This may be a very subjective observation, but everytime I ask people, more question marks occur.

Situation given:

When using a mobile touch device or laptop with touch screen, some (observed) people do not mind the fingerprints on it. But as soon as it comes to a screen without touch functionality, these people got annoyed by the smudges on their screen.

Technically it's pretty the same, I compared surfaces next to each other and fingerprints were visible in the same way. This lets me conclude, that there must be some constraints in the user's model which causes this behaviour.

I have not made a study about this, but observed this over time. Is this a fun fact or a scientifically recognised issue?

2 Answers 2


I think it is the sense of purpose of this thing. The same way I do not mind butter on a normal kitchen knife, but it distracts me a lot when spotted on a bread knife, which is dedicated for one purpose only: cutting bread. As the other knife is a multi-purpose one, it is fine for me to use it in multiple ways.

It looks to be similar with screens. Touch screens are for viewing and operating what is on them, so the matter of having marks of this operation, even though it is a bit annoying to see them, is fully justifiable.

  • Who's been using a bread knife to spread butter? :/
    – Dave
    Apr 11, 2017 at 18:42
  • @Dave, perhaps the same guy who fingered the non-touch laptop screen. Apr 11, 2017 at 18:43

I suspect this might have more to do with orientation and reflected light: I can see stuff on my laptop screen if it catches the light obliquely. However with my smartphone I hold it to face me the whole time – so the lighting never shows up the fingerprints on the screen.

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