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Dear Android App Developers, Can We Quit With the Menu Button Already and Adopt an Action Overflow?

You see that massive, ugly black bar across the bottom of my HTC One X? Yeah, that would be the menu button that Android app developers refuse to move away from even though the Android team announced back in January that the death of the menu button was happening.

What they were hoping to accomplish with this move was a more consistent experience on Ice Cream Sandwich devices because going forward, Android was moving away from dedicated hardware menu buttons. Instead of coding your app to use a dedicated hardware menu button, they recommended that you take advantage of the action overflow capabilities in Android 4.0, which is essentially a menu button that is added to the app rather than one that is tied to a navigation button. If you do not code your app to use action overflow and instead tie it to a navigation button, you get the experience I have captured above if no menu button exists. 

Here are a few examples of apps still using the menu button, one being a Google app. And these aren’t all of them either, Foursquare, Hootsuite, ESPN Scorecenter, Sonos, Amazon MP3, Huffington Post, LinkedIn, and so on all continue to use a dedicated menu button with their apps. The list is enormous, and as you can tell, we aren’t talking about some tiny one-man operation here. These are the big boys that are failing to follow Android guidelines.

  

How should it work and why this move? Well, Google got half way there in their Reader app. As you can see from the screenie below and above left, the top right corner includes a 3-dotted button that is the action overflow area. When pressed, you get additional options that you would normally find when pressing a menu button. It makes sense to use this approach since ICS was built for multiple screens, some of which do not have hardware navigation buttons at all. If you code your app to use action overflow and it is tablet and phone compatible, you get the same experience on both. If you code it to use a menu button, depending on the phone and tablet that a person has, you may have two totally different experiences, which could be confusing to your users.

The reason I bring this up today is because we are seeing more and more phones launch without dedicated hardware menu buttons. The entire HTC One series along with the Incredible 4G LTE and EVO 4G LTE all do not have dedicated menu buttons and will have to experience the evil black bar. It’s time that developers recognize this. Unfortunately, these companies all likely test their apps on a Galaxy Nexus which has the ability to add a menu button to the on-screen navigation area, so they probably think that nothing is wrong.

The end of this issue is no where near completion, but you may want to start asking your favorite app devs to code their apps correctly. As devices continue to launch without dedicated menu buttons, you will soon understand the pain that some of us are experiencing on a daily basis.

  • http://twitter.com/BlackBlizzNerd Ben Landwehr

    Why do people think having real buttons create more screen space? The on screen buttons are where the real buttons would be. It’s the exact same thing only, the on-screen buttons are customizable and disappear when watching videos are turning the phone off. It gives for a much more clean look.

    I get people think they Nexus should allow for the whole screen to be taken up and to have just put hardware keys in that extra bezel space, but I can bet that if they didn’t have on-screen keys, the hardware ones would be in the same spot. Any lower and you’d likely be hitting the buttons over and over again while watching videos are something of that nature.

  • John Mozelewski

    Is it bad that i like the menu button? The only button i dont use is the search what do i need to search for i no where everything is menu button helps me get to the settings easy.

  • Destroythanet

    Softkeys FTW!! Being able to customize the softkeys on ROMs like AOKP is so much better than being stuck with permanent keys you can’t modify.

  • Eric Richardson

    Dear app developers… just use ActionBarSherlock, mmkay?

    Also, update your old apps. You’re making us look bad.

  • NorCalGuy

    Long press back button….aokp,cm9 pretty much every custom rom I have run in the last couple months on my gnex

  • eh

    eh.

  • blizzard 89

    I was reading this in Google currents and looked at my nav bar to find that even Google is still using the menu button

  • Knlegend1

    Zzzzzzzzzzzz

  • kevinc

    perhaps the phone manufacturers should have realized this when they made these stupid phones with hardware buttons but no menu button.

  • fd2blk78

    Waaaaaaaaa

  • http://twitter.com/TheMuffStuff Danny B

    It would be nice to just keep the menu button, its so damn useful, I hate how android is going away from it, we are not apple..

  • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

    While we’re at it, let’s also get rid of the stupid back button and replace it with the search button. The back button is as useless and redundant as the menu button and should be replaced by the breadcrumb that now resides at the top left of all Holo/ICS themed apps. The back button is so inconsistent in it’s functionality, you never know what’s going to happen when you press it.

    Give me 3 soft buttons at the bottom. App switcher (best idea in ICS), Home, and Search.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyACE562 GRAND MASTER SEN$Ei {{-_-}}™

    The pains of fragmentation. {{-_-}}

  • http://twitter.com/themainstrm Mike

    Dear Android Blog Writters, Can We Quit Making Links in Blog Posts Link To Tags Instead of the Actual Page You’re Talking About?

