Windows Phone hardware buttons, where do you stand?

Windows Phone Hardware Buttons

Microsoft made it official a few weeks ago during the 2014 Mobile World Congress and relaxed the hardware requirements for future Windows Phones; namely removing the mandate for the three front facing buttons and camera button (the front buttons will be virtual, instead).

This will make some manufacturers happy in that they could use existing designs to run the Windows Phone OS without the need for re-design. Instead of hardware buttons, we could be relegated to on-screen buttons from some Windows Phone makers. While Samsung and HTC may be happy with this announcement, will consumers be happy with on-screen buttons and no camera button?

There is a Windows Phone Central Forums discussion going on where WPCentral Member trainplane presents the question “Do you like hardware buttons?”

In scanning the comments in the discussion, it appears while it is a mixed bag on which is better on-screen or hardware buttons, most think the camera button should stick around.

Personally, I can go either way with the front facing buttons as long as whatever is in place works with reliability. As far as the camera button is concerned, I think it should be a hardware requirement. I don’t mind using an on-screen shutter button from time to time but the photographer in me like a physical button to press when capturing a photograph.

So where do you stand on this issue? Jump on over to the Windows Phone Central Forums and join this discussion and share your thoughts.


Reader comments

Windows Phone hardware buttons, where do you stand?



Leave them alone! Just making the virtual buttons appear will add another step in accessing the phones menus.

Virtual buttons are better... It's works perfect on Nexus 5 and I think it will work even better on nokia and WP

This sums my position up, the fact that I can be squeezing the camera button down while I take my phone out of my pocket means that I can capture photo's that I wouldn't be able to on other phones, so its a really useful feature, especially when coupled with optical image stabilisation.

If other manufacturers re-use an android design and sacrifice real estate to save on hardware buttons then it might save $10 off the sale price of a phone, but its not going to be something that would interest me.

Yes, agreed. Besides what's the big deal if they to switch to on screen buttons? It makes the phone sexier, while revamping the phones on-screen presence & making the os's 1080' resolution more live.

Keep the cam button. But imagine a bezel-less phone where you can just swipe up from the bottom to access the onscreen buttons. Pretty swift.

I really do prefer hardware buttons over software buttons - one of the reasons I left Android for Windows Phone.  Hardware buttons just work better and are more dependable. That stated . . .


I don't really care what the other OEMs do, as I will not likely be buying their phones anyway.  So long as Nokia/Microsoft keep hardware buttons on Nokia/Microsoft manufactured and branded Windows Phones, I will be happy.


See, everyone gets what they want.  Microsoft gets deeper marketshare penetration, and I get to keep getting superior handsets from Nokia.  Everybody wins 

Hardware buttons don't work any better than soft buttons. I'm not sure what you're talking about. Does your touch screen ever miss touches? Mine never do, no matter what device I'm using. 

I have had three touch screens that have completely failed, and touches get missed fairly frequently. On screen buttons are of no use if the phone hangs and needs resetting, they are of no use if an app is badly coded and freezes when it has hidden the buttons. It's also a complete waste of screen real estate.

I've owned Samsung Focus S, Nokia 1020, Nexus 4, and Nexus 5.  Only the 1020 has ever missed screen touches, and only rarely.  Also, if the phone hangs, hardware buttons aren't likely to work any better than software buttons.  Personally I would be fine with software buttons replacing the three front buttons.  Such an approach works perfectly fine on the Nexus 4/5.

Every "accidental" press of the search, home or back by me or someone watching a video or reading email screams "Hardware buttons".

I don't get this. Why would you accidentally press capacitive hardware buttons less than virtual ones in the same spot? I press the search button constantly now when it's capacitive. If you are talking about regular buttons that you actually have to press, well that's another story.

And why the h*ck do I have a useless bing-search button dedicated instead of a phone button. I use my phone to actually call people. So a virtual key row might enable me to correct some moronic decisions made in Redmont.

Given that the majority of the windows phone devices have capacitive buttons they are really no different to using the onscreen software buttons like in android except for the difference in screen real estate.

