Android hardware buttons

Every Android phone has a standard set of buttons at the bottom. They may be physical -- with parts that move -- or they may be capacitive, reacting to your touch. The order may change, but the functions are the same. You'll find:

  • Home: Returns to the main home screen. Hold down to see your most recently used apps. (Tip: Try tapping it again once you're at the main home screen and see what happens.)
  • Back: Takes you back a level in an app, or back a page in a browser, etc. (Tip: Hold down while browsing to quickly access bookmarks, history and most-visited sites. Thanks, Snapdragon0503!)
  • Menu: Tap this for additional options in an application, or from the home screens. (Tip: Hold down to make the keyboard appear.)
  • Search: Brings up the search function. Could be search within an app, Google search, or universal search of contacts, bookmarks, apps, etc. that are in the phone. (Tip: Hold down to launch voice search.)

Most Android phones have four buttons, though occasionally a manufacturer will do without the search button.

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Average: 4.2 (11 votes)
There are 28 comments

And Again no htc incredible love

Or any of the 37 other Android phones out there. Time to give that one a rest, people.

belogical says:

@ upstreammiami I agree, new phone and almost zero coverage.

BoNg420 says:

I wish they would remove the search button its so annoying.

I dont agree... its the quickest way to search google OR the phone... and you don't need that stupid search widget taking up unnecessary space

With Handcent SMS, I can hold down the Search hard button to quickly send a message to a friend. Good stuff.

Also note the Search is application-specific, so it does different things depending on which app is current, or on the Launcher.

kaiser10123 says:

i maybe alone but i use the search button a lot instead of a search widget and hold for voice search

p4trickh#IM says:

You're not, in fact I use it so much that it would probably keep me from buying a phone if it were missing the search button. It also irritates me when apps don't integrate it into their search function.

I agree... its the quickest way to search google OR the phone... and you don't need that stupid search widget taking up unnecessary space

The back space is also a short cut to web browsing history in native browser when held down.

Couldn't all Android phones at least have the 4 buttons in the same order? Nah, too easy.

KrazyRogue says:

I agree the buttons should be in the same order on all phones, they should also be physical too. That would be the only thing that google should regulate, and the only thing that would be consistent among all android phones.

gotta say--Ebo 4g has best set of touch buttons. Droid X looks wimpy.

leemarkin says:

i llike real, physical buttons instead of capacitive..

easy1jay says:

Capacitive buttons are the best!

Incorrect! Physical buttons are superior! **Dalek voice**

I agree the buttons on the droid x suck mine don't stay on anymore

davidnc says:

Actually I like having the buttons in different spots, and like the search button too :p lol. It was my ideal not to have the buttons in the same spot , LoL :D

lldsandsll says:

what is the point in bringing up the keyboard using the menu key?

Go Android! says:

Wow I seriously didn't know all those tips. Thanks Phil.

Mike2U says:

It's not your fault you don't already know this. It's common practice for hardware manufacturers and operating system authors to provide information like this. My phone manual from Samsung just scratches the surface of how to use the phone. The phone should have a help file on it that explains things like this. I am really dumbfounded why everybody accepts this omission. It's akin to giving up your rights as United States citizens and letting your government run roughshod over you. I view it as unacceptable and almost a deal breaker with this phone I bought (still within 30 days). I'm from a long line of Nokia Symbian S60 phones that were perfectly fine for my use. Unfortunately, Nokia decided to stop short of USA when they conquered the world cell phone market. Since their presence has dwindled, none of the U.S. publishers are making/updating apps for them. I was starting to see Google Maps S60 version falling behind the Android and iPhone updates. That was enough. I need my maps!

valueman says:

As a total noob I REALLY apprecaite this info. SOmetimes basic stuff like this is the most difficult to discover

umbrella man says:

they have got to replace the search button with an lazer beam button!.. anyone!? lol i rather have a lil cliky button lol?

L3k0 says:

Why not make it customizable?

L3k0 says:

Capacitive for sure, nexus one setup seems to be the best...back, menu, home and search... Cause when you are on the browser the back button is easy to access.

I agree the Nexus One layout is the best in my opinion. Maybe I think so because it was my first Android and just what I learned to use, but I don't think so. The EVO's order puts the home button out of reach for one-handed operation (if you're a righty) and for me the home button is the most used.

My Galaxy S only has three buttons (menu, home, back) and I find the lack of a search button incredibly annoying.

I agree with other comments that making them customizable would be great. Surely some custom ROM maker could do that if they were so inclined.

That's interesting, my Galaxy S has four buttons. It's the T-Mobile flavor.

Impulses says:

I agree they should just settle on an order and enforce it on all phones... If only to make it easier to move from phone to phone, altho this is probably more trouble than it's worth for Google.

I disagree they should force manufacturers to use hardware buttons tho... That's taking it too far. I happen to like my EVO's capacitive buttons, they're very accurate (I don't think I've ever pressed one by mistake) and probably more reliable than hardware buttons, they're certainly easier to find in the dark and easier to handle when you're long-pressing or double pressing.

IMO the only upside to hardware buttons is that they can be used to wake up the phone (rather than the power or volume buttons)...