Jan 26 AT 9:34 PM Alberto Vildosola 106 Comments

Google: The Menu button is dead and that’s a good thing


It has finally happened, folks. The Menu button is officially dead. The Android team at Google just announced that Android no longer requires a dedicated Menu button. Of course, that doesn’t mean that some OEMs won’t try to stick it on their devices. But for all Google cares, the dedicated Menu button is a thing of the past. And in just a few months, all Google-approved Android devices will launch without it.

As some of you know, this plan to kill the Menu button was set in motion more than a year ago. It all started with the release of Honeycomb, which got rid of the Menu button on tablets — and most hardware buttons for that matter. However, it was unclear at the time if the same design would carry over to phones. Then the first Nexus 3 rumors started to arrive, and one thing in particular kept popping up: “No hardware buttons.”

After the release of Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus, it was quite clear that Google was trying its best to simplify the Android user experience. At the same time, Google introduced a new UI element called the Action Bar, which the company calls the “the most important structural element of an Android app.” The Action Bar — and its overflow button — replace the Menu button while providing a consistent look and experience across all Android apps. That is, if developers start using it.

That’s where today’s announcement comes is. Google is urging app developers to stop using the Menu button and adopt the Action Bar instead. The company provided some clear instructions on how to do this easily, and even reminded them about the existence of its Android Design website. There’s absolutely no doubt that Google wants all Android apps to adopt this new UI design — and fast.

Of course, there are some of you who won’t be happy about the Menu button passing away. Sadly, there’s nothing I can say to ease your pain. Google has made a crucial decision to simplify and unify the Android UI, and that means that the Menu button has to go — and take the Search button with it. As for developers, better get started on that Action Bar, pronto.

Source: Android Developers Blog

Alberto is a college student living somewhere between Miami, Sarasota and the World Wide Web. Although a former iPhone owner, Alberto is now a proud Android enthusiast. You can follow Alberto on Twitter and Google+ for his thoughts unworthy of an article.

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  • Prime

    Nooooooooooooooooo! I really like the menu button!

    • booyootoo

      I’m on ice cream sandwich and really don’t miss the menu button. I actually like the action bar.

      so for me this seems like a good thing. Hopefully more apps will incorporate the action bar.

      • LukeT32

        ^agreed. At first I missed it but a few days in I was used to no menu button. ICS FTW!

        • http://mihai.discuta-liber.com/ tmihai20

          I used Gingerbread on a HD2 until a week ago, I had no dedicated menu button, but a Windows button. Let’s not attach ourselves to a button, it’s a good thing Google has chosen to let go of it. There will still phones with hardware or touch buttons. We got used to having it, now we have to get used to not having it. I can’t wait to taste IceaCream Sandwich on my Evo 3D.

      • Kevin

        I just wish they would be more consistent on where they put the three dots. Top right, bottom right, where ever. I don’t care just pick a spot and leave it.

        • John Drinkwater

          It’s bottom right if the App is pre‐3.0 and does not declare itself being aware.

          It’s top right if the action bar cannot show all of the items. If it can, no treble dots.

          • David



            RULE 1: The three dots appear to the right whenever the action bar does not show all options.

            RULE 2: The action bar can be “split” whenever there is not enough space at the top. This happens often in portrait mode: the action bar is split: the title goes up, and the actions go to the bottom. In landscape, everything fits at the top and the bottom actions bar disappear.

            CONCLUSION: Thus, you can have the action overflow button (the three dots) both up and down. It all boils down to where your actions are currently placed on the screen.

            Personally, I think they nailed it on ICS. You secure screen space for your actions and optimize for different layouts automatically (land and port orientations).

      • leganzish

        Let me ask you ice cream sandwichers a question: How do you get to settings from the homescreen? Before: Menu>Settings, easy. Now? There is no action bar on the homescreen in ICS (right?), so how do you do it? Just realized that today and curious.