Virtual buttons are better... It's works perfect on Nexus 5 and I think it will work even better on nokia and WP

I agree its worse enough that we have capacitive back search & start(not all are) buttons(im looking at you dell). I found especially with the dvp the amount of times i have to press one of those more then once to recognize it & when the backlight for these turn off i found hard to hit the right button so then i had to open close keyboard.@ least going to the ativ it has a physical start & back search keys that light up with ever touch of the screen

I won't buy another phone unless it has a camera button. I do like the other buttons as well.

I got to play around on a coworkers S3. What piece of crap that thing is. And why is the Back button on the right? As soon as I went back to my 1020 I fell in love all over again. Fucking gorgeous phone and OS. Our Nokia Windows Phones kick ass. Period

I have to agree with the back button location! What an absurd place for it, totally illogical and against every precedent ever set (apart from backspace on a qwerty keyboard, but even then the escape button is more often used in navigation)....

Hardware buttons are great. Nokia will continue using them. What other manufacturers do is less important if it helps them produce more windows phones.

That said, one of my few 1520 complaints is the hardware buttons are too centered. With three buttons one should be center, one right, one left. Not center, center right, center left. With all that extra space I'd like to see a forward button center left and some other button center right.

Of course the camera should have its own button.

On my 2520 there aren't enough hardware buttons, and the windows button doesn't light. On the power keyboard the keys aren't back lit, which I consider a major miss.

This! I really like how Android has on screen buttons now, and I'm glad that's coming to WP8.1. However, I still want a camera button, EXACTLY like you!

So I was wondering, does the ultra sensitivity apply for the capacitive buttons? From my experience, I have a difficult time pressing them with gloves on. If that's the case, then it would make much more sense to have software buttons.

Yep, the higher sensitivity does work for the capacitive buttons. I use my Lumia 920 with gloves occasionally, and I have never had an issue with pressing the back, Start, or search buttons.

I can live without hardware buttons for camera and front navigation buttons. Being touch sensitive these front buttons annoy me a bit. I had used a Lumia 710 for a month (my Lumia 920 was being repaired) when i got it back it felt different. As for the camera button. Pressing the button causes a mild shake which blurs the photo a bit. Whereas the same doesn't happen with on screen buttons.

I find the exact opposite...with a camera button, I can hold the phone steady...but pushing an onscreen button causes the camera to shake because I removed my hand from its stabilizing position on the sides of the phone to pushing forward on the screen...something that doesn't happen when I hold the phone like a camera and push the hardware button like I naturally would do with a camera...own now a 1520 and a 920 before...always took amazing photos!

You'll be fine with the hardware button if instead of pressing it, you press and hold until the picture's taken. That's what I've found, anyway.

Actually, that is why you have a two step button, in case you haven't noticed. You press the button half-way through, when the focus gets frozen, and afterwards, when you have got your hands steady, you push it further down. You'll notice that the shaking of hand happens only during the first half-way push, and not during the second half of the press.

Isn't the default wp camera app better in that it lets u focus and take a shot with one tap. I have taken good photographs too and when i m faced with low light conditions i hold my breath just to keep my hands steady. My personal preference.. On screen button. I don't use camera button to wake my phone either. With double tap to wake the power button is unused too.

Keep them.... I think GayDroid was dumb to get rid of theirs too. But who knows. Never used a phone that didn't have some kind of hardware button. I think they're convenient. Unless they have something up their sleeves. Well just simply have to see. We love windows phone, and they decide what the hardware is. Were at their mercy.

Well then... since you've always said it, it suddenly makes it a valid and mature argument!


Grow up.

Growing up is when you've learned to not criticize other people. When you've learned to ignore drama than actually start it. I made a name for an inanimate object. If u love android, delete WPC app and throw ur phone in ur toilet and flush.

Now see, that's a productive reply. Your replying not to criticize me but to add to the conversation. Thanks. And I agree :) I am utterly surprised to see so many android fans on here. Makes no sense if you ask me.

People are android fans because they think your gaydroid comment is immature? Maybe some people that go on this website are fans of windows phone and don't have to make immature comments about other operating systems, because let's be real, iOS and android are both good alternatives.

iOS7... Yes. On a bigger screen.. YES. Android... No. Nothing good about it. Every android phone ive gotten from people upgrading who didn't want it so I could test software I end up throwing it in the trash. Where they belong.

