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Google Enables Overflow Button on All Devices, Even if There is a Dedicated Menu Button on Your Phone

Regardless of whether your device features a dedicated Menu button or not, Google has decided to push OEMs in the right direction and are now enabling the action overflow button permanently throughout applications. Previously, some applications wouldn’t show an action overflow button depending on if your device featured a dedicated hardware/on-screen menu button for an options menu, such as certain Samsung devices like the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3.

Moving forward, there will now always be one within an app for easy access, according to a Git repository change by Google.

We are hoping that this will be a wake up call to OEMs, who continue to use Menu buttons and opt not to use onscreen keys. Sure, it’s nice to have device differentiation, but there are ways to do that besides using permanent Menu keys.

Via: Reddit | Google
  • rjr162

    “Google has decided to push OEMs in the right direction and are now enabling the action overflow button permanently throughout applications. ”

    NOOOOO I HATE THAT CRAP. The Xoom has it and I can’t STAND IT. I’d rather have the hardware button that’s OFF SCREEN. So saying they’re pushing them in the right direction is an opinion not a fact and should be left out of a “report”. An opinion piece fine, but in a report try to leave out the bias

  • twiztid

    Wouldn’t call some device standards & conformity hypocritical, in fact it would make it easier for app devs to create better apps for more devices & keep more devices individual apps up to date

  • schwartzman93

    I think hardware or capacitive buttons are fine if theyre dont right. Samsung seems to be the only one doing them right, but htc and motorola(with their droid line) are doing them wrong.

  • TC Infantino

    I hope this pushes OEMs to finally all make the move to on-screen buttons. I actually prefer the look of the on-screen buttons and that they disappear when you are watching a video or movie on your device. It doesn’t take up that much screen real estate, and it looks cleaner when watching a vid or movie. Plus it allows the chin bezel to be even smaller, giving you more screen with less physical phone size. This is just about my only disappointment with the Droid Maxx over the Moto X. Why couldn’t Moto have used the on-screen buttons for the Droid line as they did with the Moto X?

  • allyn

    When will this take effect? Will we see this before soon? Or will we have to wait for Lollipop (whatever is going to follow KitKat)?

    I am glad to see this change. The Menu button is a terrible design (for example, on Samsung phones) because the user never knows when or if it can be pressed. It lights up all of the time whether it is meaningful or not. At least with an on-screen menu/overflow button, it only appears when it can be pressed and when it is displayed it serves as a visual clue to users that there are overflow actions.

  • Chris

    much like holo guidelines, the whole on screen menu buttons is optional with OEMs. Making every app look the same and every phone have on screen buttons seems much like an apple move. While its nice for things to all be the same, android is about CHOICE.

    I have the EVO LTE, and want to get the HTC One, but my upgrade is in February and by then the next HTC one will be out. Hopefully it will have on screen buttons and not that pathetic layout they have now or at least make the HTC logo a button.

    • Adrynalyne

      You do know that Android is open source and they can revert this change if they decide to?

      No choice has been taken away.

  • Ricky Villatorr

    I’m glad they are doing this. I got so used to the Nexus phones that when i was helping my dad set up Whats app on his S3 i was like. WTF WHERES THE MENU? Oh yeah *hit menu key*

  • Kyleinstyle

    I have the GS3 and always wondered why (almost) everyone on DL hates the physical home button, I personally love it and use it all the time. Then I bought a Nexus 5, fired it up and in an instant realized.

    • Chris

      physical or touch sensitive? Touch sensetive I’m ok with, but physical is as pointless as physical keyboards

      • Id actually argue the other way around. Physical buttons bad but at least you cant accidentally press it. On screen can be modified, hidden, whatever, the best. But touch buttons, always there cant be changes but you can accidentally hit them still; negatives of both types.

        • Greyhame

          You can’t accidentally hit a physical button? Incorrect. A friend who owns a note 3 told me how he accidentally had butt dialed 911. That would almost never happen with onscreen keys.

      • Kyleinstyle

        Yep, I agree now after playing with the Nexus. I really think I just relied on the physical home button to turn the screen on.

        • You need to try Knock-On (on the G2). I don’t rely on physical buttons for anything anymore

          • Tyler

            Or active display which is good for unlocking the phone.

  • Scott Webber

    The only value to real buttons is screen real estate. In either case, Back, Home, Recent Apps is the one true button layout.

