A sensitive phone without buttons

Buttons on a phone...how very quaint in that 2006 sort of way.

With the Onyx, a new concept phone released by Synaptics and Pilotfish, operators can answer their phone by putting it next to their ear. The touch of a cheek to the sensitive screen picks up the call.

Credit: Synaptics

The Onyx uses a Synaptics ClearPad touch screen in lieu of buttons. It responds to new forms of screen touch in addition to typical sense-pad taps and slides, according to Synaptics. The screen's sensitivity can react to drawing virtual shapes on the screen with one's finger. It also measures the "proximity to the user's finger or cheek."

One possible use suggested by Synaptics is drawing a virtual "X" on the screen to close a function, or using a swipe motion to send a message. The example makes one wonder which companies will be the first to fight over a particular finger stroke.

A single typed "G" or "Y" now leads some Web browsers directly to the Google and Yahoo home pages. A finger stroke on a Web- surfing cell phone doing the same thing seems to be a likely evolution.

Will occasional Synaptics partner Apple Computer quickly lay claim to the lower-case "i", or will they duke it out with Amazon over the letter "A"?

And what about the Nike swoosh?

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