I've been bearish on mobile device makers, because to me, more companies rolling out smartphones -- Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Palm (NASDAQ:PALM), HTC, etc. -- only leads to greater eventual cutthroat competition and bloodbath pricing. So how do I suggest playing this smartphone explosion?

Simple. Buy the bullets, not the guns. Pursue the key suppliers that will benefit from not only the transition to smartphones, but also from other technology shifts as well.

One of the sleeper companies that fits this bill is Synaptics (NASDAQ:SYNA), a hardware and software player in touch-based technologies that primarily serves the PC and mobile device markets. Many can quickly name Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, and it seems that just about every manufacturer has moved with the trend of touch-based interfaces, but have as many heard of Synaptics?

I doubt it, even though this company is building upon its strong position in the laptop market with its trackpad business. It's also strengthening its growing position in the handsets market, as more mobile device companies bring even more touch-enabled products to market.

Synaptics is not waiting for the competition to catch up to it as it continues to develop new touch-based solutions. The company recently introduced its Fuse product, which integrates a number of interface technologies -- multitouch capacitive sensing, haptic feedback, 3-D graphics, and force, grip, and proximity sensing -- the combination of which offers a compelling point of differentiation from what is going on in the smartphone market today.

The company has $5.80 per share in net cash vs. the current share price of $31.90, and Synaptics shares are trading at about 14 times next year's earnings. That multiple is attractive in comparison to 20% annual earnings growth analysts are predicting over the next five years.

Catalysts to get the shares moving in the near term include new product announcements from key customers, like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Samsung, Acer, and others during the Consumer Electronics Show last week. Google, in particular, signaled that it will be using a Synaptics touchscreen sensor on its new Nexus One smartphone.

Synaptics also recently detailed its "Scrybe" gesture workflows, which are its next-generation touchpad-based interfaces for PCs. Longer term, the company is well positioned as touch-based technologies become mainstream in mobile devices and more robust technologies, such as Scrybe, become a product differentiator in the PC market.

Stock up on those bullets -- it'll be a long smartphone battle.

Fool contributor Chris Versace owns no position in any of the companies mentioned. Dell is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.