When Android-powered smartphones first came around they had hardware buttons: home, back, menu, answer, hang-up, and many even a had a scroll-ball. It wasn't long before the scroll-ball and phone buttons went away. Most phones were left with three or four buttons: back, home, menu, and possibly search.
As time marched we saw these physical buttons replaced with back-lit, capacitive buttons. Then Google switched gears by putting on-screen "soft" buttons into the OS. No longer did manufacturers need to install hardware or even capacitive sensors into their phones to get basic button functionality. No longer would button arrangements vary between models.
At least that's what we hoped.
Manufacturers had the option to continue with the "old" ways if they wanted to. They did this in answer to the complaints from users that the on-screen buttons took up "too much space". On older phones with smaller screens that's probably an accurate statement.
Today, however, we have huge, HD screens with plenty of room on them. Why are OEMs still putting buttons on their huge-screened smartphones?
Unfortunately, we don't have the answer to that, but we have tracked down a way for people to flash one file, and bring Android's on-screen buttons to their otherwise soft-buttonless phones.
Before you get started with this you'll need to have the right setup. It's specifically designed for all varieties of the Samsung Galaxy S III, but it may work just fine on others. You'll need to have unlocked and rooted your phone, and you'll need to have ClockworkMod Recovery installed. Also, you'll need to be running either CyanogenMod 9 or 10, though any AOSP-based ROM will probably work.
Next you'll need to download a file to your phone. Which file depends on what kinds of buttons you want:
NAV_Only : none of the hardware keys are enabled (except Volume and Power)
NAV_HomeWake : Home button wakes device but has no other function
NAV_HomeCamera : Long press Home button opens Camera and takes Pictures but has no other function
NAV_StockKeys : Functions as normal but with on Screen Navbar
NAV_Remove : Removes the mod
Grab whichever file you want from http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=29739389&postcount=122
Now it's time to install!
- Assume the risk.
- Boot into recovery by turning off your phone, then holding Volume-Up + Home + Power.
- Backup your current configuration.
- Flash the file you downloaded.
You're all done! Enjoy your on-screen buttons! If you decide you don't like them, simply flash the NAV_Remove package and you're back to normal.
Image Credit: Droid Matters