  • Newbie

    How about the menu button still in the Droid-Life app on my Galaxy Nexus? :P

    • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

      Right, talk about an outdated app.

  • guest

    > they recommended that you take advantage of the action overflow capabilities in Android 4.0,

    What a great idea!!!! Now that less than 5% of the world is using Android 4.0.

    • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

      Items that go into the action overflow would pop up when pressing the menu button on earlier versions of Android. Which means it’s backwards compatible which is a good thing. That has nothing to do with the fact that the menu button needs to be removed entirely from Android 4.0 and beyond.

  • jimsis

    Android 2.3 and earlier development does not support the Action bar. Google provided the ‘compatibility layer’ for Fragments, Loaders etc, but no Action Bar. If this was available then your point would be valid – at least for new development. There are work arounds available using third party solutions ‘ActionSherlock’ is a good example, but these are not ‘standard’. I’m thinking once ICS or beyond is more common the market will decide to ignore the older devices.

  • http://twitter.com/QSMinSD Q

    I like the way Samsung did it. If you’re going to have hard keys, you have to have a menu key. Otherwise you get the abomination that HTC created..

  • duke69111

    facebook on my galaxy nexus does not the menu button at the bottom like your picture. Its moved to the bottom right of the windows switcher. its not obscene at all.

  • derekross

    @Kellex I don’t have a menu button for Reader…others you mentioned I do.

  • http://profiles.google.com/bleulin Bruce Lin

    Android 4.0 , on screen softkeys , OK? HTC and samsung is not good…

    • Droosh

      I’m surprised Samsung isn’t still putting parallel ports on their PCs.

  • http://twitter.com/QSMinSD Q

    This is really a non-issue on the Galaxy Nexus.

  • MooleyBooleyTroll

    ???

  • KniteLyf

    I think this article is mistargeted. It should read: “Dear hardware manufacturers, can we please get rid of the hardware navigation buttons and use that valuable real estate for screen size? “

  • jaylanPHNX

    Samsung isn’t helping by including a menu button on the Galaxy S 3. No, that’s not a multitask button, it’s Menu. Boo!

  • Ryan Scott Miller

    The omnipresent menu button for Android is what differentiated Android from iOS (at least a big one). It’s like the right-click for WIndows vs. the one-click for Mac. What I think is being missed is how the idea of a menu and the idea that you should always be able to access more options is more than just the programming in the OS, it’s also the programming in the user’s brain! I CANNOT function with Apple’s one button. I need more options, more specific options, not just one do-all-changes-function-with-every-click button. I don’t see the advantage to in app on screen menu button, you lose app real estate! They are never in the same place! They disappear! Some people need simplicity, they don’t want options, or customization…get a freakin’ iPhone. There ARE those, a majority of the smartphone market, that like the menu button, like customization. Obviously I’m still fuming about Google’s decision and I’ll rant each and every time it comes up.

    • TheMan876

      Bravo

    • sam

      Your post in confusing, you say they got rid of the menu button but then you admit that all they did was move it to the top. Also, i’d rather have a larger screen and thin bezel with no menu button than a mandatory moving part that makes the device larger. What are you talking about “they are never in the same place?” and “they dissapear?” Both before and after this change, developers could choose to either implement the menu button or not implement the menu button (aka action bar overflow). you should read up about the idea behind the action bar, action bar items, and action bar overflow and re-assess.

      • Tcali

        I have to disagree with your statement; The “action bar overflow” is frequently positioned to the app developer’s preference resulting in it residing in locations inconsistent with other applications.

        • http://twitter.com/binglut9 Brian

          What the top or bottom of the app.???I cab see how its confusing to you

    • Vanessa Renee

      Yes, exactly!

    • Larizard

      In ICS, Google is going away with the Menu button and replacing it with a MENU BAR. It’s that action bar that you see on top or bottom of your app. The Overflow icon (three dots) is NOT A MENU BUTTON. You may first think it is, but all it is telling you is “Pssst, there’s more hidden options here, but you won’t be using them as often besides setting your app the first time you open it, so they are hidden. But they are here if you need them.”

      This is NOT the way the pre-ICS MENU BUTTON worked. In Android 2.0+ GMAIL, the Menu button contains these essential, often-used commands: Compose, Search, Refresh. Then on top of that, you have More, which hides Settings, Help, and About. Do you see how terrible that is? It’s like an Inception–a dream, within a dream, within a dream…

      What ICS is doing is putting those most often used commands, right there, in front of you, all the time. In my Galaxy Nexus’ GMAIL app, you have Compose, Search, Labels, Refresh, at the bottom, with an Action Overflow that holds Label Settings, Settings, Help, and Send Feedback—commands that you won’t be using as much.

