Apple has fallen in love with it, all the smartphone-vendors use it, Microsoft is aiming for it with Windows 8.

But is touch the ultimate device?

Some people will probably answer this question with gestures Kinect-style as a better approach, but gestures nor touch are pixel perfect. Our finger pads can't be smaller than their physical size - or is there a touch solution to this problem as well?

  • 2
    The ultimate device is the one you don't need; e.g., a Kindle is the ultimate bookshelf. Sep 27, 2011 at 13:19
  • Nothing is the ultimate device until singles from my brain make my every wish come true. So I guess I'm saying insanity is the ultimate device.
    – Ben Brocka
    Sep 27, 2011 at 13:20
  • 1
    Touch isn't a device, it's a method of interaction. So you should be asking "are touch-based devices the ultimate devices?" in which case, no, of course not, because we haven't made HAL 9000 or the Star Trek onboard computer yet.
    – Rahul
    Sep 28, 2011 at 8:35
  • Here's a good article on an instance where touch may not be the right solution. ignorethecode.net/blog/2011/09/29/machine_for_reading_books Oct 4, 2011 at 14:58
  • No. I dislike touch, but that's not relevant here. One of the most common tasks is to write text on a computer. Touch screen keyboards leave A LOT to be desired.
    – Anonymous
    Dec 9, 2011 at 13:25

8 Answers 8


It is not the ultimate device, until someone invents transparent fingers. ;)

I believe that it depends on the specific application. For some applications a mouse is better than a touch screen. Image you would have to touch your PC's screen. For other applications touch screens are perfect and for some applications speech recognition is better. For a game, a joystick could be superior.

I don't think there is 1 ultimate device.

You say that "our finger pads can't be smaller than their physical size - or is there a touch solution to this problem as well?"

In fact I am amazed by the precision of the iPhone's touch screen (and probably Android devices as well, I don't want to start a war here). When browsing a non mobile website on it, it becomes clear how precise the touch position is determined. Even if I need to click links that are very close to each other and each is a lot smaller than my finger, somehow it always seems to select the correct link. Not that this is perfect but I would not consider the size of the finger as an important shortcoming. It certainly works much better than touching the screen with a little pen.

  • 2
    +1 for there is no single ultimate device. Different devices and input formats are better for different tasks. I, for one, do not want to have to try typing a thesis using gestures - a keyboard is far easier. Sep 27, 2011 at 13:53

One example that speaks to how it can be used well: With Kids

Many people where I work have told me how their 3-5 year old doesn't use the computer because it is big and clunky, the keyboard is hard to use and the mouse not really intuitive.

A tablet or smart phone with touch on the other hand is something the immediately "get". They use them fluently. I am sure many who read this have similar stories. Kids love touch.

  • Well, you should try to write an e-mail on you touch phone with a 1 year old kid on your lap. Curious fingers all over the place are definitely not for the benefit of the touch device. Sep 28, 2011 at 10:34
  • Haha! So true, I'm happy they don't need to write emails at that age. I'm even a little inclined to not let my kids play with tablets until a little later age. Although I am not sure if what would set them back in comparison to others. Sep 30, 2011 at 15:01

It all depends on the task you are trying to accomplish and the user needs. The proliferation of touch sensitive devices has opened up new ways of interacting. In some cases touch can improve the experience (it could be more intuitive). In others it could be a hindrance (for example typing).


Your first question has already been answered--there is no such thing as an ultimate UI. Touch is merely yet-another UI option that is really great for a lot of device types. But we'll still have keyboards, mice, and many other types of UI hardware.

Our finger pads can't be smaller than their physical size - or is there a touch solution to this problem as well?

I have seen a solution in a lot of image editing software on iOS that is borrowed from (at least, it's where I saw it first) PhotoShop. When pixel-perfection is required, a small inset window appears with the area that you are touching magnified maybe 10x. This solves two issues: 1) it lets you interact at the pixel level (which is really tough on a retina display without zoom) and 2) it lets you see what's under your finger.


The ultimate device is one that does what I want it to do without my having to think about it. I suspect we are a few years away still :)

  • Isn't that a contradiction? When you want something, you think about it, don't you? Sep 27, 2011 at 11:31
  • 1
    But I want what I don't even know what I want yet :)
    – JohnGB
    Sep 27, 2011 at 12:06
  • That's called marketing. ;) Sep 27, 2011 at 12:29
  • 1
    @BaGi: I realise that I want a coffee. It should have arrived at least a minute before I thought that :P
    – JohnGB
    Sep 27, 2011 at 12:35
  • In other words, psychology will become more and more important! :)
    – Velkommen
    Sep 27, 2011 at 13:34

There will never truly be the ultimate device. Everyone views each type of device differently. Hence why we are in the middle of the tablet wars, and when that dies down something else will rise to take its place. But we are in the middle of the paradigm shift as people start to move away from GUI and we move toward the NUI (Natural User Interface) standard.


An article from Zurb, while going more and more towards hand interaction we cannot forget about other types of interactions. http://www.zurb.com/article/850/the-future-of-interaction-design-our-hand


This is probably many years ahead, but the ultimate device will probably be able to directly interact with the user WITHOUT AN INTERFACE. or even the device will accurately anticipate what the user wants to do even before they think about it based on their previous usage (early versions of this are already around).

So not touch or gesture but devices will work simple by users directly interacting with the device through our minds with zero physical effort.

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