The merit in having hardware buttons on Android is a highly controversial topic. While many value the sleek look and greater versatility enabled by on-screen buttons, others prefer to use every last millimeter of screen real estate and not have any space taken up by on-screen Android navigation keys. Luckily, there are plenty of devices offering both choices. Samsung and HTC generally use hardware buttons, while Nexus devices and newer devices from Motorola, Sony, and LG usually tend to use on-screen buttons.
One peculiar quirk with having hardware buttons is that not every device features the same button arrangement. Take, for example, HTC devices. These feature home, menu, and recent apps buttons. Hardware buttons on recent Samsung devices, on the other hand, generally offer back, home, and menu buttons. Not only does this make the experience inconsistent across different Android devices, but it also becomes redundant since this can easily be accomplished with an action bar on-screen overflow button.
Now in Android 4.4 KitKat, Google is taking the first steps in unifying the experience across different devices by merging the menu and action bar overflow buttons. Now, compliant apps will always show the overflow button, rather than only showing it on devices without a hardware menu button. Since this makes the hardware menu key even more redundant, this will likely prompt OEMs to either adopt on-screen buttons or at least swap out the menu button for a recent apps button.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you favor on-screen or hardware buttons? What do you think about the redundancy of having a hardware menu button and an action overflow button? Let us know in the comments below