      The reason that you see the three dots appear everywhere is because the developer has the option to use the top action bar, or the split action bar (appearing in the bottom). Its function is just to hold commands that are extra and not essential to your day-to-day use of the app. As I said, the action overflow button is not something that you should be using often anyway, and because of that, it shouldn’t matter if it was on top from one app, and at the bottom on another. What matters more is that the most essential commands are right there, in front of you, in a bar, at either the top or bottom of your screen. That way, you don’t have to open a menu just to start a new email, or refresh your inbox.

  • chad

    Who cares? There are far bigger issues than this in Android.

  • vitriolix

    HTC are really dumb for using a non standard button layout

    • Greyhame

      HTC follows the Nexus. It’s Samsung that went against the standard that the Nexus and ICS have laid out. Once the apps highlighted here are updated to ICS, the HTC should lose the ugly black bar and only display the menu button (aka action overflow button) when needed. SGSIII will always have the extra menu button, whether it’s used or not.

  • ocdtrekkie

    I think you’re being a bit harsh. It’s not fair to expect all developers to rewrite their apps on a whim because Google changes their minds on how to design apps. Accept this as a necessary evil of having an operating system that actually evolves over time, unlike Apple’s, which stagnates, but has no such issues.

  • BrentKensey

    It seems as though a lot of you strongly dislike the decision to remove the menu button from the navigation bar. This is a much beloved discussion topic of mine, so perhaps I can provide some food for thought.

    As an app developer and UI design junkie, I must admit that I was happy to see the menu button go. The way the menu button had evolved up through Gingerbread ran contrary to some very important design principles, and I think that the introduction of the action bar paradigm solved those problems nicely. The main problem was this: menus weren’t discoverable.

    I know a lot of you loved the easy access to a menu button, and while it is true that it was always in the same place (not so for the new overflow button), it didn’t let the user know whether or not the app even had a menu. Experienced users have grown up with this concept and are loathe to let it go, but if you step back and look at it, its a terrible idea. I still laugh every time I open an un-optimized app on my G-Nex, see that menu button, press it aaaaaaand… nothing. There are a lot of apps that just don’t use the menu. Interactive items, be they software or hardware, should never be present if they do nothing. You would be pissed if there were on screen buttons that were taking up space but were disabled, right? You’d wonder why they were there, and would be annoyed that you had to make an effort to discover whether or not the button did anything. Hardware obviously has a harder time being adaptive, so Google stripped out the hardware menu button. Simple. Now they can guarantee that the only three buttons on the navigation bar are theirs to ensure a uniform experience with.

    Understanding this, Google had to decide how to implement a contextual software menu. I personally love how the action bar works, although I do understand that many other users are frustrated. I wonder if it is perhaps because they don’t fully understand the reason for the regular and split action bars?

    Don’t think of the overflow button as something that hops around from place to place between apps without rhyme or reason, because there is a method to it all. The default action bar exists as a single bar along to top, with the overflow at the end, on the right, IF the app needs an overflow (look a how adaptive the implementation is!). Now there are some app designs that benefit from having more action items (the buttons on an action bar) exposed rather than having a huge overflow menu. Google knew this and provided one other alternate config for the action bar: the Split Action Bar. This is what you see in the Gmail, Mail, etc. apps. Again, if all action items are able to be displayed, no overflow. Excellent. If there are too many, they slip into the overflow.

    So there are only two places on the screen where the overflow button will ever be, and that’s at the top or bottom right. And logically it is the same place – At the ‘end’ of the action bar. The bottom of a split action bar isn’t just stuck on the bottom, its an extension of the top action bar, and it extends itself to the only logical part of the screen that wouldn’t interrupt the user: right at the bottom of the screen.

    • Ryan Scott Miller

      That’s why the softkeys were a good idea. If there isn’t a menu, the menu key disappears, But if and when, and there should be more often than not, there IS a menu, there the menu button is in the same place.

      • BrentKensey

        Technically this isn’t how the appearance of the menu button is decided. The system doesn’t know how to go in to an app and only show the menu button if the app has a menu registered. The code doesn’t work like that. It all depends which version of the SDK the app was compiled under. Level 13 is Honeycomb, and levels 14 and 15 are 4.0 and 4.0.3 respectively. If the app is compiled under version 13+, no menu button. But if it was complied for Gingerbread or below? It’ll show the menu button even if the app doesn’t actually have a menu coded. That’s when you get the adaptive menu soft key that doesn’t open a menu. This will disappear eventually.

