Thoughts on touchscreen interfaces

A while back I read Bret Victor’s thoughts on the then popular Future Vision video from Microsoft:

The video its self is quite awesome in some aspects, I like lots of parts of it. However, I do side with Mr. Victor. Tactile feedback is needed to really make devices great. I bought the original Android G1 with a hardware keyboard and trackball. This was primarily because I know how to touch type, in fact I prided myself on knowing my T9 well enough I could type a text message without looking.

Now I have the Galaxy Nexus it lacks basically any sort of physical buttons. I’m sure there are many reasons for this but there are so many annoyances as well. I cannot do something so simple as unlock my phone without looking at the screen. Ordinarily this might not be such a big issue but while driving this becomes a big problem, not even for text messaging or anything that I shouldn’t be doing. Want to change tracks in your music player? Need to see what the next turn is on your GPS? Need to dismiss the notification that just popped over your map? You have to look at the screen to do these things.

This is a big argument in my mind as why devices should have physical buttons or at least some way of separating out buttons on a touch screen. Then it becomes an something that can be used to help you, instead of something that demands you to context switch to it.