Here's why on-screen navigation buttons on Android are bad for you

A few months ago, we ran a poll asking you to state your preference – would you rather have physical/capacitive navigation keys on your smartphone, or software ones that take up space on your screen, but offer a bit more flexibility if you're into modding your device...
This is a discussion for a news article. To read the whole news, click here


6. Hatshipuh

Posts: 163; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

I just wish they would start making the bottom bezel smaller if they use on screen buttons, a good example was the first gen Moto X with its tiny bottom bezel. A bad example is the Nexus 5 (oh the irony), still leaving a bottom bezel big enough for buttons despite having on screen buttons. This would make the device more compact, and you can hide the buttons in apps that don't use them all the time like in games or player apps, bringing them back up with a swipe. As for custom ROM users, most of them have the option to choose the size of the navigation bar or always hiding them anyway. This should be in every OEM ROM that use on screen buttons. Also I hate how the physical buttons don't adjust orientation when using in landscape.

15. Felix_Gatto

Posts: 942; Member since: Jul 03, 2013

HTC Flyer can adjust the physical buttons orientation in landscape.

7. Hatshipuh

Posts: 163; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

(See comment #6)

31. Exempt1 unregistered


8. DefinitiveKid

Posts: 261; Member since: May 15, 2013

TBH, the only reason I usually prefer the on-screen buttons is that I always fear that a physical button might deteriorate with time, become less clicky, mushier and all... Has anyone experienced that?

48. TyrionLannister unregistered

My S4 is working for 2 years and the button is still as clicky as day one. It depends on the button. I think Samsung makes decent quality buttons to last at least 2-3 years.

77. district11

Posts: 126; Member since: Apr 17, 2011

Same with my S4. Still in perfect shape.

141. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Same here and planning to use my S4 for more 1.5 year.

55. maherk

Posts: 6768; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Not me. But maybe because i switch phones every 5-6 months

109. Busyboy

Posts: 731; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

So you switch phones every 6 months yet you bashed Sony for renewing their flagship every 6 months. Your honestly the biggest hypocrite on PA

118. maherk

Posts: 6768; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

What does me changing phones every 6 months has to do with what Sony do? Lmao Do you even realize how stupid you sound? And calm your tits down for a bit buddy, if Sony was having a great success with their 6 months strategy, they wouldn't have moved away from it.

62. EcoCare

Posts: 444; Member since: Jul 30, 2014

Depends on the manufacturers. Samsung makes reliable home buttons. My 6 year old Galaxy Gio (low budget) smartphone's home button is as clicky as it was fresh from the box. Meanwhile, my iPhone friends are using AssistiveTouch, in fear that they will break the home button (which happens in a lot of cases).

68. DefinitiveKid

Posts: 261; Member since: May 15, 2013

Yes, I've had the iPhone 5S and after just a couple of weeks of use, the home button started to make a little extra noise when i clicked it, as if there was something loose inside, and it was annoying as hell. That's why I like on-screen keys.

158. Awesoman64

Posts: 292; Member since: Mar 18, 2015

My be an error in manufacturing. You could have just bought an iPad. I mean, iOS experience seems a lot better on an iPad. An android phone and an iPad makes a good combination.

102. TMHKR

Posts: 202; Member since: Dec 08, 2012

Reliable Home buttons? Not really, I had Ace 3 and the button was mushy from day one. But it depends on the model, my friend's Young has very good and robust Home button.

193. EcoCare

Posts: 444; Member since: Jul 30, 2014

Samsung's design language changes drastically after years of my Gio. Your friend Young's home button design may be the same as mine. Ace 3 is similar to S3, which has narrower, less protruding home button, which may explain its "mushiness". At least it still registers the input.

9. Remmy

Posts: 189; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

Yes, on screen buttons take space, I took time to adjust when I got my ZR, but I realized that they are more convenient as I don't have to stretch my finger to reach those physical keys. Also had a hard time using my friend's Note 4 (even the S4), slim bezels + huge screen + capacitive keys = disaster D:

10. bighandssmallpockets

Posts: 99; Member since: Dec 13, 2011

software buttons do not need a bigger bezel all around the phone or make an odd looking fatter bezel at the bottom. Granted the shape of Samsung's button has less impact than the iPhone button but still it must be accommodated.

47. Kakarotto

Posts: 255; Member since: Dec 07, 2010

Yes they don't need bigger bezel. Nonetheless they still have it. So for now, physical buttons > on-screen buttons.

12. Industriality

Posts: 131; Member since: Sep 08, 2014

And that's why I won't buy a ON-SCREEN "buttons"

14. OrigPhoneGeek

Posts: 27; Member since: Jun 11, 2014

I love how we're all idiots because we didn't respond to the poll the way they wanted us to... That said I really don't mind the software buttons because they can be changed. What I resent far more on my HTC M8 (and forth coming M9) is the useless black bar, on screen buttons, and the dock all taking up space. The only thing we should see after the speakers is screen and the on screen buttons and that is fine with me. Get rid of the rest.

44. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

Ease up. Nobody meant that. :)

123. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

Do you want the reason why many people like on screen buttons? It´s not that difficult to figure it out. You have calculated how much space they take the on-screen buttons, but you have forgotten to show how much space on the phone the capacity buttons use. In other words: getting rid of the capacity buttons allow for bigger screens in the same phone size. Therefore people who cares about screen to body ratios prefer them (me among them). LG G3 is the perfect example, if it had capacitive buttons it would be bigger or the screen smaller. It would never have the best screen to body ratio. That´s a reason good enough for most of us. Why don´t you calculate the screen to body ratios for phones with and without capacitive buttons? You´ll get a clear picture of what I mean.

148. TyrionLannister unregistered

Actually take a look at note 4. It wastes almost zero space at the bottom. If it used on screen keys, that space would go wasted. If you add the area by capacitive buttons to the screen or subtract the on screen key area from the screen, the G3 won't have very good screen to body ratio compared to note 4. I don't think using on screen keys makes screen size bigger. It just leaves that portion below the screen to go to waste. Even the bottom bezel of G3 is useless. And didn't you wish that black bar on HTC M8 or M9 was used as capacitive buttons like on the M7. There are multiple ways to look at it.

151. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

But yet again, if instead having the capacity buttons the Note 4 would have used that space for extra screen the screen to body ratio would be even better than now. That´s my whole point.

167. TyrionLannister unregistered

I really doubt that. For increasing screen on note 4, they would have to widen the device too for keeping aspect ratio.

188. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

Then they could make the device shorter reudcing the bezels by not having the buttons.

189. TyrionLannister unregistered

no one has yet done that. And even after that, those basically mimic bezels inside the screen. Also there needs to be the screen driver below the screen. That's why the black bar on M9. So that much bar will always remain. It's better to put something in there.

175. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Ok please mention how much phone with onscreen button that have better screen to body ratio than, for example galaxy s4 hmm?

159. romeo1

Posts: 814; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

You do know that physical/capacitive buttons can be so slim that they would fit easily in the g3 bezel? I prefer onon screen buttons but screen to body ratio of phones with it isn't a reason why they use onscreen buttons.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.