        Overall though, I agree. Soft keys were a good idea. For the most part, they gracefully handle the transition between the old 4 button scheme and the new 3 button scheme. It annoys me that HTC and especially Samsung had to screw with the formula, because it degrades one of the great strengths of the softkeys in the transition periods. Don’t get me started on why Samsung decided to keep the menu button. Ugh. Way to remove incentive from developers to move en masse to the new (and I think superior) standard.

        • Eric Richardson

          There’s really no reason why developers shouldn’t be compiling based off of the latest SDK available and setting a minSdk.

    • cantcurecancer

      fantastic post.

      I feel like both the hardware vendors AND the app developers are ignoring Google’s design guides. They think this is the wild west and they can let their antiquated designs slip by without complaint.

      Vendors need to adopt onscreen buttons and stop messing around with the stupid, unneeded hardware buttons. HTC’s implementation of the menu button is LAZY. It’s been over 8 months since Google showed off ICS, there is no excuse.

      App devs need to get their shit together too. It’s sad to see all these top selling apps with their same old Gingerbread designs. Look at Twitter (especially on a tablet), prime example of lazy app devs.

    • Tcali

      Wait, why would an application lack the ability to customize it to the extent where an “action bar overflow” is not needed?

      • BrentKensey

        I’m not sure that I understand. The action bar is an api included in Android 3.0+, so to that extent, you don’t customize the functionality much. Of course there are all sorts of things you can do with themes, submenus and custom action items, but at its core, the Action bar is just a list of action items, and the system populates the thing. The formula depends on screen size, but for example, my Gnex can show 2 action items on a regular AB and 5 items on a spit AB. If there are more items than that in the menu, the overflow appears. Not sure if I answered your question or not, but hopefully I did.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ryanstrat Ryan Strat

    Google Reader doesn’t have a menu button on my Gnex

    • TheMan876

      Mine either.

    • Moeyknight

      Neither does mine.

  • Typical Google minion says:

    The moment google did not put a menu button on the galaxy nexus it became completely pointless and redundant despite the fact that most it is and was used constantly by users. I will continue to take directions google chooses to go in as the word as god.

  • http://twitter.com/TT_7 Tim

    I LOVE change normally, but I really am not into this whole ‘let’s get rid of the menu button’ idea. It was consistent and we knew where we needed to go for options. That’s one of the reasons I loved Android over the fruity company… there was a menu button. I pick up an iPhone and have no clue where to find my options. That’s a disappointing move, in my mind.

  • http://www.brandongoodman.com/ Brandon Goodman

    You cant expect app developers to change overnight. I agree that there is no excuse for google’s own first party apps like Reader but its HTC that made a poor decision in not going with on screen buttons. The experience is not bad at all on a galaxy nexus. Why HTC did this on the One’s I’ll never understand. I’ll also never buy one with a button layout like that…

  • Sam

    This is a native feature of API level 11 (Honeycomb) and later, there’s no coding involved to enabl it, simply set your “targetSdkVersion” in your application’s manifest XML file to 11 or later. That said, by doing that you open up a HUGE can of worms. There are big implications for your QA of the app, programmatically handling versions of Android pre-Honeycomb, deciding whether to abandon your custom ActionBar (the Facebook ActionBar, for example, is far from native), among other concerns. It’s a 1 line code (well, XML) change, with potentially far reaching consequences. I’m certain that these developers are devoting resources to addressing the issue, and posts like these on DroidLife will hopefully move them along, but it will take some time.

    • Eric Richardson

      ActionBarSherlock takes care of any real reasons not to compile off of the latest SDK and just set a minSDK down to whatever you want to support.

  • Copernicus

    Um…Really? Unless they totally remove support for pre ICS devices they can’t do anything about it, and no sane developer is going to target only 5%.

    • Sam

      Completely wrong! If they target API level 11 or higher, Honeycomb and later devices will not show the menu at the bottom, but in the ActionBar. Pre-honeycomb devices still have their dedicated menu button, which will bring up the menu as usual.

  • DJyoSNOW

    I just realized this is how go launcher does the app drawer. It was a starting upgrade which is odd. Also oy seemes like its wasting screen.

  • ddevito

    let me introduce you to my little friend, Herman the one-eyed German

  • Prime7

    If all the major app developers–including Google itself–use menu buttons, isn’t it telling that the functionality is something that should be expected?

  • Mahmood

    kill Menu button was good idea but many importrant apps need to kill Menu button and support ICS UI

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  • azndan4

    Having the action over flow button move around in different apps or show up in your navigation bar from time to time is an absolutely retarded way of doing things. They need to be consistent with what they do. Have the over flow button in the same place for every app or have a dedicated menu button.