I've always called it StraightDroid. Heterosexuals make me nauseous...why is everything they do so gross and sinful?  Seriously, they need Jesus.

I love camera button
And front soft button is pretty
I want them
But I already bout Lumia 1520!

I've been using soft buttons on on my Moto X and I hate it. I hope they keep it as is with the front facing buttons. I'd prefer the camera button, but it's not a deal breaker as long as there is a shortcut from the lock screen.

I see no difference in on screen vs capacitive buttons if they make the screen larger or bottom bezel smaller. But same sized bottom bezel AND on screen buttons is a shame.

This. As long as the screen real estate stays the same (not including on screen keys), I don't see the difference. It probably looks cleaner without the hardware keys. And if the on screen keys can be hidden whilst playing games/watching movies then even better.

Software buttons for navigation are awesome, if they decide to change functionality or create a new 'button' they can do it and roll it out to everyone. (Perfect example, google dropping the menu key for multitasking).

A camera button should remain as a hardware button in addition to the onscreen option though.

I like the dedicated camera button, we can keep that one. However, I do get annoyed from time to time by accidentally touching the start or search button within apps or games then having to go back and resume. I also find when asking other ppl to take pics for me that they end up hitting the capactive buttons accidentally then I have to help them get back to the camera again. Just slightly annoying sometimes.

Question is, with no hardware button, how would you do a phone reset. But are they only refering to.back, windows and search keys.

I freaking hate them. no really I do. I have accidentally pushed that dumb search button so many times I'm considering putting tape over it because

A) it is useless as it fires the bing app, not the in app context search like I wished it did. if WP had universal search but in 2014, WP can't even search news with that button even as you are on bing itself, much less anything else. The bing app is so bad in fact, I just use the web version.

B) it is useless because bing can't find anything anyways even if you could search all that bing searches.

C) you can't hand the phone to anybody without them going to search by accident.

also I want a fast camera button. WP is SOOO LAGGY with launching the camera app. Given I have a 1020, but why does it take FOREVER just to launch the damn camera app. it isn't even taking a picture.

with WP 8.1 this problem with the search button has been fixed: you must tap 2 times in a row to open the search.

PS: the results in the app of WP or in the web version are the same

What's there to debate? Manufacturers are now free to make cheaper crappier phones. If it doesn't bother you, because self inflicted torture is just what you need in your daily routine, then congrats, you have more options than most people.

However, I'm of the opinion that it's 100% fact that REAL hardware buttons are better than capacitive buttons (which you've mistakenly referred to as hardware in the article). All I see here is another nail in the coffin of actual quality for the sake of cutting corners.

You mean mechanical buttons.  Capacitive are hardware as well.  But I get what you're saying.

I don't agree. Mechanical buttons in my experience have been more prone to breaking with use. Never had any problems with capacitive buttons.

I think the dedicated camera button should be mandatory for all handsets. Nokia will certainly not part with it, but other OEMs I'm not sure...

As for the other buttons...well, I could totally live without the "search" button. I have no use for it apart from scanning QR codes from time to time. A multitasking button like the one on stock/Sony's Android would be a way better option.

As for their placement on the screen or as physical...meh. I couldn't care less. On screen there's the advantage of reducing the probability of hitting a button by mistake but on the other hand it increases the time for returning to the home screen.

That's all I care about... I just want Lumia devices to keep the current standard... I don't care about anything else, right now... That way if others are serious about competing with Lumia devices then they may choose to follow suite... That's probably MS's thinking......

Low end Lumias probably WILL part with the camera button. I just hope the higher end ones keep it. The two stage camera button is great. 

I hate the that I always push the back button by accident or the search button,, maybe if they were all closer to the center the it would be perfect.

I'm torn, personally. I prefer having capacitive buttons for Back, Start, and Search...but would be in favor of dropping them if it persuaded OEMs to use their Android hardware with WP. For example, the new HTC One with Windows Phone would be amazing.

Agree... I could live without the 3 front facing buttons, if the software keys are implemented right. However, I like the dedicated camera button. Use it all the time to use the camera without unlocking my phone, and, of course, to take photos.