    • Adrynalyne

      Tell that to Samsung.

    • My only gripe about the G2 is that its Back, Home, Menu. and you have to long press home for recent apps

      • joejoe5709

        Root, XPosed Framework, G2 XPosed. Now you can change the keys all you like.

        • The only issue with that I’d you have to do the 4 button layout or else you won’t have a menu button. It’s not really the same.

          • joejoe5709

            Nope. Three button works just fine. Hold down the recent key to give me menu whenever I want it.

          • Still not exactly the same as AOSP (menu button appearing when needed) but I guess that works. I’ll see how I like it.

          • joejoe5709

            Well I can’t make everyone happy I suppose…

  • pball_inuyasha

    I mostly just dislike that my S4 has one physical button and two capacitive buttons. It’s annoying when I have to hit one then the other, usually I just barely touch a capacitive button then do the same to the physical button. But that doesn’t work as your have to actually press the physical button.

    Can’t wait to have all on screen buttons some day.

  • gcforreal

    I wouldn’t have a gripe with on screen buttons if you could swipe them away at will to enjoy your full screen or at least make then go away during gaming sessions playing games on a phone with software buttons feels weird and off center imo

  • Detonation

    Gotta love the hypocrisy here sometimes….

    “Android is all about choice, that’s why it’s better than Apple!”
    “What if I want to choose a phone with a menu key?”
    “No, don’t do that. Every device should conform to having on screen buttons”

    • On screen buttons let you have choice though of what they look like, what they do, how many there are, and are updatable and future proof. they just make more sense.

      • Adrynalyne

        Right, they can be changed for each appropriate context.

        Like the back button changing to a down arrow when they keyboard is out to indicate you can hide the keyboard with it.

        • Chris

          one person down voted. must be a physical keyboard guy

          • Cowboydroid

            A Nexus 5 with a slide-out keyboard….One can dream…

      • Jeremy Gross

        only on root, unless theres a way i dont know for my drhd?

        • That’s not really what i was getting at. I’m just saying there is the ability for Google (or your manufacture) to decide that the buttons need to be updated for some reason.
          On screen buttons are capable of evolving over time to fit changing needs.

    • Adrynalyne

      Is that why it is a simple change in the overlay before compiling to enable or disable them?

      Damn you Google, you don’t offer choices!

      • Detonation

        I’m not talking about the Google code change, I’m talking about this community’s attitude, which is basically “Android is all about choice, as long as you choose stock android”

        • Adrynalyne

          I think your eyes are seeing what you want them to see. I see plenty of people who oppose the “stockers” in this community.

          • Chris

            I’m fine with those who choose to like stock android. its the ones who shove that in peoples faces and demand everything be stock. This nis android, not Apple people!

          • TechTinker11

            Yeah but all apps should follow holo guidlines, not froyo. So then wouldnt you be tired of your apps not looking the same way that your os does?

    • Scott Webber

      Every phone doesn’t have to have on-screen buttons, but the Menu button was a terrible UI design. Having a menu button on phones makes for poor user experience. Good riddance!

    • Chris

      its like the whole holo guidelines. People go on and on about the choice in android, and yet want every app to be like apple and have the same look and fell.

      • poop

        Who feels this way? I certainly don’t.

        • Chris

          Well you are just one person.

      • Cowboydroid

        Having consistent software design guidelines is a good thing. You still have a thousand different hardware devices to choose from.

  • Ben Udkow

    Switching from my Note 2 to the LG G2, the best part was the soft home button. Mashing down on the physical key on the Samsungs is a horrible experience (I love Samsung products, so it’s not bashing the line). Smoothly and softly pressing a soft button is just such a better interaction with the device. Using my Note 8 I always under-press the home button since I’m used to the G2.

  • Nick

    Hardware keys are a useless, antiquated, smartphone design choice. It is astounding so many oems continue to produce phones with such.

  • a3uge

    If Android added more context specific indicators to the back button, I think manufacturers would really realize the benefits of on-screen buttons. The close keyboard indicator is incredibly helpful, but Android is still lacking when it comes to navigating through the back button. When I’m in chrome I could get redirected to the YouTube app and then switch back and forth apps with the recent app switcher, I’m never really sure what the back button is going to do. Will I end up at the root level of YouTube? Will it close completely? If the back button a little ‘X’ indicator instead of a back button may help things. Hiding the buttons in video apps and on the lock screen really helps with the argument to move to on-screen buttons.