    • Droosh

      If the app is compiled with the more recent sdk versions, then the action overflow button (notice I didn’t say menu button as this no longer exists) is completely standardized and is ALWAYS at the end of the action bar. This is at the top right, or in the instance of a dev utilizing the split action bar it is at the bottom right. In both events is appears at the end of the action bar if and only if there are more overflow actions. In most cases well designed apps will not have the three dot overflow button at all as the menu button is unneeded.

      You will find yourself more frustrated in the future with hardware menu button as when you press them NOTHING will happen.

  • SeanBello

    yeah, when using S-Voice I had to map a navigation key to Menu on long press just to go to the options. really annoying.

  • Mike

    The bigger the company the worse its going to be. They don’t give a damn about Android design specs, and we’re lucky if we get something other then an iPhone port.

  • Butters619

    Yeah playing games on the One X with that stupid black bar there sucks and makes the game more off centered.

  • calculatorwatch

    Dear Android Phone Manufacturers, can we just adopt onscreen softkeys already? That would make this a lot less of a problem.

    • Butters619

      It’s funny that besides the Nexus, Moto will be the first to the US market with onscreen softkeys.

      • Keith Mathews

        The Asus padfone has softkeys, not sure when it comes out though.

        • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

          Sunday past never.

          • michael arazan

            Do any developers read this site? Just email your Devs through your apps email would probably be a better way to let them know, i do with issues and problems, i get a response %50 of the time.

    • Boblank84

      +1 that was the first thing that came to mind when I read the title of the article. I love being able to customize the soft keys. I can’t see buying a phone w/ hard keys again.

      • guest

        > I love being able to customize the soft keys.
        > I can’t see buying a phone w/ hard keys again.

        Let me get this straight. You want to waste screen-space just so you can have a “blue house picture” instead of a “green house picture” for your home button?

        You’re kidding, right?

        • Jon Lambert

          I’ve said this before, but people need to think about it as how much space on the front of the phone is used by buttons. Where they would otherwise be, there are on screen keys instead. On screen keys can disappear and create more screen space, but hardware keys cannot

          • TheOiulkj

            The on screen keys only disappear in certain situations like when watching a video. I don’t watch videos on my phone and I don’t care about that screen space, I want my screen space to be permanent. Your statement would be valid only if the screen took up so much space that there was no room for hardware buttons. The Gnex for example, could fit some hardware buttons below the screen. Look at the SIII.

          • TheOiulkj

            The on screen keys only disappear in certain situations like when watching a video. I don’t watch videos on my phone and I don’t care about that screen space, I want my screen space to be permanent. Your statement would be valid only if the screen took up so much space that there was no room for hardware buttons. The Gnex for example, could fit some hardware buttons below the screen. Look at the SIII.

          • NicholasMicallef

            Exactly. Though I can see the point of software buttons if the area lost would be equal to the area that would be lost if hardware buttons were used. Also I understand the bezel at the bottom cannot be much thinner, but unless somebody comes up with a way to make it thinner, soft keys are useless (apart from being consistent with tablets). That’s the reason why almost no companies are using them.

          • Apostrafee

            With certain ROMS you can also adjust the size and add different functions which is a huge plus

    • Liderc

      Agreed. Not to mention being able to modify them stock would be an incredible feature.

    • ericl5112

      I’d rather not have on screen buttons. I like the maximum screen real estate possible.

      • shobon

        Mind you; if there aren’t hardkeys then there’s more room for the screen. I’m sure that once softkeys become a standard, phone screens will get longer.

        • ericl5112

          You hear that argument all the time, but the GNex is large for it’s screen size, and you can’t even use the whole screen. Until the soft keys stop hurting screen real estate, I’ll take hard keys, thanks.

      • r0lct

        If the GNex had physical buttons it’s very reasonable to assume it would have been the EXACT same size with a 4.5 screen instead of 4.65 and therefor no additional real estate.

        Physical buttons does not equal more screen.

        • Droosh

          Except in the instances where a developer programs for the menu button and not action overflow you would lose screen space to a menu bar as in the above pic. This is too common. Also apps that utilize full screen video and pictures would lose significant space.

          I was at first skeptical that vitual on screen buttons would work consistantly and not be buggy. Since having the G-Nex I’m a convert as they work perfectly all the time.

          • r0lct

            I think on screen keys are the way to go as well and very happy with them on my GNex. I was more saying the argument that physical keys results in more screen real estate is not necessarily true. If anything they result in less space as you pointed out.

