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General On Screen Buttons: An Argumentative Poll

Discussion in 'Android Devices' started by scratchandsniff, Nov 14, 2011.


How do you like your buttons?

  1. On Screen, sandwich style!

  2. Capacitive, tried and true!

  3. Physical, form follows function!

  1. scratchandsniff

    Thread Starter

    Ice Cream Sandwich introduced On Screen Buttons (further addressed as OSB), which effectively stretches the display over the capacitive buttons. The following is an argument on OSBs, and I invite all readers to post their opinions and counterpoints.


    The OSBs introducted in ICS allow manufacturers to incorporate larger screens into devices (4.65" vs 4.3", in the case of Galaxy Nexus vs ReZound). During media playback and "full-screen" apps, the Nexus will utilize all 1280 pixels, but most apps will only use 1196 (1280-84) pixels due to the OSBs. Since the majority of the time the OSBs will be visible, displayed content will effectively be limited to ~4.3" of 1194x720 vs 4.3" of 1280x720 (GN vs RZ).

    This would commonly give the Nexus an aspect ratio of 1.6611111, a ratio slightly squarer than 800x480 (1.666666). Since 800x480 graphics would upconvert to 1200x720, 4 rows of pixels, from apps developed for the 800x480 resolution, will have nowhere to display. This will require developers to create 1196x720 graphics as well as 1280x720 (since 854x480 upconverted != 1280x720). This could easily be addressed by making the OSBs 80 pixels high, thus upconverted 800x480 would display correctly on the new 1200x720 effective display.

    While the Galaxy Nexus appears to have enough bezel below the screen to include capacitive buttons, I foresee manufacturers limiting the bezel size smaller than would allow the use of capacitive buttons (at least not in addition to manufacturer and carrier logos). However, hardware buttons, like those on the Droid X, are much smaller than their 84 pixel OSB counterparts, and it could be argued that hardware buttons would allow the greatest screen size and resolution.

    So then, it seems the argument for OSBs boils down to aesthetics and display utilization. While hardware buttons may allow for the greatest screen resolution and size, many find the design cluttered and may be drawn to the clean appearance of OSBs. So then, the argument for OSBs buttons becomes a comprise of screen size for effective resolution. Physical dimensions constant, a larger screen ratio (screen size per phone size) is always preferable. While both phones approach "retina display", the argument for effective display isn't so much about pixel density (316 vs 342) as it is about displayable content. The OSBs on the Galaxy Nexus allow the user to view 4.65" of 720p media playback, however limit regular applications to ~4.3" of 1196x720 pixels of content. The capacitive buttons on the ReZound limit the user to only 4.3" of 720p media playback, but allow regular applications full use of the 1280x720 pixels. The trade off is a slightly larger screen for consuming media, or slightly more content on the same effective screen size.


    Effective Resolution Ratio Math:

    GN Screen Size = 4.65"
    RZ Screen Size = 4.3"

    GN Effective Screen Size (Observed) ~= 4.3"
    OSB Screen Size = 4.65" - 4.3" = 0.35"

    Extra Content Size on ReZound:

    RZecs = OSBss/GNss * RZss = (0.35"/4.65") * 4.3" ~= 0.32" Extra Content


    If anybody has the exact measurements for the GN screen, I can update my math. So how do you feel about OSBs, for them or against them?


  2. DPiddy

    DPiddy Well-Known Member

    I like the clean look of osb's. The physical buttons on my x have always felt cheap and they dont look clean at all since they dont line up with one another. Also going with on screen buttons simplifies the system circuitry as no circuitry is needed for the buttons. The fewer parts on a device the less opportunity there is for failure.
  3. binary visions

    binary visions Android Expert

    I will find out when the phone launches whether I like the on screen buttons or the physical buttons better.

    I like the idea of on screen buttons better. Flexibility in the software that you won't get with anything else - visible when you need them, gone when you don't, ability to change the number or type of buttons even per-app, one less thing to break... I mean, sure, the Droid X physical buttons are smaller, but it's not entirely uncommon to hear about them breaking. Mine quit responding to menu button presses and I had to swap it out.

    My biggest hesitancy is actually with typing. I am concerned that typing rapidly and going for the bottom row of keys will result in tapping one of the soft buttons - I occasionally do this on my tablet. Tablets are a bit awkward to type on so I am not sure it'll be as big a problem but I am fully willing to chalk it up to a failed experiment if I find it to be a big issue.

    The math on the resolution is interesting, though. I had simply assumed they had accounted for the aspect ratios when choosing a button height but perhaps not.
  4. bouchigo

    bouchigo Android Expert

    I'm already used to the onscreen buttons with my CM7 HP Touchpad, and playing with my friends HC Xoom.

    So I say on screen instead of physical and capacitive ;)
  5. jamor

    jamor Android Expert

    Definitely onscreen instead of capacitive when you can use the onscreen as actual real estate in some apps and in videos. Seems like a nice trade-off.