    • Its SUPPOSED to go back the the previous action (like the back button on a browser). Which would be part of the app you are in. If you are in the last action of that app then it will close that app. Its logical and i find it intuitive but sometimes devs make the back button do weird things like take you to the root or close it no matter what. Its when they deviate from the norm that confuses people.

      • a3uge

        Still, you have to keep a mental stack in your brain as to whether or not you came from another app. If I opened the YouTube app from the Facebook app, then hit the home button and turned off my screen and opened the YouTube app an hour later, I have to remember that I opened the YouTube app earlier. Hitting the back button will close out of the app completely, whereas if I opened that video via the YouTube app my back button would have taken me to the root. It’s not like a back button on a browser because my tabs never disappear completely on a browser. I can also go forward on a browser if I realize I made a mistake. I don’t think Android should ditch the back button, but I think they could add a little ‘X’ indicator when it’s going to close the app completely to make it a bit more intuitive and much more predictable.

        • It sounds confusing when i explain it too but i never really have a problem with how it works. But you’re not really supposed to navigate the app with the back button. Its just to go back. If you want to go to the root of youtube app, just the menu for that.
          Idk, i know people complain about it, it always sound more complicated than it is. To me at least; it works.
          But i guess in short im saying, the app should be responsible with providing you with ways to navigate IN the app (its theirs right?)

          Also on a browser you have tabs, on android only have a single window. If your browser had a single window and you hit back eventually it would take you back to the page you landed on and then back to the search page you originated from, not the home page of the site. So you already navigate the web like you should android apps; minus the forward button.
          The exit icon is frowned upon by android design guidelines IIRC.

      • a3uge

        https://plus.google.com/+ChrisLacy/posts/cdtikRKiRR6 Chris Lacy, developer of Action Launcher puts this much more eloquently than I do.

  • And it appears that Samsung goes in and specifically changes that back. That commit was done July 11. I’m running the bone stock 4.4/KRT16S ROM on my Google Play Edition GS4, and it most definitely hides the overflow button in the action bar. The only possible explanation for that would be Samsung undoing that code change before compiling the ROMs and sending them off the Google.

    I guess sometimes open source is a mixed blessing, huh?

    • Adrynalyne

      My Note 3 doesn’t have that overflow button either…unless maybe I don’t have the latest store?

      • I’ve got Play Store 4.5.10 and it shows the overflow button on my GS4 GPE. Either way, if the commit was made July 11, and we’re both running ROMs that were built off Android versions that incorporated that change, it’s safe to say that Samsung mucked with that commit.

        For what it’s worth, the KitKat ROM for the GS4 GPE also did something I wish everyone would do…it made it so there is no longer an “H” indicator for HSPA/HSPA+. UMTS, HSPA, and HSPA+ now all show as 3G. This was a deliberate change made in the 4.4 ROM. So now, the only things my phone will show are E, 3G and LTE. haha HSPA+ is still 3G for all intents and purposes and should be displayed as such, IMO.

        • Adrynalyne

          What is ‘E’?

          • E is EDGE or 2G basically. EDGE and GPRS (normally shown as “G” on phones) are the two early GSM data technologies. GPRS is about 28.8K modem speed, and EDGE is about 128kbps if you’re lucky.

          • Adrynalyne


          • Boblank84


  • cjohn4043

    Ha. I feel like this is a little jab to OEMs. Good job Google.

  • schoat333

    That’s perfectly fine with me. (S4 owner)

  • Tim242

    I like the overflow dots. But, leave my buttons alone. I hate on screen buttons. They waste space and serve no purpose. Samsung phones have smaller bezels than those phones with on screen buttons.

    • Adrynalyne

      On screen buttons are infinitely more flexible than hardware buttons.

      • Tim242

        I don’t need basic buttons to be flexible. I need them to do what they are supposed to.

        • Adrynalyne

          That is subjective, because I could argue that Samsung is overriding what Android is supposed to do with onscreen buttons. So to each their own, but this is not how Android was designed to work, not since 4.0 (for phones anyway).

          • Tim242

            Android is about choice. It is designed for customization. I’d rather have off screen buttons, as long as bezels are not huge because of them.

      • TheRealCBONE

        In what way are they “infinitely more flexible”, other than changing orientation and wasting screen space?