          • ericl5112

            You simply haven’t provided any eveidence to back your story up. The “on screen keys don’t take away space” argument is a lovely one in theory, but there are a lot more pieces to the puzzle that may not make it true. Thus far, the GNex is large for a 4.65″ device, and it’s not even 4.65″ of usable screen most of the time.

          • ericl5112

            No, that simply means, instead of almost always having the lost screen space like on the nexus, you only sometimes have it, and it will be getting rarer.

        • ericl5112

          it is entirely unreasonable to assume that. Where is your proof? The gnex has tons of space below it’s screen for buttons. Cap buttons don’t take up much space at all. It’s not that they couldn’t fit them on the body they already have, with the same screen. They just didn’t.

          http://phone-size.com/?s=3%2C104

          Notice, the two phones there, both by samsung, both with the exact same display. Which one has on screen buttons? Which one is smaller? The answer is the Nexus and not the Nexus respectively. They could have fit cap buttons no problem. Don’t make assumptions because they sound right without thinking too hard. That usually makes them wrong.

          • r0lct

            There is NO PROOF either way and won’t be unless they were to release the identical phone with the identical intenral components with physical capative keys.

            In a conversation about design what you are showing isn’t “proof”. The look and bezel size of the GN was a design choice that none of us know all the factors that went into it. For all we know the curved glass resulted in the bezel size or some other internal component requiring the phone be longer. We don’t and won’t know unless we get a Samsung employee responsible for designing the phone to tell us.

          • ericl5112

            I never said there was proof. However, there is evidence suggesting my point (which is all I was saying). You’ve just been blowing smoke. In fact, I didn’t say it in this response, but I have numerous other times, and did in other threads on this post. Your point about internal components is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. Internal components may put a hard limit on how small the device could be (LTE, large batteries, etc). If that’s the case, why not stick some absolutely tiny cap buttons on, and let us use the full 4.65″ screen. The cap buttons aren’t the challenge to put in. They are already built into the digitizer.

            In that case, once again, you have on screen buttons that are, in fact, doing nothing but reducing usable screen space most of the time. Back to where we were in the beginning. I have yet to see anything support your hypothesis though.

          • r0lct

            No, you don’t get it. I’ll try one last time.

            Buttons do not equal screen size.

            Because of the internal components they may have not been able to
            had physical buttons even if they wanted to. Just because there is enough space in your eyes, doesn’t make it reality. You can’t use the SG2 phone as an example because that’s like putting two cars made by BMW next to each other and saying because one has a V8 they all should. But you forget that impacts how the front of the car looks, the cost, etc. There is much more involved than just the mm of space.

            Bottom line: You are purely guessing, same as me. I can just admit to it.

          • ericl5112

            See, I don’t think you get it. I happen do have a day job as an engineer. I know a bit how these things work. For one, capacative buttons take zero space. That’s right. Internally, they take nothing. They are part of the touchscreen. Usually a backlight is added. That takes up such tiny amounts of space, I don’t think you comprehend just how little it takes. We’re talking near paper thin. By adding capacative buttons, you add a few tiny squares of paper. I’m using the SGS2 as a size example, and yeah, it works. They are phones, have extremely similar parts. Some (many I would imagine) identical. You are using cars, cars aren’t phones, and the example you use is heinously wrong. That’s a significant difference. Not a square of paper. Sorry. I could bring up a host of phones, such as the titan, that are similar to larger screened and still smaller. There’s a trend. It makes a lot more sense than your nonsense.

            I’m perfectly capable of saying I’m guessing. I did so in this very thread. You conveniently ignored it. I am simply guessing with a background knowledge and an ability to see trends. You are simply wishing. Sorry if this comment is a little less civil than I usually like. I simply hate people that pull stuff out of their butt and say it smells like truth. I deal with that enough at work with people as ignorant of how engineering works as you. Engines are the same as capacative buttons. It’s almost funny.

        • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

          Disagree with your assumption, why not make the phone .2″ longer and add hardware (not even talking capacitive) buttons and you have the best of both worlds.

    • Guest

      > Dear Android Phone Manufacturers, can we just adopt onscreen softkeys already

      Great! Waste more and more of my valuable screen space with buttons that can EASILY fit off-screen instead.

      • ericram76

        I dont think you understand how it works….where there would be hard keys are instead soft keys…its better for customization and more importantly at least for me they disappear when watching a video such on Netflix and Youtube and become part of the video creating MORE space so yes it is better. at least thats how it is on my Galaxy Nexus and I love it

        • me

          No, there is instead a larger bezel.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • jake

            And/or longer phone.

          • Droosh

            Hopefully this will be engineered out in future devices.

