Among the rush of Apple patents relating to touchscreens over the last year came one on tactile feedback touchscreens, and Nokia seems to have been thinking along the same lines. Almost exactly the same lines, since Nokia's Haptikos tech is a system of fluid-cells driven by piezoelectric actuators that push up through a flexible touchscreen. And that sounds a lot like Apple's sub-surface, adjustable tactile "keys." But apparently the Nokia tech is aimed at "variable and controllable user perceived surface roughness or friction coefficient" rather than buttons. Fascinating stuff, nevertheless. [Unwiredview]
Problem is, with any sort of tactile feedback from the screen you can't really rely on having optical-grade scratch resistant glass over the screen anymore. I don't see why it's some unwritten rule that when a device has a touchscreen you have to get rid of all the buttons but one. Apple did it, sure — but I think they were just the first to make that mistake. The screen doesn't take up 100% of the Iphone's real-estate. The strip that contains the home button has room for 3-4 buttons instead of one "gloriously centered" button.
Can you imagine how much better gaming on the iphone would be if they had added in 3-4 real buttons in addition to the touch screen/accelerometer? Imagine the joy of being able to adjust the volume on your iphone without removing it from your pocket and turning on the screen . . .
Just because a touch-screen based device doesn't *HAVE* to have other buttons doesn't mean it shouldn't. Why not have the best of both worlds? True tacile feedback for sightless controlling and gaming goodness . . .