When Android started making the move away from hardware buttons, and giving manufacturers the option to present users with fully on-screen virtual buttons, it sounded like we were moving towards a promising future where Android might feel more consistent across devices – you wouldn’t go from using one phone to being confused with another, offering a different assortment of buttons with a different layout. Sadly, that still hasn’t quite happened, and plenty of OEMs keep clinging to those hardware buttons with everything they have. Google seems to be doing what it can to nudge them away from such attachments, and news is going around this week of progress that could lead us away from reliance on a hardware menu button.
Right now, the Action Bar at the top of apps may show an overflow button – that vertical ellipsis of sorts you tap to see additional options. An app can also detect if a hardware menu button is present, and in such cases not include the on-screen overflow button.
With this change, the on-screen overflow button will always be there when an app uses it, hardware menu button or not. This both makes the appearance of apps more consistent, and makes the menu button itself quite redundant. Since apps will look and operate the same regardless of whether or not the button’s there, manufacturers may finally get the message and stop wasting money on implementing one.