        • ericl5112

          You sir, don’t understand how it works I believe. See, the GNex has a 4.65″ screen. It has a chassis that is larger than most phones of that screen size, or even larger. You can’t even use the whole 4.65″ screen most of the time.

          http://phone-size.com/?s=3%2C104

          The GNex is larger than the other samsung phone with the same screen, yet has less usable screen real estate usually. How does that equate to more screen real estate? Like I said above, lovely theory, but it doesn’t even come close to being a reality yet. For all we know, it’s the internals that force such a large screen. The iPhone has a tiny battery, no LTE, etc so it can be small. Our batteries now are huge, LTE chipsets, etc. That takes space. Space that removing capacitive buttons doesn’t gain back.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10602828 Mike Hilal

      YES!

      You sir, are a scholar and a gentleman.

  • http://twitter.com/BennKidd Ben Baggley

    The Galaxy SIII, likely to be one of the most popular Android phones of the year having a menu button is not going to help the situation at all, a lot of developers just won’t bother. This is my biggest problem with the SIII, its supposed to be “next gen” but its actually holding Android back.

    • http://twitter.com/tadejkolino Tadej Rudec

      Yeah, it shows that Samsung is full of crap, but Google remains silent about it, because they know SGS3 will sell like hotcakes.

    • Tcali

      I disagree, I believe it will save consumers from becoming frustrated due to the inconsistent placement of the “action bar overflow”.

      • Droosh

        The action overflow button is completely consistent and is always at the end of the action bar. Please show me one app that was compiled on a recent sdk version where it is not.

    • Droosh

      Totally agree. It’s a shame that professional reviewers are too ignorant of the issue to properly penalize the GSIII in their review scoring and write-ups! Time to lose legacy hardware features OEMs!

      I also wonder if this promoting adoption issue isn’t one of the reasons Google is planning on allowing more OEMs to build Nexus devices which will be forced to follow the guidelines.

  • burntcookie90

    I tried for two weeks to go without the search and menu button, couldn’t do it. So glad AOKP has the ability to put them back.

    • Butters619

      I miss search. It was my second most used button.

      • burntcookie90

        Yeah, I used it far more than I thought I did, that’s why I put it back

  • Peter

    I think removing the menu button was bad idea

    • David Rosen

      me too. back/menu/home/search is how it should be. if anything lose the search and make it a gesture or put search in the notification pulldown. it’s stupid to not have a menu button.

      • possomcrast1

        We don’t need those buttons they’ve been integrated into other places in 4.0.

        • David Rosen

          sure but i’m saying it was better when they weren’t. especially back/menu/home.

          • possomcrast1

            For me it’s so much more convenient.

          • sam

            Back and Home are still dedicated buttons in ICS, and menu has been moved from the bottom of the screen in the form of a hardware button to the top of the screen in the form of a soft button in the action bar. You’re really only saying “I like the menu button at the bottom not the top”

          • Tcali

            However, this can change depending on the app in question; It can be at the top-left, top-right, bottom-right, bottom-center, & can sometimes appear as something else in games. It is inconsistent, & it is very annoying to have to look for its position in every app instead of just clicking it already!

          • Tcali

            Also, I really don’t care if it is at the top; I just want it to be mandatory to position it in one place, in every circumstance.

      • DeathfireD

        I agree, making the app makers add a menu button is a major set back. Now we have menu buttons on the corners of the screen, menu bars at the bottom…nothing is consistent anymore nor is it easy to press the button on larger phones. Having the physical or even soft key for the menu at the bottom of the phone should have become standard just like the Home button. Why they thought it was a good idea to remove it is beyond me. It really does feel like they’re regressing. Why did they change widgets too? It was far easier to press on the home screen and select the widget you want. Now we have extra steps to get to the widgets.

        • r0lct

          I think widgets had to do with the horrible way stock GB displayed widgets when you had a lot of them. It became a never ending list that they wanted to layout in a easier way for browsing.

          • DeathfireD

            @r0lct:disqus they could have still made it so when you press down on a home screen and select widget, it opens the new widget panel (aka. a short cut to the widget).

          • DeathfireD

            @r0lct:disqus they could have still made it so when you press down on a home screen and select widget, it opens the new widget panel (aka. a short cut to the widget).

          • r0lct

            Good point.

        • http://www.facebook.com/objection89 Miguel Angel Portela

          Agreed. Larger displays make it all even more annoying. Luckily theres mods. On the HTC One S and X theres a flashable zip or something that turns the multitask button into a menu button, remaps the home key to the classic long-press recent apps method and ditches the on-screen dotted menu button.

