Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) has been the talk of Android town, and rightfully so: it looks like the most promising version yet. But considering it doesn’t require any physical buttons, how will your phone work once it’s upgraded?
Seeing as how every single Android phone that has come out to date has had physical buttons this is a question a lot of people are asking. After all, the Galaxy Nexus (which is the first phone built specifically for Android 4.0) has no buttons, and it looks good. Can you still use your buttons, or will they just sit there, dark and useless, like dead toes on a frostbitten foot?
Well, I did some digging and got the official word from a Google spokesperson:
ICS does have onscreen buttons but not always. If there’s a device with hardware buttons the onscreen buttons won’t be there, and the hardware buttons will act and function as you’d expect them to…. back and home will function as you’d expect, the search button will query the search bar (as you’d expect), and the menu button will query the menu overflow in the action bar.
Sounds pretty reasonable to me. I mean, as long as you’ve got buttons you might as well use ’em, right? Which phones are going to get it is another question. I did some prying to see if there were any hardware requirements and I was told that while nothing is set in stone, it’s not going to work on some “legacy devices (like the G1).” We’d assumed as much, but as for which newer devices will get it, only time (and manufacturers) will tell.