If they give us the option to turn off the capacitive buttons while gaming I will gladly stay with hardware buttons :)

I prefer hardware buttons all around. Moving from my Optimus 7 to the L900 was tough, and only for that reason. Capacitive buttons aren't terrible, but are notorious for being pressed accidentally all the time (search button, anyone?)

I have accidently hit the search button scores of times. Wouldn't hurt my feelings to see it go. I also find the camera button to be temperamental and use the screen tapping option to focus and shoot. Software contols need to appear at appropriate times and be accurate. I do think I'd miss the start or windows button and the arrow button.....

Camera, power, volume are required. And yes, I hate when playing games or something and you accidentally press the capacitive buttons.

I want software buttons since wp8.1 can make them in my accent color. Saw software buttons on the nexus 5 and they are damn nice. Need the camera button though.

I prefer the hardware camera button, but I don't mind if the front buttons are virtual. I had no problem with it on my old Nexus 7, and I'd be fine with it on a phone. I just don't think I'll be using it any time soon since I still have my 1020 and will be keeping it for the foreseeable future, haha.

I definitely want the camera button to stay.  I use the ability to go from locked directly to the camera all the time and would really miss that feature and a dedicated camera button.  In fact, I don't know if I would buy a specific Windows Phone if that was missing from it.

I do like the capacitative buttons on the front, however I might be able to cope with not having them.  If it means there is additional screen space available for games and videos that would potentially be nice.  Especially not having to worry about accidentally hitting a front button during gameplay.

My question or concern is if an app was flaking out or locked up (as rare as that is on Windows Phone) how would you back out of it if the on-screen buttons weren't working or showing at the time?  Would you just have to power cycle the phone?  I would not like having to do that.  I like having the hardware back and Windows buttons to be able to get out of things when needed.

I would rather buy a phone with dedicated buttons and camera shutter tha one without. Luckily nokia will keep producing them,like this

Keep em. In fact I prefer physical buttons vs capacitive; so many accidental presses when playing a game.

I prefer hardware but think Nokia could really step up the quality of its backlit keys. The Droid ultra has the best looking example I have used. I prefer NOT to have them on screen. It may take up only a tiny bit of room but I prefer to not make that sacrifice really

The hardware button is nice because it acts as a 2 stage button. Half press for focus and full press for picture taking. If we do away with it then I would hope that the autofocus on the Windows Phones gets a lot faster, similar to the Galaxy S5 autofocus speed.

As for the capacitive and home button, I can go either way. I sometimes hate onscreen buttons taking up valuable screen real estate. The bezel will always be there so why not use it. Phones come out so fast these days that a redesign of the buttons is not much of a big deal now. Plus we have 9 other manufacturers to choose from now. I like choice.

I really like the camera button because it can wake the phone and take it straight to camera.

I've been anti capacitive buttons since the beginning. I'd really like software buttons mostly because it will allow for a reduced bezel and phone height. I seem to accidentally hit the capacitive buttons on multiple windows phones, so I'd really like the option not to have them.

I also never use the capacitive search button, so software buttons would be especially nice if we can customize them.

If no capacitive buttons allows manufacturers to bring over android phones then they should definitely get rid of them!

I could go both ways, as long as the software buttons don't compromise the core experience.

I don't much care for hardware buttons except for the camera keys, volume up/down and power. And if it means more choice from OEMs "re-using" Android designs for Windows Phone, more power to them.

I'm fine with software buttons. Maybe it would be nice if they worked in landscape mode when I rotated my phone. *shrug.

Off topic but can we also prevent at&t from sticking their ugly logo on the front of my sexy Lumia?

Three windows button, camera and volume button should be virtual!! As well as lock button that we can wake phone up with double tap and lock again with apps such as system tiles or quick control. Yes!! Nothing there except the display and camera. I like virtulism!!! LOL

I believe the update will allow both hardware buttons and on-screen buttons, I can see the use of both. Of course, we have all set off the search button or accidentally back from the capacitive buttons. And, I have heard a lot of hate at the larger bezels. That being said, it will be of little help if the on-screen buttons wind up being too low without a bezel. Me, love the camera button and do not want that to go away.

The camera button is the only reason I take as many pictures as I do (and it's not a lot as it is). It makes things very convenient.