        • Adrynalyne

          Have you ever seen hardware keys change their layout? Onscreen can.
          Have you ever seen hardware keys change their color? Onscreen can.
          How about change their actual icon to give contextual clues as to their function? Onscreen can (and does).
          Can you hide hardware keys? Onscreen can.
          Can hardware keys wear out/attract dirt/get stuck? Yes, they can. Onscreen cannot.

          Those are just a few examples. You have to try really hard to not see how much more flexible onscreen keys are.

    • BG

      my G2 begs to differ

      • Tim242

        The G2 is the only phone with small bezels and on screen buttons. The bezels on it are about the same as the S4. The top bezel is a bit smaller, but the bottom bezel is a bit bigger.

        • Scott Webber

          Moto x has small bezels too. I think the best approach would be on-screen buttons with extra screen real estate for them and as little bezel as possible. 1080×2016. (1080p+buttons)

          • Adrynalyne

            Right. 4.7 is fine as a size on Moto X, but once you include onscreen keys, it is too small.

          • JMonkeYJ

            Yeah Moto X does have smaller bezels than the S4.

    • redragn5

      I personally like onscreen buttons a lot more than capacitive ones and I hate physical ones (at least on the front, Samsung’s home button infuriates me), but that’s the beauty of customization – I got fed up with the hardware keys on my S3 and disabled them/enabled the onscreen buttons. Having the overflow buttons show regardless of hardware configuration is a good idea though, makes it simpler when showing people who have different hardware and easier using the same application if someone switches phones (yay consistency!)

      Though seriously, they need to bring back hardware camera buttons – that’s literally the only hardware button I miss

      • Tim242

        Yeah, that’s a good compromise. BTW, you can enable the volume buttons to be a camera button in the camera settings.

        • redragn5

          I’ve seen where you can use the power button as the shutter when in the camera but I haven’t tried using the volume buttons that way. Thanks for the tip!

  • iNomNomAwesome

    Google probably did this just to screw with the manufactures that still use dedicated menu buttons so now they’ll just look stupid if they use them in the future haha; I guess that’s a good way of getting them to do what they want.

    • Adrynalyne

      I doubt employees of manufacturers noticed, and if they did, they shrugged their shoulders and went on with their day.

      They don’t care about this. Now forcing onscreen buttons would get their attention 😉

      • iNomNomAwesome

        Oooo, now THAT would be hilarious

  • this is truly a joyous day, #DownWithTheMenuButton

  • Kendal

    I know it’s silly of me, but those damn hardware buttons are the one major thing keeping me away from the Droid Maxx. I may pull the trigger anyway, but after my Galaxy Nexus I really have a hard time going back to physical buttons.

    This is a nice step in the right direction, but it doesn’t get rid of those damn buttons! 🙂

    • TheDave1022

      Maybe settle for the Moto X. I had the gnex and it was horrible in terms of battery life. I’m doing much better with the moto x (verizon as well)

      • Ricky Villatorr

        Moto X battery is so, so, if you’re going to pick between the maax and the x, go with the maxx. you cant beat 2 day battery life. 3300mah is ridiculously awesome

    • Ricky Villatorr

      But it has the exact same layout of the Stock Nav Bar *back* *home* *recents*

      I say do it.

    • Greyhame

      I went from a GNex to the MAXX and I have absolutely no regrets. I can see both sides of this argument, but each is pretty far overblown. That excludes Samsung putting on a physical button and screwing with the layout… That’s just … awful.

  • T4rd

    I dunno why, but I missed that overflow button a lot going from my Gnex to the Note 2. I’ll be glad to see it back and would prefer if apps have it even though I have a settings button.

  • Love this!

  • Chris Bobrowitz

    About damn time, now Samsung and Lg can stop putting a useless, ugly hardware button on devices

    • Big_EZ

      This has actually been out for awhile. I noticed it on my Note 2 a while back.

      • Justin W

        It’s in 4.4, not 4.3. Some apps may have just implemented it always if that’s even possible.

    • laheelahee

      am i the only one that likes sammy’s physical home button? heck, i even want them to bring back the camera button!

      • Tim242

        You aren’t the only one : )

      • Richard Jackson

        I would like the camera button but onscreen buttons are the way forward.

      • TheCheapGamer

        I don’t see the point of losing screen for buttons.
        I love sammy’s layout. 3 dedicated major buttons.

        • Richard Jackson

          Depends on how the app is written. In YouTube the button disappear in a few seconds giving you that full screen goodness. You can bring them back with a a tap.