      • http://www.hammertechnologies.net/ Chase Johnson

        yes Menu, Home, and Back is all that is needed. I have NEVER intentionally used the Search button.

        • Butters619

          Seriously? The main two things I use my phone for are google searches and listening to music. All I press was search and home.

      • NicholasMicallef

        Most manufacturers are actually using long-press menu instead of a separate search button. If they want to keep the experience consistent why not keep the menu button w/long-press search, home button w/long press task manager & double click voice and back w/long press app killer and do that for tablets too. That way it would be much easier to use “legacy” apps and developers won’t have to change anything. I really don’t see the point of having a separate task manager button, it’s not like it’ll take you 10 seconds to long press home and it’s much comfortable to use than reaching for the menu button.

        • Droosh

          After using the quick touch multi-tasking button, the long press home button method drove me crazy. I tried it and had to go back to having a dedicated multi-tasking button. YMMV.

    • lilkerv90210

      I agree I enjoy having a dedicated menu button

    • Prime7

      I agree. It feels like a huge back step to me. The menu button should have been standardized so that all apps use it, which would give us consistent menu placement and maybe even consistent aesthetics. Instead, the “action overflow” nonsense appears inconsistently and in different places on various apps, which is user-unfriendly (“menu” is a lot more intuitive in meaning than “action overflow”) and ugly at the same time.

      • storm14k

        Theres no inconsistency with Action Overflow. What you see are people trying to mimick it or come up with their own system instead of just following the guidelines or using a library like ActionnBar Sherlock.

        • Prime7

          Hence the need for standardization. ;)

          • Droosh

            There are standardized guidelines right now. It is consistent when the developer chooses to follow them. Complain directly to your dev if you don’t like that they chose to not follow consistent design guidelines.

            It sounds like you are looking to force standardization on developers despite how they would prefer to design their app UI. Like they do in iOS…

    • Aardvark99

      If phones insist on having hardware keys they should have a menu key. It’s still too early in this menu button paradigm shift for phones to ditch it.

      • NicholasMicallef

        And that will cause developers to not change their apps at all… mind you I disagree with the whole task manager button instead of menu button thing but now it’s as inconsistent as can be and I’d rather see all developers & manufacturers come to an agreement.

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      Definitely! . . . this would piss me off to NO END if I didn’t have onscreen keys and had to deal with that Ridiculous Menu button… DEVS need to get off their lazy asses

    • Droosh

      I modified my G-Nex soft buttons to replace the task switcher button with a menu button. (Long press home for task switching). I was truly surprised that I found out that I missed the instant task switching more and not the redudant menu button.
      I then modded the virtual buttons to have all four buttons. I also tried verious combos with the search/voice command button. Since then I’ve found that I used the menu so much less that I went back to stock (although modded blue) 3 soft-key layout.

      I do sometimes still miss easy quick access to voice commands.

      Of course with hard keys, this level of customization goes out the window which is another argument for the virtual buttons.

  • TheMan876

    Eff it, I say give me back my menu button. It was a superior way of doing things because the menu button was always in the same spot and I didn’t have to hunt around for the stupid 3 dots like I do in Gmail for example.

    FYI on my Nexus looking at Google reader I don’t get the menu 3 dot menu button, just the overflow on top.

  • Christopher Heuer

    I don’t get the legacy menu button in Google Reader on the Galaxy Nexus, why does it show on the One X?

    • SeanBello

      yeah, I was wondering the same thing. odd.

    • Wyngo

      The issue is that unlike the Galaxy Nexus, the HTC One phones use hardware buttons, not software buttons, but don’t include a menu button. That means that when an app requests a menu button, the phone has to create a row of software buttons for just the menu button. On the Galaxy Nexus it’s no big deal because it just adds one more button to the existing row.

      • will bartlett

        well i still dont get a menu button in my onscreen buttons in reader. i just have the overflow at the top

      • Christopher Heuer

        You misunderstand my point. On the Galaxy Nexus it doesn’t add the legacy menu button to the navigation bar:

        http://imgur.com/IidB9

    • taylorjes

      it only appears on devices running ICS AND having physical home, back, history buttons… GNex correctly puts it to the lower right next to the Soft home, back, history

      • Christopher Heuer

        See my other comment, below. I know what the big black bar is, and why it shows up on the One X. The Google Reader app doesn’t add the legacy menu button to my navigation buttons.

        • taylorjes

          got it… whats almost as frustrating is when an app give me either the legacy soft-button or overflow, but there are no menu options….

          • Christopher Heuer

            I think that’s purely the sign of a lazy developer. Or one that isn’t keeping up with Android platform changes (the sign of a bad developer).