Finally, something that I’ve been hoping for since the day I bought my first Android phone – removal of the physical buttons. Andy Rubin hinted at the D: Dive into Mobile conference that tablets won’t have physical buttons, and most likely phones running Honeycomb won’t need them either.
So why does this make me happy? Because ever since the first iPhone was launched, it was clear that everyone will switch to a touchscreen eventually, because a touchscreen can allow you to do much more and much quicker than you’d do them with physical trackballs and trackpads and all that. The benefits of having a screen almost as big as the phone itself, with an “on-demand” qwerty keyboard, were much bigger than the drawbacks – like typing a little slower. Although, besides Blackberries not many phones had a qwerty keyboard anyway, so typing on touchscreens today is actually faster than typing on those 12 keys keyboards.
Physical button only limit what you can do, and in a world of touchscreens they feel obsolete – like something from the past. They are just not elegant anymore, and the physical feeling of the button is marginal at best. In fact, that exact same feeling is what bothered me from the beginning. Once you get used to using a touchscreen, and then you have to use the menu or home button, there’s like a disconnect you will feel – like something is not right, like it’s unnatural. This is one of the biggest reasons I don’t want buttons on phones anymore. They just don’t belong on touchscreen phones.
Touchscreen phones are meant to be like small tablets that you keep in your pocket. The virtual buttons like for Back, Home and Menu could also appear on-demand, and in whatever position you switch your phone to, just like they will work on tablets. Plus, an extra benefit will be that screens will become slightly larger because of the removal of the physical buttons, but the phones will remain the same size overall. Since the virtual buttons will now work on demand, that leaves extra space for browsing, videos and playing games. I could see a 4.5″ screen fit into the size of a current 4.3″ phone.
What do you think, does it excite you or bother you that physical buttons will be removed?