      • michael arazan

        Been using an sg3 asurion replacement for a gnex for three months, still throughs me off having to look for a menu button on screen when it is on the phone. I hate the Home Button, it’s slow and laggy and just slows down yor performance and movements. Can’t wait till holidays over so I can myself a new device.

    • TheRealCBONE

      Onscreen buttons are terrible. They aren’t adaptive, don’t auto hide, and haven’t led to smaller bezels. I think the public is speaking because the only phones that actually sell feature hardware buttons despite Google’s stupid insistence.

      • Justin W

        “Adaptive” – See apps that need a menu button since they haven’t been updated with the Action Overflow button. See also the utilization of PIE controls.
        Auto Hide – no, they don’t. Unless your app uses Immersive mode on KitKat, or you are watching a movie on Netflix or Youtube, or a number of other types of apps (Games also do this).
        Haven’t led to smaller bezels – See Moto X vs. Droid Ultra/Maxx – there are much smaller bezels on the X because they don’t need the capacitive keys anymore, whereas the bezels on the Ultra/Maxx (at least, on the bottom side), are much larger due to the capacitive keys.

        That last point? I don’t even need to refute that.

      • TheCheapGamer

        +1 to this guy all the way.
        On screen buttons suck.

    • feztheforeigner

      LG doesn’t. Have you seen their recent stuff? All software buttons.

      Samsung annoyingly does though…

  • StargateNH

    Real Menu buttons are awesome. You always know where it is regardless of orentation of phone. Also, having a menu button on home screens is the best.

    • I agree, on my G2 I have the multitasking button setup so a long press goes to the menu. It’s a lot easier when using it one handed than trying to reach the top corner of the phone.

      • StargateNH

        Im on a GS3. I just set up a Moto X for 2 friends this weekend and no real menu buttons are frustrating. I fear I am in the minority and physical buttons are going away. The worst real buttons are HTC where there is no actual menu button.

        • sc0rch3d

          that’s funny, i have an S3 as well. my moto x came in this morning and i just started using. i keep finding myself trying to press the non-existent home to wake it up and pressing on-screen BACK expecting it to be the menu button.

          thankfully many of the CM / AOKP / [insert ROM name here] features can be sideloaded or even GASP in the Market (thank you Chronus).

          • MrOrange645

            I do that with my Nexus 7 all the time. Use the home button to wake my Note 2, so when I see the dark screen of my sleeping Nexus 7 I usually end up mashing the center of the bottom bezel expecting there to be a button there.

          • Tyler

            I find myself mostly unlocking my phone with active display because I mostly pick up my phone when I want to use it. Therefore activating the active display.

          • sc0rch3d

            It even works with Exchange! I was a little pissed b/c it force updating to KitKat and my company sent out a note not to update. Oh well 🙂

            do you know how to get Voice+ working on a non-CM device? about the only thing i’m missing.

          • Tyler

            Not sure about that app but DL had an article about a week ago with how to use GV and hangouts. http://www.droid-life.com/2013/12/03/how-to-use-google-voice-sms-with-hangouts/ Hope that helps.

          • sc0rch3d

            yea i read that article with excitement then saw it was a pretty poor excuse of a workaround. it may work for some folks, but I’d rather maintain 2 apps then update all my contacts. thanks tho. guess i’ll try contacting Koush on Twitter…lol.

          • StargateNH

            I love having the physical center home button on my GS3. I use that to wake up the phone more than the power button.

    • a3uge

      Except when they don’t do anything… you have to press the button in order to find some buried action you can take. Having buttons that don’t do anything is horrible UI. This is a good design move – the actions are always on the top right. It never made sense to have a menu button on the bottom disjoint from the action bar on the top (with the most used action in the top right). It’s not an intuitive way to enter some settings in an app because the button is never context specific, unlike an on-screen option. Furthermore, when you do have a hardware menu button, it will open up the settings in the top right corner, making the button absolutely meaningless. Also, having a hardware button does NOT orient with the direction of your phone. It will be sideways when in landscape. Lastly, the hardware menu button is confusing in comparison to the other buttons since it interacts directly with elements in your app, rather than control the entire flow/navigation of the whole phone. Stock android reserved the buttons for navigation across the whole OS and removed the search/menu buttons in place of OS-level buttons.

  • NickA

    Consistency, a step in the right direction.