The number of touch-screen mobile devices shipped has nearly doubled since 2006, according to new data from ABI Research.
The research firm said the launch of Apple's iPhone about 16 months ago has been a major catalyst for the increase in touch-screen handsets. The company sold 6.9 million iPhones in its fiscal fourth quarter, making it the third-largest mobile phone maker in terms of revenue, according to Apple.
"Nearly all mobile handset manufacturers are getting into touch screens to a greater or lesser extent," ABI research director Kevin Burden said in a statement. "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."
Samsung leads the touch-screen market with about a 33% share, followed by Motorola at 30%. Sony Ericsson is in third place with 24% of the market, according to the research firm. Apple grabs a lot of the attention, but the company still only holds a small percentage of the global touch-screen market because it only offers a single line of phones.
"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."
Nearly every cell phone manufacturer is preparing or has already released a high-profile touch-screen phone. Nokia will soon release its first mass-market touch smartphone, the 5800 XpressMusic, and it's undoubtedly working on a higher-end N Series smartphone. Motorola recently rolled out the Krave, which has a touch screen that can be interacted with through a clear flip screen.
Samsung's Instinct has been a tremendous commercial success, and many are awaiting a wider rollout of its feature-rich Omnia smartphone. Research In Motion also will soon enter the touch-screen market with the BlackBerry Storm.