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Thursday Poll: Hardware, Physical or On-screen Navigation Buttons?

Last night, on episode 4 of The Droid Life Show, we talked briefly about our feelings towards the variety of designs that hardware manufacturers choose when it comes to navigation buttons on Android phones. HTC tends to go all hardware (soft) navigation buttons, while Samsung has been mixing in physical home buttons with hardware (soft) back and menu buttons. Motorola seems to have adopted on-screen (software) buttons along with Google and their Nexus lineup.

Whenever a new phone is posted, leaked, or announced, someone always comments with their feelings towards the manufacturer’s choice in this department. So let’s do what we do, and make our thoughts official in a poll. Tell us which setup you prefer and why.

Hardware, Physical or On-screen Navigation Buttons?

View Results

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  • Nika05

    Id rather have hardware or physical buttons because what’s the point of having a bigger screen if part of it is gonna be rendered useless and you still have a bezel around the phone where the hardware buttons should go.

  • Daniel

    Way prefer hardware capacative since physical buttons are an awkward difference compared to the touch scrren functioning and then they don’t use up screen space always. Maybe if they changed the ratio, but id prefer them always available even with full screen content

  • I like physical because when you do video out on the G-Nex the virtual buttons show up and consume real estate on the larger display. This negatively impacts the experience when hooking up the phone to an HD TV or my in-car LCD.

  • eastbaycali

    On-screen navigation buttons > hardware and physical buttons

    • LionStone

      On-screen buttons = limits your choices to phones with the latest tech.

  • Bionic

    I don’t understand why there isn’t a camera app or setting that can use the volume rocker asua dedicated “snap the picture button” while the app is being used and when you exit the app its goes back to being volume.

    • LionStone

      I don’t know…I do like that HTC uses the volume buttons for zoom in/out control in the Camera, but I don’t know if the DNA does it also. I’d say it probably will though.

  • Bionic

    The only option is dislike is the stupid Samsung home button. Too apple like.

  • iNfAMOUS70702

    What lockscreen is that on the S3?

  • duke69111

    I like the onscreen, but wish they were below the viewable area and not taking up screen area like my gnexus.

  • Tim242

    I do not understand the love for onscreen buttons. They take up display space and do not reduce bezel.

  • nic-o-dic

    what is wrong with four touch buttons across the bottom? Every phone is going to have a chin of some size right? might as well throw them on there and save yourself the screen space. right???

  • CaptainHowdy13

    I like On Screen but hardware isn’t a deal breaker for me.

  • Paul

    More people like a physical button on the GS3 than the touch buttons on an HTC? Really?

  • jb

    On screen will be the best (once bezels shrink, developers use them/hide them, google adds some options, etc). For the moment, however, I’d much rather have capacative (Hardware).

  • cdick133

    This article from April about leaked photos of the Galaxy SIII in a dummy box show up as a related post and I had a chuckle:

    “Look at that faux home button that has basically been taped on. Classic. Well played, Samsung.”

    Yes, well played with that fake physical home button…. :p

  • arthur2142

    I meant to select hardware. I like the touch-sensitive buttons on the GS3, but NOT the home button. Somehow it automatically registered my vote as “on-screen” incorrectly.

  • kidheated

    This is a ridiculous question (not because you asked it, but more because it exists). If the OS developer (Google) puts on-screen buttons as the main/default means of accessing and navigating through the system, then why try and fight them by using anything else? Making hard keys or any other type of buttons is just stupid, not to mention a step in the backwards direction. This un-unifies the OS and complicates matters for all developers, 3rd party or not. If your primary focus is not building and developing operational systems, you should leave it to the professionals and concentrate on what it is that you do best (Samsung, HTC, SONY, LG, etc), building hardware. But since this is not the case, the actual OS and the Custom Roms have to be reworked to incorporate the functionality of the hard keys, capacitive keys or what have you. If the manufacturers would stop fighting googs, it would be less work for everyone and better quality products… how would this be a bad thing?

    “Unity, turds! That’s the key word in “unit,” without the y!”

  • NinjaHobo

    after my gnex hardware buttons drive me insane, physical hardware buttons are a hindrance. I’m still getting the gnote2 though

  • zebra

    I wasn’t sure about soft buttons until I got them. So much better!

  • I don’t like on screen navigation buttons because it takes away part of the screen, that sucks when you only 4-5 inches to start with. Now if they can extend and give more screen property, I would be fine with it then!

    • Jack Hoffman

      Because physical keys don’t take away from screen area???

