Jan 27, 2012
A venerable piece of Android UI is soon to be dead and buried if Google has their way, as the Android Developers website has released new developer guidelines that discourage the usage of the Menu button on Android phones. Now, apps will be expected to use the action bar, which is located somewhere in the app’s user interface, instead of being a hidden menu only called up by pressing the menu button.
This is a transition that could be seen not just with the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus which lacked a menu button, but with Honeycomb tablets that also lacked the menu botton. The Menu button has typically been replaced with a software menu in tablet-optimized apps, usually denoted by the old Menu button itself. While Honeycomb and ICS devices have support for a software Menu button, which is now a software “action overflow” button that appears on the right side of the software keys, Google wants this to be phased out.
In fact, it will be possible for developers to continue to support the Menu button along with the action bar on devices that have the Menu button, and those that don’t. However, considering that apps’ user interface will need to support the action bar anyway, it may just make sense for developers to ignore that button’s functionality entirely for older phones.
However, as is key with Android, flexibility and functionality will still exist for developers. It just appears that the powers that be at Android want to develop user experiences that are more consistent across apps and devices. Essentially, the idea is that one app will work in a similar way to another app. This kind of unified UX is something that Apple has excelled at providing in its interface guidelines for developers, and Android appears to be taking similar steps to ensure this is the case on their OS as well.