For the front of the device, I like it as it stands. Having the off-screen touch buttons we have is nice. The only way I could MAYBE deal with losing those would be if it meant more screen space, but I think that it would just mean having a Start button and two blank spots doign nothing, while eating screen space with virtual buttons. I'd hate that.

Very few window phones have a physical home button which I would love. Please keep the physical camera button!

I feel like Microsoft sort of admitted defeat in throwing their standards for WP out the window.
Given, WP is much more optimized than the horrific free for all mess of code that is Android, but it's still one of those things where now every Wal-Mart will have some 2007 spec phone with low resolution and terrible hardware for 45$, and that will become representative of the Windows Phone experience.
They're selling out the baseline experience that the 520 provided just to make a quick cash grab on some licencing before their rep is ruined by horrible hardware.

For me hardware camera button is not much important. I use it only for starting camera app, and shots in positions where i cannot use sreen shutter. In most phones it is too tight and u move whole phone when pushing it. Onscreen shutter allows for less blur, especially on long exposure times

Will buy backup stock of Ativ S for safekeeping, just in case the new model comes out without buttons.
Why remove the three buttons. Android also has three button, I don't get it.

I like hardware but if implemented properly, then software buttons are fine. Mid to high end devices should have a hardware button requirement

Im so used to having the camera button now i dont think i would wanna buy a phone without it. Just like pressing that to open the camera is so much easier.

I think Microsoft/Nokia will keep the same design as always so no need to worry about which phones will have which buttons etc.

Agree, removing the requirement and not having it is different. I suspect higher end Nokia and others will have the buttons. I agree with requirement change.

If it means my accidental hitting of the Search button lessens, i'm all for them.

Although i was hoping Nokia would make the hardware Windows Flag button blink for Notifications at some point, which would be a fair bit more noticeable than tiny icons on the glance screen.

Oh well.


Of course I like hardware buttons except the useless Bing search buttons. Can't imagine my life without them.

Nokia is very unique in terms of the camera button, no one puts it anymore and my iPhone friends are shocked whenever they hold my phone. I really like the camera button
As for the 3 front facing buttons im cool with anything although I find it a downside that it will take up part of the screen so when you say "the next flagship phone is 5 inch" its not really 5' but somewhere under it

Software buttons on the front are preferred if we are going to the new aspect ratio of full HD, otherwise the phones get too tall.

I like hardware buttons for volume control. Makes it easy to fix an audio issue without having to pull the device out of your pocket. It's the only thing I disliked about the Zune HD.

I'd love to see more devices add a mute switch like the iPhone too.

You can't make a TWO STAGE capacitive button, let alone an on-screen button.


All autofocus cameras made since the mid 80's have a two stage button that activates autofocus on the first stage and shutter release on the second.  Impossible with on-screen button.  Keeping the two functions separate allows the user more control.  I use two stage button presses all the time.  As a photographer, I prefocus and wait for the action, and snap a perfectly timed shot with no shutter lag.  It is the advanced way to take a photo, and it's amazing that we have this capability on a phone.


If this is lost for good, I will cry.  As will any other serious photo enthusiast.

Like already stated so I'm not really adding to the convo except numbers to this side: don't really mind the front facing buttons if physical or virtual...(first time I saw virtual button I thought they were cool and figured windows would for sure be implementing them for windows 8.1 but clearly I'm might have been wrong...) either or works for me. I do prefer the camera button, whether you are photographing professional to a windows phone enthusiast, the is really what sets WP phone apart. iPhones have a top lock button two volume buttons, and a vibrate switch (which is cool but adding a toggle in the action center is good enough!) android is all over the place, but the defining feature of WP to me largely in part due to Nokia is volume buttons and camera button on the right side and the left side clean and pure to the phones design. Now while I prefer the lock button to be on the side HTC has obviously had it on top with the 8X and 8S... I want to say the camera button is a must, but honestly at the end of the day I will live. It makes life easier know on any menu you can just fully depress the camera button and launch the camera without having to go to your home screen to find a camera app and with lenses menu it makes it easy to switch to other camera apps.......this ended up being much much longer than anticipated!!

