Let your finger do the (optical) navigating

The explosive advances in today’s consumer electronic devices have changed the way we interact with them and what features we expect. What we once used to make calls on the go and send text messages with is now a mobile multimedia center with the ability to access the internet, keep up with email, listen to your favorite songs, watch a movie, and download and run applications to do almost anything. Today’s latest smartphones are not only getting better, smaller, and faster, but the way consumers interact with them is also changing.


A simple set of buttons to navigate the user interface of a cell phone is now a sophisticated touch interface, full keyboard and/or navigation piece functioning much like a computer mouse. As the functionality of cell phones evolved to support functionality such as email and internet browsing, the original navigation interfaces were no longer adequate to support users’ needs.


This demand saw the development of mechanical navigation tools (side wheels, track balls, multi-direction buttons and joy-sticks, etc.) as well as some of the more advanced systems we see today such as touch screen displays and optical finger navigation (OFN) track pads.


As smartphones continue to develop and offer additional functionality and productivity, the demand for advanced navigation tools to support these features and benefits becomes critical for consumers. For the business professional, the ability to edit and review documents on a smartphone, for example, requires precise pointer control for text editing.


The consumer now demands advanced internet browsing, multimedia support, and gaming capabilities from their mobile device, all of which require detailed control functionality to better the gaming experience or ease internet browsing. The user interface is now becoming an important factor when customers decide on their next smartphone purchase. This demand has lead top smartphone manufacturers to consider OFN as a first choice technology to meet users’ needs.


There are many benefits to an OFN module that makes it a superior navigation system for mobile devices. As smartphones continue to develop, the need for precise pointer control and high resolution accuracy are becoming increasingly important for editing documents, selecting portions of text, navigating web pages, and gaming functionality.


OFN modules enable one-handed operation and are resistant to dust and other malfunctions that mechanical navigation systems are prone to, all while being a weatherproof and offering highly reliable navigation.

Let your finger do the (optical) navigating


Table 1: Technology comparison summary

In addition, OFN systems do not degrade over time because they are fully enclosed subsystems, unlike some of the alternative mechanical navigation options that experience usage malfunctions over time. These are key advantages to OFN solutions when compared to touch screen and mechanical navigation alternatives. Table 1 above compares a variety of navigation solutions across various parameters.

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