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iPhone: Catalyst For Touchscreen Revolution

More than 230 million touch-screen handsets are expected to ship in 2012, according to a report from IMS Research.

The touch-screen handset, still a relatively rare bird, is proving to be so popular that more than 230 million are expected to ship in 2012, according to a report from IMS Research.

While touch screens on handsets have generally been relegated to high-end smartphones like the Apple iPhone, IMS noted that the screen technology is gradually working its way down into the much larger feature phone segment. Earlier this month, for instance, Nokia said it will introduce a touch device later this year as the vanguard handset in a wide range of devices covering entry-level to advanced phones.

"The original iPhone was the catalyst that created this huge market interest in touch-screen phones," IMS Research analyst Femi Omoni said in a statement. "The fact that it was not only popular with consumers, but also helped drive data revenues proved how important touch-screen handsets can be. Now all of the network operators and handset manufacturers want a piece of the pie."

IMS said fewer than 30 million touch-screen handsets were sold in 2007.

The technology has been in use in other devices like PDAs for years and had its first major introduction in the United States by Taiwan's HTC, which began selling its HTC Touch in June 2007, a few days before sales of the iPhone got under way.

Most of the major handset manufacturers are supplying touch-screen handsets to service providers and most have reported impressive sales figures for the devices. IMS noted that it took just one week for Sprint's Instinct touch-screen phone, manufactured by Samsung, to become the service provider's best-selling EV-DO device in its history.

Verizon Wireless has recorded impressive numbers with the LG Dare touch-screen phone, and waiting in the wings for anticipated delivery later this year is Research In Motion's entry in the touch-screen sweepstakes, a handset tentatively called the Thunder.

Underscoring the emerging popularity of touch-screen handsets, IMS said, was the fact that Apple reported selling 1 million of its 3G iPhone in three days.

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