Speaking from a nexus 5, a camera button is so much more efficient to have. Power button +camera button is all a phone really needs nowadays, anyways

I love the camera button. The other buttons I like but if they put them in the screen then I won't mind that.
I can't stand taping the screen for a photo.

I like all ma buttons thank you! I really wouldn't want to lose any of 'em. But if anything, just get rid of the ones onscreen. I use all others all the time and it's hard to picture maself without them

They never got round to having a flashing Windows button for notifications :( now it'll never happen!

Some manufacturers will have it, others won't. So each person can decide. Personally, I like the camera button, but I would rather use soft buttons on the front. That way, the screen could be bigger with less wasted space around the edges. Just swipe up to display and I'm good.

Must have. Keeps controls separate of the screen to reduce clutter, nothing more frustrating than trying to use an iPhone with no real back button. Also like the haptic feedback.

As long as there is a Windows button, I'm not picky. I have a Venue 8 tablet and never use the hardware buttons except volume and sleep/wakeup button. I actually wish they could bring some of the RT screen features to Windows Phone. Pulling down to close an app would be cool to. Just my humble opinion

Physical keys like on the Quantum and the ATIV are ideal for me. Capacitive are ok, I deal with them. Until I use virtual keys, I see absolutely no use for them. I agree with that the camera button should be standard. I use that exclusively and never tap the screen to shoot.

Hardware buttons like the camera button are a must have. Other ones like the Back, Windows and Search are pretty great, but if they are going the way of the dodo eo enable more hardware manufacturers to make Windows phones, so be it. I will always have the ones with the buttons if I can help it.

With out hardware buttons the phone resembles like a human being without legs and on screen buttons are irritable i always had a problem with the onscreen buttons in my Samsung galaxy s4

If on-screen buttons are replacing capacitive buttons, fine.
I do not think they should replace actual buttons, though (you know, those things that actually move and click).
Actually, I wish there were more buttons (not less).

My favorite phones, of yor, had d-pads and enter buttons.
Of course, at that time, we even had option of programming said buttons.
One phone even had two buttons near the top.
It was a great time for emulated games.

I have no problem with the hardware buttons of home, volume and camera. I think the phone would be kind of odd without them.

I'm sure I'm in the minority (and this comment is so far down no one will read it anyway), but I'd like 3 REAL hardware buttons at the bottom of the phone (and of course a hardware camera button but we already have that).  I mean real, clicky buttons like an iPhone's, not capacitive buttons like my Lumia 920.  I have gotten used to capacitive buttons more or less, but they still get accidentally pressed pretty easily when playing games, passing the phone to a friend, etc.

I realize that hiding on-screen buttons solves this problem some of the time, but it also makes it so that you have do more touches on the screen to get what you want, which sounds annoying.  On-screen buttons are also nice for Android manufacturers to repeat their tired designs for Windows Phone models, which I get is needed for more market players.  However, I just wish that some manufacturer (read: Microsoft-Nokia) would do a WP device with nice, clicky buttons instead of capacitive or on-screen buttons.  Just my 2 cents.

Personally I find the capacitive buttons we have now annoying. I wouldn't call them hardware since they use s similar technology as the screen. So, the only difference between what we have now and what they propose is always present buttons. Buttons that take up space but serve little purpose when the phone is off, but cause many a page/app to be lost when handing it to friends or reaching the thumb across the screen. If the buttons were mechanical instead of capacitive I would miss them more.

Hard Rebooting is so handy, so hardware buttons for me. I like the current set up with back button now allowing the user to open up the task menu.
But I must say it is kind of annoying to accidentally press the face buttons during landscape use or during a game. Maybe if they were more discriminatory...

I really really like the Capacitive buttons (not a fan of Physical buttons *cough*Apple\Samsung*cough*) , but I understand why they are dropping it from the requirements ... As long as they do it right & let me customize it (Colored, Transparent background... Etc. Red buttons like the HTC ReZound would be awesome) I'm cool .... I hate it on my xoom.

Regarding the Camera button, I haven't used it since I sold my Motorola Milestone two & a half years ago .... So it doesn't bother me that much

I want home, camera and back button. The search should be removed. It's a pain during one-handed operation when it is accidentally touched.