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...
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200 Comments

61. JaneChenLong

Posts: 374; Member since: Mar 18, 2015

I hate when the button is NOT in place. i.e when the phone sideway, the hardware navigation button annoyed me.

67. Awesoman64

Posts: 292; Member since: Mar 18, 2015

Then you better get used to it.

78. JaneChenLong

Posts: 374; Member since: Mar 18, 2015

and that's the reason i bought the sony xperia Z, Nexus 4 & xperia z3 in the past.... after the samsung galaxy s3.

83. Awesoman64

Posts: 292; Member since: Mar 18, 2015

Well, you made a good decision. Consider it a thumbs up for being smart.

66. skyline88

Posts: 697; Member since: Jul 15, 2013

part of the reasons why i still stick with Samsung after so many years.

72. Awesoman64

Posts: 292; Member since: Mar 18, 2015

Part of the reason why I stick with Apple after so many years

71. mixedfish

Posts: 1551; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

I used to care about hardware buttons, but really I couldn't give two rats buttocks about it. More interested if the core features are any good on the phone.

74. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I'm not militant on the subject, but I prefer capacitive buttons. Actually, I'd like to see combination capacitive/physical buttons, that require a click but can't be accidentally activated in pocket, etc... But if a phone is compelling enough, I could use software buttons.

76. Japultra

Posts: 133; Member since: May 16, 2014

The navigation bar on the bottom can be resized with a bit of rooting and customisation - on the G3, I use G3 Tweaksbox to do this. Software buttons = less bezel, less clutter and makes for a cleaner look. The little amount of screen real estate that I lose to the software keys has never affected me and I don't think ever affects anyone *that* much, TBH.

85. mixedfish

Posts: 1551; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

Going from the comments here, there seems to be a black and white view that people are clumsy baboons who mash touchscreens with their fists rather than use their fingers to navigate. 'Accidental' presses is such an uncompelling reason to avoid soft keys, because really how often does it happen. For the same reason, you'd think people are taking photos accidentally or are frustrated at the 'loss' of picture, because the shutter button is on-screen rather than a hardware key. You also see people sing praise of double tap to wake features rather than use the hardware stand-by key. Which is it: don't bother, it's only an issue for those with OCD.

79. JMartin22

Posts: 2369; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

On screen software buttons need to have their presentation and invasive nature improved. Other than that, there's no advantage to having them. They're easy to accidentally tap on when typing, they cut into screen space, and they're bad for AMOLED screens that can cause burn in. There's no substantial evidence to support that a consumer base wants such a feature with poor limitations. Hence why capacitive and/or hardware buttons retail more well on the two biggest series of phones. Samsung realizes this as well. Google and the other OEMs are in the fringe still with the insistence on software buttons.

93. Awalker

Posts: 1973; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

I've never accendentially touch the navigation keys while typing (that would also be a problem with capactive keys, not just software keys) nor is there any burn in on my Moto X 2013. I also have the Moto X 2014 and there's no sign of any burn in. I'm sure you've heard the phrase that correlation does not mean causation. Apple and Samsung have a substantial marketing strategy and I think that for the most part is driving their sales.

107. TMHKR

Posts: 202; Member since: Dec 08, 2012

"Nope, never heard of AMOLED burn-in." - said no Galaxy Nexus user ever

81. avalon2105

Posts: 352; Member since: Jul 12, 2014

I'd like to see how are you going to customize the layout of physical or capacitive buttons. Since getting G2 I've become dependant on fourth on-screen key to expand and collapse the notification area. Also, just changing order of the keys is massive bonus. You want your home button on the left or right? It's a non issue. Want to replace task switcher button with older "options" button or have the back button on the left or right side is also possible. With physical and capacitive, you are forced to use the layout that manufacturer decides is best for you no matter how flawed it is.

90. Mizraab

Posts: 26; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

I dont like On Screen Buttons to be honest.

95. murron

Posts: 162; Member since: Jun 10, 2014

Your screen area calculations are way off! The Nexus 6 does not have 38 square inches of space on it's screen!!! that's like a freaking 9" tablet!!!! My 5.2" lg g2 has 11.55 total square inches of space and it's on-screen buttons take about 7.6% of the screen.

99. matistight

Posts: 980; Member since: May 13, 2009

Thanks Obama...

100. gsengillo

Posts: 45; Member since: Sep 05, 2010

I absolutely love my note 3 more if it had on screen buttons

105. jokensy unregistered

Just another f**king stupid and pointless article by PA (probably sponsored by Samsung).

162. Orion78

Posts: 183; Member since: Mar 27, 2014

Exactly. The moron who wrote this article doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. I have the Nexus 6 and the screen is plenty big even with on-screen buttons. When I watch vids.....the buttons disappear so what's the problem? On-screen buttons bad for you? Hmmm no. I'll have virtual buttons over outdated physical and capacitive buttons any day.

181. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Some moron got problems with phonearena article..LOL

110. duartix

Posts: 311; Member since: Apr 01, 2014

IMHO Software buttons are BETTER, because give you a choice! - You can choose to waste screen real estate with permanent buttons like they where hardware (but which can be tuned in size to your liking, unlike hardware). - Or you can choose to have virtual buttons that waste 0% screen space, and which will only appear when you swype from the bottom. On my LG G2 I can go as far as to customise in which apps the buttons will always appear or hide. I have the better of both and this way I can make full use of a 5.2'' screen on a phone that is as small or smaller than most 5''s.

183. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

LOL I don't see any of the BETTER on any of your reasoning. how can waste and swipe to show requirement is not DISADVANTAGE?

115. Predator1701

Posts: 130; Member since: Oct 28, 2014

I love my onscreen buttons on my Nexus 4, they always look good and you can't press them accidentally.

116. Scott93274

Posts: 6032; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Your argument regarding wasted space on the display can be used to argue against physical buttons as well. Look at the iPhone and Samsung devices, the bottom bezels on those devices could be much smaller if they had chosen to go with software buttons instead of physical buttons. Small bezels are popular with consumers. Also, why would you need to have an Android device in immersive mode when making a call or texting? You’re not looking at the display when talking on your phone and the buttons don’t detract from the overall experience of texting people. Gaming, watching videos, reading a PDF on the other hand are relevant uses of immersive mode, and having the display take up more of the front face of the device is a more appealing option to me than having a bunch of unused space all for the sake of having a physical button. Lastly, I have in the past had phones where the power buttons get worn and stop working unless I press the very edge of the button as hard as I can. The more moving parts on a device, the greater the possibility of experiencing hardware issues.

184. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

yea like Sony xperia Z or HTC m9?

125. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Funny how PA did not mention the OnePlus One solution, that has Capacitive Buttons AND the option to turn it off and use On-Screen buttons

129. Sondae

Posts: 291; Member since: Jan 02, 2013

I agree it eats up the some space if you dont have physical buttons. The only annoying is on software buttons keeps appearing when you play some games or watching a movie. Sometimes you are prone to unwanted touch of home key. I like physical button.

131. paeschli

Posts: 35; Member since: Aug 27, 2013

On screen Button lead to smaller phones : when it Matter the most (watching a YouTube vid), you can take full advantage of the screen

182. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

prove it!

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