Apple’s iPhone has done much to thrust touch screens firmly into the public’s consciousness – a place they seem certain to increasingly inhabit.

A report from ABI Research forecasts that revenue from the global touch screen market for smartphones and other handheld devices such as MIDs, UMPCs, and PNDs will reach USD $5 billion in 2009.

Shipments of touch screen-based mobile devices increased 91 per cent in 2007 compared to the previous year.

Yet according to Kevin Burden, research director at ABI, said nearly all mobile handset manufacturers were getting into touch screens to a greater or lesser extent.

But he added that there were strong regional differences in the uptake of touch screens.

The Asia/Pacific market, where more than 80 per cent of the world’s touch screen-based mobile phone production was consumed over the past year, has been a major driver in the rising demand.

“The acceptance of touch screens to date has varied by geographic region, which has been a significant factor in determining the success of individual handset vendors,” he said.

Samsung and Motorola have been the most successful, commanding 33 per cent and 30 per cent shares of the touch screen mobile phone market respectively.

“Samsung and Motorola lead the market for touch screen phones primarily because of their scale and significant presence in the Asian markets,” said Burden.

“Because it’s difficult to represent even a fraction of the common Asian characters on a QWERTY-style keyboard, touch screen devices on which characters can be written with a stylus are immensely popular.”

At 24 per cent, Sony Ericsson has the third-largest market share, while all the other handset vendors – including Apple – are essentially niche players.

The ABI report said that a number of factors are driving further adoption of touch screen-based mobile devices.

*Consumers are looking for more intuitive user interfaces and personalization options as device functionality increases.

*Prices for touch components and panels continue to decrease and are falling on an average of nearly 10 per cent per annum.

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