On Screen vs Physical Buttons: The Great Debate

When deciding on a new phone there are many things that we consider. Factors like screen size, resolution, processor, and camera are all among some of the top things to consider when trying to figure out exactly what phone is right for you. But there is one thing that has been debated for quite some time in the world of smart phones, on screen or physical buttons. This is the phone worlds own version of  Team Jacob vs Team Edward, and yes I totally just dropped a Twilight reference into an article regarding phone buttons. Much like that debate everyone is going to have their own opinion on which is better and why its the superior option, but what exactly are the benefits of each of these options?

Physical Buttons

Physical buttons are the solution we have seen a lot in the past, but with the exception of Samsung phones it appears most companies are starting to lean more towards the on screen buttons as an option. This could very well be a way of keeping costs down on the production of these phones by eliminating the need to go the extra mile of creating these buttons and connecting them to the board. But although eliminating physical buttons does make financial sense on a production side, having physical buttons definitely has its benefits.



One of the biggest benefits of having physical buttons is the amount of phone real estate we instantly gain by not having the buttons on the screen itself. Most phones are going to have a fairly distinct bezel but by placing the physical buttons on said bezel then there is very little wasted space. In a generation where we covet large screens, being able to take advantage of every little bit of screen is an awesome benefit to having the physical buttons. While I am a big advocate of large screens and fully maximizing that screen another advantage of physical buttons is the elimination of accidental button presses. It never seems to fail that anytime I use a phone with on screen buttons I tend to always have issues accidently pressing those buttons and instantly be taken home while I am browsing the web or scrolling through my Google+ feed. This definitely isn’t anything that is extremely detrimental to the phones operation but it does tend to get rather frustrating when you continually get kicked out of apps. With physical buttons this problem goes out the window because the navigation buttons are not in the way when attempting to navigate your phone.

On Screen Buttons

While the biggest benefit of physical buttons is the ability to fully utilize screen size, one of the biggest advantages to on screen buttons is the amount of customizability you have with not only the choice of buttons but with the layout of these buttons. This is huge for users because customization is a huge part of the android ecosystem. Being able to take your device and fully make it your own is one of the many things that separates android from its competitors.

So while physical buttons are always going to be a settings button, a home button, and a back button with the on screen buttons you can decide to switch that settings button for a recent apps button or maybe a search button. Whatever it is that you find fits your needs best can be set because you don’t have the restraint of those physical buttons. Most stock roms don’t have the ability to customize these buttons but if you’re an android user there is a good chance you are not going to stick with a stock rom.

Physical buttons and On screen buttons both have their pros and cons so it really just comes down to the individual user. Some people, like myself, might favor the fully utilized screen that you get when you decide to go with physical buttons. But then there are others who must have their customization options and be able to decide exactly what buttons they have on their screen at all times. So there really isnt a right or a wrong answer to this debate, just differing preferences, preferences that you will likely always defend and tout as the best option. So what it really comes down to is are you Team Physical or Team On Screen?

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