Android menu button now on by default on all device with KitKat

Android menu button now on by default on all device with KitKat
It looks like Google has decided that even if it can't get rid of physical navigation buttons on Android hardware, at the very least it can get rid of the capacitive menu button that is still in use. When Google first formalized the soft navigation buttons with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (they had been introduced with the forgotten Honeycomb), Google created the "action overflow menu" as the substitute for a menu button.

Since then, the action overflow button has been a spot of inconsistency with Android apps, because it would show on devices with soft navigation buttons, and not show when there was a hardware menu button on the device. At least that was the aim, but depending on the app coding, there it didn't always work that way. But, with Android 4.4 KitKat, it seems that Google has changed that behavior so the action overflow button will always be on, even if there is a hardware menu button available. 

Google engineer Adam Powell even went so far as to comment on the change in Git, saying:


That is pretty blatant. The idea seems to be to nudge hardware manufacturers (read: Samsung) to leave behind the physical menu button, which will be redundant. Of course, Samsung really is one of the few Android hardware makers that still uses a physical menu button, along with Xiaomi. HTC still has physical buttons, but only for home and back. Motorola, LG, Sony, and Huawei have all moved to the soft navigation buttons. The change is part of KitKat, so once devices are updated the action overflow button will be here to stay.

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28 Comments

3. Tsoliades

Posts: 228; Member since: Dec 22, 2012

I wish all the manufacturers would just change it already. It's extremely annoying not having soft buttons on all the devices.

25. ihavenoname

Posts: 1693; Member since: Aug 18, 2013

Dilemma... One King of Android has physical buttons on almost all phones (Samsung) and other King hates them (Google). Winner? I don't know.

4. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

About damn time, I hate having to switch between my S4 and padfone/nexus 4/whatever else. The menu button is on the left hand side and back button on the right hand side which is a retarded move for right handed users. Having to master hitting the back button with your palm (ball of thumb?) should not be a requisite to using a smartphone.

5. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

I like having a physical menu button. That was the reason why I chose the Note 2 over the newer HTC One. I hope Samsung keeps it, the onscreen buttons are cool but choice is better.

7. hurrycanger

Posts: 1775; Member since: Dec 01, 2013

Same here. It's not so big of a deal that makes me choose Samsung over a Nexus or anything else, but I find it very convenient. It's easier to hit if you have a big phone (for many people: 4.5" and up). Another reason I like it is that no matter where I am on the phone, I can just hit it and voila! It's not hard to spot the soft menu button (I've used the Nexus 4), but getting to the menu by pressing the exact same button at the exact same place every time is better.

12. bigstrudel

Posts: 621; Member since: Aug 20, 2012

Its even easier to hit Samsung's buttons. Try handing your phone to a stranger to take a picture. I guarantee they hit the back key.

14. jacko1977

Posts: 428; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

been there done that but i still wouldnt get rid of them

26. ihavenoname

Posts: 1693; Member since: Aug 18, 2013

I like physical home button too. It feels nice to have one, you can unlock screen with it, and if somekind of malfunction appears, it's lifesaver (as a Nexus 7 owner i have witnessed virtual buttons freezing.

16. saiki4116

Posts: 413; Member since: Mar 31, 2011

They did that mainly because of inconsistency where the menu opens. I have Juhan Lehtimiki or someone post Screenshots of Note 10.1(with physical Menu buttons), where the menu would open sometimes in middle,sometimes top.

17. dratomic

Posts: 483; Member since: Oct 09, 2013

yes me too. the main reason why I dont like to try htc or sony anymore. i dont like o screen back , home and menu buttons

6. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

There are times when software soft buttons do not show up in some screens and you have to do tricks to get out of certain creens because of flaws in the software. The hardware button on my GS3 saved me in those conditions where my Nexus 5 makes changing back on some screens a chore!

10. hurrycanger

Posts: 1775; Member since: Dec 01, 2013

Same here. It happened many times when I opened Chrome. It showed the blank gray screen without the New Tab button and the others on the top.

8. kaikuheadhunterz

Posts: 1157; Member since: Jul 18, 2013

What about capacitive buttons that adapt to the interface (i.e. menu button lights up only when it is needed)?

21. areeeeez

Posts: 17; Member since: Jul 01, 2012

love this idea. But it will be more difficult for Google to force the company to change it rather than forcing the hardware to use the onscreen

23. kaikuheadhunterz

Posts: 1157; Member since: Jul 18, 2013

I'm okay with both kind of buttons. They each have their own strengths and weakness, so it all boils down to whether I can adapt to it (I certainly cannot adapt to iOS's interface. Back and menu buttons not obvious enough)

9. baldilocks

Posts: 1545; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

Having the 3 dot menu button up top is a pain in the ass on larger devices. I prefer a real menu button.

13. dsDoan

Posts: 235; Member since: Dec 28, 2011

That's the great thing about software buttons. You can modify them to have any buttons you want in any order.

11. Andrewtst

Posts: 697; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Why Goggle forcing it. Recently what Goggle did is more towards bad. It is really a time new OS come up and replace evil soon Android.

27. ihavenoname

Posts: 1693; Member since: Aug 18, 2013

iOS? Too expensive devices. WP? At the moment M$ removes Nokia name marketshare is dropping. Ubuntu? Just look at their desktop situation. Sailfish? Too new.

15. blazee

Posts: 414; Member since: Jan 02, 2012

Slowly but surely Google is making the experience from one android phone to another more uniform. Something they should have done a while ago

18. noteseries

Posts: 80; Member since: Oct 29, 2013

hate onscreen home button, love samsung

19. IliyaBeshkov

Posts: 261; Member since: Jul 09, 2012

Finally !!

20. wando77

Posts: 1168; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Prefer the samsung method. The menu button is ALWAYS in the same place and it doesn't take up valuable screen space

22. Eclectech

Posts: 355; Member since: May 01, 2013

The Samsung capacitive buttons are retarded because half the time they don't light up and you just have to know where they are or press blindly. At least with the HTC you can reassign the home button to also be the menu button and their buttons stay lit when the screen is on.

24. marbovo

Posts: 658; Member since: May 16, 2013

I love when google tries to force something to it's partners...

28. tasior

Posts: 265; Member since: Nov 04, 2012

I've used this new solutions on 7 inch tablets, and I hate it. I'm used to universal home button, and I had to search for it every time I wanted to press it. That's just a matter of getting used to though. The more annoying thing is, that it takes screen space. It just makes browseing on 7 inches almost the same as on 5 inches...

29. kimLWR

Posts: 6; Member since: Dec 10, 2013

hate on screen buttons (soft keys) as it takes a precious space on screen. really love physical or even just capacitive button for as long as it won't take space on screen :)

30. MAXXtreme007

Posts: 22; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

Ok, I have wondered this for awhile... In my thinking (Palm Pre days...) I thought they had an ingenious method for navigating around. Slide over the home button! Slide left to go back and slide right to go forward. I mean you have forward and backward then and they don't take up space for actual buttons. Second, since they don't take up actual buttons, they could place two other buttons there... Maybe menu, search, or recents like they used to. It seems this would be very intuitive and more functional. What do you all think?

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