Understanding The 'Ghost Touch' Problem, And Why Proper Care Is Needed

With devices'' screens supporting more colors and have higher pixel densities, they become increasingly alluring to see and to work with. But when they don't work, or work when they don't have to, they can be really annoying.

Among the glitches smartphones and devices with touchscreens can experience, there is one that is called the 'ghost touch'.

This is a screen problem people can experience with their device, regardless the operating system or brand. It can be so frustrating and unreal, and can be more painful to deal with than a physically broken screen.

In short, 'ghost touch' is the moment when the screen is automatically operating by itself. Like for example, responding to some touches users are not actually touching. It could be a random touch, a part of the screen, or some parts of the screen becomes frozen.

A touchscreen on a phone is its main source of input. If it doesn't work like it should, it can be so unbearable that it becomes one of the most annoying thing to live with in this modern age of the internet.

So what causes this 'ghost touch'? And what can be done to solve it?

Ghost with a cellphone

First, it should be noted that the 'ghost' touches can vary from device to device, and second, it can either be caused by hardware or software issues.

The most common, is because of a poor cable or charger.

The peripherals may have malfunctioned. Although this is can be temporary at first, and once the cable is removed, the phone would return to normal. But repeated and extended use of poor quality cables and/or chargers can cause permanent damage to a phone.

The next most common cause for ghost touches, is a faulty software update. A wrong code in the software may freeze some parts of the screen or makes it start random touches.

Another cause, is extreme temperatures.

When a phone is exposed to cold weather or overheating, it is forced to operate beyond the temperature it is designed to work. Besides some potential hardware damage, this can also affect the screen, preventing it from functioning properly.

The next common cause, is a bad screen protector.

People may put screen protectors on their phones to protect the screen from scratches. But a bad screen protector, an aged one, or one that isn't attached firmly to the screen, can allow dust or other microscopic particles to enter and get caught between the screen and the protector.

Some others can also experience ghost touches if the screen is cracked/scratched.

To understand the reasons why the most common hardware-caused 'ghost touches' occur, can be broken down to how touchscreens work.

Touchscreens, both resistive and capacitive ones, are made of several layers stacked one on top of the other.

Resistive touchscreens are made from flexible sheets coated with a resistive material that is separated by an air gap or microdots. These screens respond to presses.

As for capacitive touchscreens, they are made from insulator, such as glass, coated with a transparent conductor. These screens respond to touches, like from a human body that is an electrical conductor.

Capacitive, Resistive
Credit: Xymox

When either screen is pressed/touched to a point they have to respond, electrical charges are transferred to complete their respective circuit, creating a voltage change.

This moment is considered as an input, which would be processed by the processor, to create an intended output, based on the programming of an app or operating system.

Ghost touches can happen when something is interfering with that process, making the screen to respond (or to not respond) when it shouldn't/should.

From dust to other microscopic particles, to the ammonia and other salts and minerals contained inside sweats, can all interfere. In small quantities, they won't cause any trouble. But if they come in large quantities, they can cause phones to occasionally glitch.

If nothing is present that could interfere with the process of how touchscreens work, then it's probably a faulty screen.

A screen replacement should be the best solution for this.