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

200 Comments

35. Kakarotto

Posts: 255; Member since: Dec 07, 2010

I hate on-screen buttons! Never going to buy phone with that.

38. cncrim

Posts: 1586; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Amen finally someone actually get my point or many cross. That's exactly why M8 or M9 not sell well, HTC don't see it is a design flaw but it is. When app is open it took 6% to 7% screen realistate and mean while the black bar not come for good use.

40. StraightEdgeNexus

Posts: 3689; Member since: Feb 14, 2014

I blame Google for the time being, although I'm not a fan of looks of physical buttons. I rather compromise looks than get frustrated everyday.

41. SonyFindOneDroidple

Posts: 865; Member since: May 11, 2013

I hate on-screen.. the fact that it's not really that easy to find them and there are times you'll touch wrong display area

87. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

That does not happen after you get used to... for me it was about a week of usage... Now I actually love them... very versatile.

178. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

versatile what?

203. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Versatile the way the rotate and move to the correct location even if the screen is totally upside down... They change when needed (app without menu button) the button appear to the right, and they disappear when you really need the whole screen (multimedia, games)

42. shnibz

Posts: 510; Member since: Sep 18, 2011

First phone I ever got with on screen buttons was the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and I proffered it immediately over physical buttons. Especially capacitive buttons

45. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

Interesting. I actually prefer capacitive over the two alternatives -- physical, because they can wear out, require you to apply pressure, and take up internal space; and software ones because they take up screen real estate. With capacitive keys, you have all your screen to whatever app you're dealing with, and they take no internal space from what I know, as they're a part of the touchscreen itself.

50. o0Exia0o

Posts: 903; Member since: Feb 01, 2013

You don't have all of your screen with captive keys. Captive keys take up the bottom portion of the screen in order to work, that is lost screen real estate that cannot be used vs virtual buttons.

70. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

Um, I suppose you just use different names for it than I do. By capacitive keys I simply refer to touch-enabled nav keys that are part of the bezel, not the screen.

86. o0Exia0o

Posts: 903; Member since: Feb 01, 2013

Captive keys and Virtual keys are basically the same thing. Both rely on the bottom of the screen on in order to function. The difference in the 2 being that doing something like watching a video or movie the virtual keys disappear where captive keys are always present and in the same location. If you were to take a device with captive buttons and disassemble it you would see that the screen of the device runs under the captive buttons.

179. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

LOL he know that, and you don't even get his point.

126. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

But that means your bezels have to be bigger to hold them, or your screen smaller, screwing the screen to body ratio. Taking space of space that could be used for a bigger screen or front loud speakers.

63. Awesoman64

Posts: 292; Member since: Mar 18, 2015

Refer to comment #60. I would rather use an app in an immersive way rather than having my app exit continuosly

89. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

YES, exactly... specially when I give my phone to my baby boy for a short game, he used to touch the physical keys (capacitive) accidentally all the time... now with immersive mode this does not happen

46. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

If on screen navigation buttons are there then top and bottom bezels should be trimmed down.

49. Br125

Posts: 14; Member since: Mar 11, 2015

I'm surprised that less than half sided with on-screen buttons.. I can't stand the physical home and capacitive touch buttons. When the phone manufacturer has a small bottom bezel, on-screen buttons make way more sense.

53. DefinitiveKid

Posts: 264; Member since: May 15, 2013

But then you have phones like the Sony Z3 which have a bigger than life bottom bezel and on-screen keys.

91. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Are you drunk? What are you talking about?!! the bezels on the Z3 / Z3c are not big at all.. those devices have over 70% of screen-to-body ratio... and that's even with the inclusion of front facing stereo speakers and waterproofing... Troll

104. DefinitiveKid

Posts: 264; Member since: May 15, 2013

Top and bottom bezels are huge. And I'm not talking about the Z3C, which has reasonable up and bottom bezels, I'm talking about Z3. And what's up with all the aggressiveness? Drunk? Troll? Can we just discuss like grown men?

130. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Well I apologize, my comment wasn't meant to be aggressive, was more on a playful tone... Anyway I was talking about both devices, Z3 and Z3 Compact both have over 70% of screen-to-body ratio, look it up. Older ones do have bigger bezels (with the exception of the ZL), so I honestly thought that you were trolling.

142. DefinitiveKid

Posts: 264; Member since: May 15, 2013

No worries, I might have been wrong about the Z3, it was just my perception of it.

96. maherk

Posts: 6775; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Not really. Maybe the Z, Z1 and Z2 did, but the Z3 is one of the best phones in the market regarding screen to body ratio, plus it features front stereo speakers and is also waterproof.

103. Awalker

Posts: 1973; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

That's another benefit of on screen buttons - front facing speakers. HTC, Sony and Motorola are using the front bezels to house the speakers for their phones.

97. maherk

Posts: 6775; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Not really. Maybe the Z, Z1 and Z2 did, but the Z3 is one of the best phones in the market regarding screen to body ratio, plus it features front stereo speakers and is also waterproof.

51. TyrionLannister unregistered

Those capacitive+ physical combo is one of the main reasons I go with Samsung phones. on-screen buttons take up space and I get really irritated when I accidentally tap on home key instead of space bar while typing. Physical home button eliminates that issue. On-screen keys were the only reason I got rid of my otherwise excellent G2.

92. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I actually got more accidental taps with capacitive buttons than with On-screen now... in fact, immersion mode is great because it really eliminate that from happening, with physical buttons that does not happen...

98. TyrionLannister unregistered

I'm talking about while typing, and I'm talking about physical press-type button. While typing, immersion mode doesn't work and that resulted in a lot of irritations on my G2. S4 has physical home button and hence doesn't get tapped while typing fast. Not all people may have the same experience as me. I respect your opinion. But my point stands.

122. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I see... well maybe this does not happen to me because I am used to gesture typing... Swipe typing... which automatically puts the space for you... but still when I have to type the old fashion way I never hit "Home" instead of space bar... In fact I am trying right now, and at least on my Z3 Compact, my touch has to be completely over the Home button for it to register. I have active "Show touches" under developer settings, and even when my touch goes below space bar, it still favores it. Maybe this is an improvement on Sony devices with the new Xperia Keyboard (which BTW is fantastic, I used to use Google Keyboard), but either way I think is a matter of how you are used to do things, and how adaptable you are.

* 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 https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.