are we ready for 4 million dirty Windows 8 touchscreens?

Mark Sullivan | Oct. 17, 2012
When multitudes of Windows 8 users start playing with newly purchased hardware in the coming weeks and months, they'll encounter an indignity that once afflicted only smartphone and tablet users: dirty, smudgy, fingerprint-riddled touchscreens.

But touchscreens, especially those for smartphones and tablets, have become a commodity whose main distinguishing feature is simply price. Device makers like Samsung, Dell, HP, and HTC play in an extremely competitive market where margins are squeezed to the limit. These companies are eager to pay lower and lower prices for touchscreens. So naturally the device makers and their touchscreen suppliers are in no hurry to introduce expensive new featuressuch as oleophobic texturingto the screens.

IDCs Huang believes that sooner or later one of the major touchscreen device makers will take the plunge and invest in and license an oleophobic technology that it believes is cost-effective. The other major brands will then follow suit to avoid the perception in the marketplace that theyre being left behind, he says.

Accessory makers try to fill the gap

Right now, it is the accessory makers that have a commercially viable solution to screen smudging. Smartphone and tablet makers can find a wide array of coverings for their devices, featuring different materials and different finishes that provide either a glossy, glass-like finish, or a smooth matte finish instead.

The most popular type of screen protectors appear to be thin plastic film overlays that cover the touchscreen, but are actually made of more complex polyurethane. Wrapsol makes film for a variety of smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and its Ultra screen covers feature three layers: a clear polyurethane resin on the top, a clear hybrid copolymer acrylic pressure-sensitive adhesive in the middle, and finally a film liner on the bottom that sticks to your device.

Wrapsol claims that each layer combines to create a cover that keeps your screen smudge free and that is shock absorbenta great feature for mobile devices that are prone to drops, but less important for larger touchscreen PCs. Polyurethane covers shouldnt affect the touch sensitivity of your screen, so you wont have to apply more pressure or use it any differently. Other popular screen protectors made from polyurethane include Moshis iVisor and Zaggs InvisibleShield.

Polyethylene terephthalatemore commonly known as PETis also used in making screen protectors. BodyGuardz uses PET, which is a polyester-based plastic, to make its ScreenGuardz line to resist fingerprints and reduce glare.

The company actually uses different materials to protect against different elements: Its high-end cases are made from PET that protects against glare, scratches, and fingerprints, but the companys Classic screen protector is made of clear vinyl and is not as strong. Vinyl covers are cheaper and meant to be disposablejust toss it and install a new one when it wears out. But PET and polyurethane covers are meant to be more long-lasting.

While mobile devices have plenty of accessories that are designed to help clean their touchscreens or to prevent them from getting smudgy to begin with, the market is a little far behind when it comes to touchscreen PCs.

 

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