Help File: Gloves that work with touchscreens; buying a Comcast cable modem

Sunday, December 20, 2009; G04

Q: My iPhone's touchscreen doesn't work when I wear my gloves. Do I have any options to frozen fingers?

A: The screens on iPhones and other smartphones, like the click-wheel controls on iPods, use a capacitive design that relies on your fingertip's ability to conduct electricity.

Regular gloves interrupt that circuit, so you'd either need a pair that lets you temporarily expose a fingertip or a set that incorporates conductive material.

Gloves by Freehands ($18 and up at represents the first category. The ends of each glove's index finger and thumb flip open, then magnetically attach to the nearest knuckle. That allows the same control as with bare hands, at the cost of cold fingertips.

Two more expensive and effective gloves have silvery conductive fabric sewn into the tips of the forefingers and thumbs.

Echo Touch's sport glove ($30 but out of stock at, though a non-sport variety was available at that price Friday) kept my hand warm, but their somewhat loose fit made it tricky to select smaller onscreen items.

North Face's E-Tip men's gloves ($40) have a more snug fit that allows finer control. But the stylized circuit-board pattern across each palm and the power-on symbol adorning each thumb give them a Borg Nouveau look that some might see as a turnoff.

Comcast raised its modem-rental charge to $5. Is it worthwhile to buy my own modem?

Sure. Cable modems start at around $60 in stores, and you can probably beat those prices online. Just make sure whatever you buy appears on Comcast's list of approved modems ( One listed as "DOCSIS 3.0" compatible will support faster speeds that Comcast is now deploying.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Visit for his Faster Forward blog.

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