Android 3.0 Honeycomb: The End of Physical Buttons?

By Jamie Pert - Dec 15, 2010

If you buy any of today’s Android devices you will see at least three physical buttons, however it seems as if these buttons will not be a necessity when Google roll out Android 3.0 Honeycomb.

At the moment most Android smartphones and tablets feature a home button, a menu button, a back button and a search button (see below), however it looks like Android 3.0 Honeycomb will not require physical keys, instead it will feature dedicated softkeys.

Below we can see a sneak peak at the Motorola Stingray‘s UI, it does not show a lot, but does show a back, home and menu button, supposedly these will move when you have the tablet at a different orientation.

Whilst removing physical buttons from Android devices and replacing them with softkeys sounds like a small change it will drastically affect how people will use their tablets and smartphones, personally I feel that there is nothing wrong with the 3 or 4 physical buttons currently used as they can seriously improve productivity, but that said physical buttons tend to be more prone to going wrong than softkeys, also they somewhat limit a device’s design.

Taylor Martin at PhoneDog suggests that if Apple decided against a physical key-less tablet and smartphone there must be a reason behind it, therefore he seems doubtful about the idea.

It could well be that Google decide to require physical buttons with the final Honeycomb build, however for now we can assume that they are really planning to mix things up, I guess time will tell to see if this is really a good idea or not.

Do you think Android Honeycomb devices should feature physical buttons?

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Also See: Android 4.0 SDK available for download now

  • Salimsart

    I think this is stupid and for that reason Honeycomb is stupid too. The 3 button, home, back, properties is cool in Android.

  • Sargan

    There are times when Android simply does not respond to screen input … a use of physical back or home button usually will get you out of whatever is holding things up.
    Having only softbuttons may lose that recovery.

  • andy

    Great, let's look forward it.