      • Duh! Obviously not thats why there seperate from the screen. Where have you seen physical buttons on top of a screen? Lol!!!

  • Raidy

    I have a Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a Droid 3, and am currently awaiting the arrival of my Note II phone upgrade. While I like the softkeys on the GT10 because of the size and ease of use/location in landscape mode, I actually am looking forward to the home button on the Note II. I think it just makes things easier to deal with and frees up that screen space as well. I also prefer the clickable physical buttons (DX style) over the soft-touch hardware buttons (D1/2/3 style).

  • billy routh

    I have a gnex and nexus 7, and I just don’t see what the big deal is about on screen buttons Alli it does is take away from the screen size.

    • NicholasMicallef

      if the size of the bottom bezel + on screen buttons is equal to or less than the bottom bezel with hardware buttons than it makes sense, because you can have a larger screen when watching videos, that is not the case with any device yet. I just think it’s a good idea but it’s not implemented well enough yet. It should definitely have been used on the GNote though, where activating hardware buttons doesn’t work so well with the S Pen and it does make more sense on tablets

  • Dave

    I definitely like the idea of soft keys more but it would definitely be nice to have an easy implementation in hiding them at will (like a swipe up gesture from the bottom bezel). I know it already hides for things like video but there are other cases where they simply “dim out” instead of going away completely. It would be nice to have that real estate back for those cases.

    Now regarding reducing the bottom (or top) bezel space for phones that use soft keys…not being too familiar with the physical internal layout of a phone, but I always thought that space exists for a couple of reasons:
    1) Doesn’t there need to be some room to house components such as microphones, ports, speaker, light sensor, front facing camera, and notification LED?
    2) Symmetry. The vertical space below the screen should match the vertical space above the screen as well. I personally think it would look odd if, for some reason, they reduced the vertical size of the bottom bezel but left the top enlarged. There has to be space at the top to display the earpiece, light sensors, and camera. So the size of the bottom bezel would be limited to the size of the top as well. Symmetry is just good design aesthetics.
    3) Easier handling while the phone is horizontal for purposes such as video watching. Symmetry plays a part here as it keeps the screen centered.

  • hldc1

    Hopefully someone from HTC notices this poll.

    While I like the functionality of my Galaxy Nexus, I don’t foresee myself ever buying another Samsung phone because, simply put, Hulk no like plastic.

  • DanThompson87

    I think most people voted on screen because they are so easily swayed by Kellen and Tim’s opinion ;] I love a FULL SCREEN look and there is a BIG dif in screen size between GS3 and Gnex……I like GS# even though the home button should be easier to press

  • I prefer the Home button on the S3 simply because I am constantly reaching into my pocket and pulling my phone out upside down…I use it almost exclusively as an ‘unlock’ button. My Rezound was such a pain in the ass to unlock with the power button on top that the S3’s button gave me back my sanity

  • cooksta32676

    Most of my friends GNEX are 9-12 months old and have mild burn in. Don’t want to see them at the 2 year mark. This is exactly why HTC said they wouldn’t do them back when the one released. They’re cool, but I’ll take the real estate they eat up….

  • Xious

    I’m not understanding everyone that’s saying “it takes up more screen real estate”. If you take the Droid X (or any 4.3″ screen phone) and compare it to the Galaxy Nexus, the normal screen size is exactly the same. However, the GN can hide the buttons and give you 4.65″ of screen real estate for videos and such. So the complaints about screen real estate are really pointless. Imagine the GS3 with onscreen navigation. It would have 4.8″ normally but would have about 5.25″ for videos and such (almost as big as the Galaxy Note).

    • Dan Churco

      First, your math is wrong, assuming from the dx to the GNex there was a .35 screen increase for the on screen buttons, it would be 5.15, not 5.25. There is a problem with that logic though. If you look at the curves on the corners on the GSIII, there is no way to extend the screen further, so they are able to fit the buttons in an area that is not usable by screen space. So to get onscreen buttons, you would go down to 4.45 view-able screen size so that you don’t change the body of the GSIII. I really like the ability to use the whole 4.8 with out the on screen buttons taking up space.

      • Xious

        I apologize. The actual number wasn’t the point. But thanks for being “that guy”. Also, you are assuming they would do no other design changes if they were to change the screen. I’m pretty sure they would make a few design changes in the size and shape to accommodate the larger screen. Plus, you are still not getting it. With onscreen buttons, you would still get the full 4.8″ of screen to use. But the buttons would disappear when watching a video or playing a game to give you even more space.