    You also won't have to worry about your annoying LEDs lighting up when you're watching a movie or you want it dark for whatever reason. This is what I really like!
  6. ylexot

    ylexot Android Expert

    Don't you mean onscreen instead of capacitive? :thinking:
    jamor likes this.
  7. ZachMob

    ZachMob Well-Known Member

    Are capacitive buttons any different than on screen buttons in terms of feel and responsiveness?
  8. jamor

    jamor Android Expert

    yea thanks ha
  9. ylexot

    ylexot Android Expert

    They should be no different since onscreen buttons are capacitive as well.
  10. cggorman

    cggorman Android Enthusiast

    Don't forget that the OSB buttons can be freely relocated (hidden, even) and resized as the developer sees fit. Just because Android 4.0 has them taking up xxx real estate doesn't mean we have to live with it!
    jroc likes this.
  11. SolidOrange

    SolidOrange Android Expert

    i personally hate the on screen buttons, but it is their design, rather than their location, that really bothers me. after running honeycomb on my g-tablet for months, i still find myself pressing the wrong button quite frequently because they look nothing like the designs we have become accustomed to on every previous version of android. i sincerely hope that someone makes a ROM that goes back to the old designs, as well as replacing the NON-REMOVABLE search bar that is on every single screen with a search button. while i wouldn't use either one, as opening the browser defaults to google, at least a button would take up less screen real estate.
  12. binary visions

    binary visions Android Expert

    You know that the search is an integrated phone search, right? It's not just for the internet. It'll search apps, emails, music, phone content, whatever.
  13. SolidOrange

    SolidOrange Android Expert

    i do know it, but have never once used it for that. wanna search an email, one click to gmail. search google, one click to the browser. search apps, one click to the app list. search contacts, one click to the phone. i don't understand how clicking in that search bar is any easier than clicking the app you are trying to search. especially when all of those apps are on my home screen. :thinking:
  14. binary visions

    binary visions Android Expert

    One could easily argue, "I don't understand why you would launch an app (which may or may not be on the same screen you're on at the time), then search, when you could just search directly from the home screen."

    Plus, there are some fringe benefits if you're looking for a piece of information where you're not entirely sure of its location (e.g. "was that a text, or was it an email?") or it could exist in multiple places.

    It's all individual preference, really - and I'm generally like you and search from within an app. Google is just trying to put unified information access right up front, rather than hiding it. Same as the bar in the Chrome browser - you can search multiple search engines, or directly input URLs, or access settings. Just makes it simple.
    SolidOrange likes this.
  15. jroc

    jroc Android Expert

    I am for on screen buttons IF more screen real estate can be used. If I can get a bigger screen without making the entire phone bigger, great.

    Its something I like about the ICS and the phones that can utilize them, I need to see one in person to see if we actually do get more screen real estate.

    I kinda dont like how they look...they look too fat or wide. Would be nice if they could be made smaller or redesigned.
  16. SolidOrange

    SolidOrange Android Expert

    some good points there, i just wish there was a way to hide the bar if you prefer not to use it. as much as i enjoy customizing my homescreen, i know i am going to wish i could remove that thing. of course, no one here is 100% sure that we can't yet, but i do know it cannot be hidden or deleted from my g-tab's honeycomb homescreen without using a 3rd party launcher.
  17. PolishPauL

    PolishPauL Member

    I really hope we get a ROM to replace the buttons with gestures. I don't get why Google didn't go this route. I love it on my iPad.
  18. jroc

    jroc Android Expert

    As far as the poll...after using a Droid X, I think I like hard buttons more right now as far as what I've actually used. I have a RAZR and Droid 1, and playing games I have hit the Home button one too many times.

    Now....the keys disappear on ICS in games? Great. Bring on the on screen buttons... I do like that with hard buttons I dont have to look at my phone to see what to do with the buttons. But thats a tiny issue thats not really an issue.
  19. KevinMXoom

    KevinMXoom Newbie

    I ran the numbers, and the effective size of the Galaxy Nexus screen (removing the bottom 7.5%) is 4.388 inches, quite close to 4.4".

    As for the poll, I've grown to like on screen buttons from my Xoom. As for physical buttons, I've never liked capacitive because the feedback isn't as good as with mechanical or even on-screen buttons.
  20. binary visions

    binary visions Android Expert

    Of course, keep in mind that the launcher is open source. It's almost inevitable that, even in the worst case if it's totally non-removable, someone will modify the launcher source and post it in the market to remove the search bar.

    No, the keys disappear in ICS only for areas that require no user interaction.
  21. Medion

    Medion Android Expert

    I like a mix of capactive and physical. SGS2 has the ideal layout, IMO. No search button (never used it) and home button also wakes the device.
  22. novox77

    novox77 Leeeroy Jennnkinnns!

    I don't think this is a big issue. Android development best practices state that you should NEVER code an app in absolute pixels due to the variety of screen resolutions running Android. They recommend developers to use density-independent pixels (dips) instead. Any reputable app developer is using dip instead of px.

    And in general, the body of the app is usually specified to "fill parent" which basically says to use all space available.

    Games will likely run full screen, so it's a non-issue there as well.
  23. charlie310

    charlie310 Well-Known Member

    Seeing there is no android phone with on-screen buttons available, I don't see how anyone could have voted for that. I guess you can "imagine" if you would like it better.

    Physical vs capacitive buttons, I choose capacitive because physical buttons make noise and can break.
  24. ylexot

    ylexot Android Expert

    But there are Android tablets with onscreen buttons...
    jroc likes this.
  25. krouget

    krouget Android Enthusiast

    Because Honeycomb has already done them, its likely not the first time people have interfaced with a device like this, and most of our input already involves countless touches with software buttons (so it's not exactly a foreign concept).
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