By now you've read and watched our HTC One X review, and know all about HTC's decision to use capacitive buttons instead of on-screen buttons. As a fan of "real" buttons, I'm glad to see it, though many aren't. That's neither here nor there. The decision was made, and HTC has delivered what may be its best smartphone to date with three capacitive buttons.
And some applications are a mess on it.
The Android development team has already chimed in and said that developers need to abandon the legacy menu button in favor of new controls on the action bar. Some have done so, but as you can see in the image above, some have not. The three-dot menu symbol just hanging there all by its lonesome just looks bad, but is needed because the Facebook app hasn't been updated to use buttons and controls in the action bar. When the Galaxy Nexus came out and used on-screen buttons, this wasn't that big of a deal. Other than the three dots being in a different place on different apps (as mentioned, some have been updated and use the action bar), it didn't disrupt the way apps looked on the screen too awful much. HTC's use of capacitive buttons changes that, and not in a good way. On the other hand, developers aren't giving HTC much of a choice.
A quick look at the latest version of the FlightTrack app shows the difference well. On the Galaxy Nexus, you only have to deal with the menu button being placed with the rest of the OS controls. It's almost intuitive, as we're used to seeing a menu button on the bottom of our Android phones, but it would be best if it were in the action bar as is intended in ICS. A look at the same app running on the HTC One X shows us why. Like the Twitter app above, that's 48 pixels of screen space that could be used to show content and not dots. And, frankly, it looks horrible. We understand that something had to be done, as many apps would be unusable without access to other functions and settings. But it still looks really bad.
Ice Cream Sandwich was designed for the use of either on-screen buttons or capacitive, so HTC is off the hook for this one. They followed the guidelines laid out by Google and built a device that maximizes screen real-estate the way they felt worked best. Now developers have to follow suit, or the experience suffers. Google has given examples and code snippets how to make the change, and it's time application developers take them to heart.