        • dcds

          Launcher -> Settings.


          Expand the notification bar at the top and click on the small settings icon that appear right at the top (I prefer that, quick).

          All that from the home screen.

          • leganzish

            The first one could be tedious, but the second one I like a lot. That is better than menu. Thanks for the answer.

      • SounderBruce

        Agreed. I use an AOSP ROM with ICS baked in for my Nexus S, and I haven’t touched the menu button in ages, despite it working. The action bar is more convenient for me,

    • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

      I do too, to me it makes it so much easier to find settings and what not. I hope devs keep it in their apps.

    • Edoardo

      I loved it too..but the 3-dot button is quite the same isn’t it!?


    • Joe

      I like the menu button too.

  • YMS123

    Rest in peace Menu Button

    • moelester518

      I don’t understand why they cant use the same menu button on screen. I like it way mare than the ellipses

  • Mio Bambino

    Bye, bye, beloved friend.
    Sail with MegaUpload and Ascaron Ent. in peace.

  • Galen20K

    yea I kind of like the menu button, it’ll take some getting used to not having it on my phones.

  • spazby

    Change is a beautiful thing, even though it may be difficult for some of us. Keep innovating google..

  • AsakuraZero

    i never liked the menu buttton i felt like in a blackberry or something searching a menu in a menu (OK ITS NO THAT BAD) but it wasnt cool

    now its cool, the simpler the better and that is how everything should work (simplicity was not invented by apple haha)

  • BlkSquad

    I’m mixed on this but not the search button. I had bad phantom button presses on my captivate that affected the search button so I’ve had it disabled completely for a while anyway. Fare thee well, search button.

    I do find it ironic that Google is a search giant and wants to get rid of the search button though.

  • http://www.youtube.com/emogamer Christopher Chavez

    Call me oldschool, but I’m gonna miss that little guy. I know it’s supposed to make apps easier to navigate for the n00bs but I think it clutters everything and still feel like a majority of apps will use the “overflow action.”

    Plus, when you have software buttons which take up around 10% of the screen and now an action bar which takes away another 10% that’s less screen real estate then if you had capacitive buttons with a menu button. =/

    RIP Menu Button

    • Gui Saba

      at least in the buttoned handsets (like my GSII) it’ll work popping up the action overflow thingie, so it won’t be that drastic a difference. but it will be way more elegant, in my opinion, since there will be no more “hidden” items anymore.

  • kungpaodragon

    Hopefully Android users are capable adapting. What I worry about is when is Apple going to slap another patent infringement lawsuit on this? Particularly “minimizing number of physical buttons”. It’s not quite 1, but it’s 0. I’m sure they have a patent on this after the hos and blows that were sent to the patent office…

  • Roamdeus

    R.I.P menu button 2012

  • Mustin

    If they integrate the action bar as well as they did the search button, we’ll be okay.

    But they’ll have to pry my “Back” button FROM MY COLD, DEAD HANDS! Seriously! When I got my Nook Tablet I couldn’t make heads or tails of it! It just sat there until I found someone to root it for me. NOW IT HAS A BACK BUTTON! LOVE GOOGLE!

  • Glock

    So instead of calling it a menu button, we are going to just move it to the top and give it a new name…if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck…

    • 666

      The point is that you know it’s there. The menu button as it is today is 100% mystery meat. No context or even knowledge that here is even a menu.

    • philnolan3d

      There is still a menu button, but not a dedicated menu button.

    • delinear

      Except sometimes it’s still on the bottom (if you have a the non-physical navigation, for instance in the Market app it’s at the top, in the Kindle app it’s at the bottom).

      It’s not a big deal because at least it’s always visible when it’s available, so overall it’s an improvement and I’m all for that, but it does feel a little bit inconsistent.

  • Jeremiah Akin

    sniff, sniff.

  • philnolan3d

    I thought this was known for a long time. I have ICS on my tablet and Honeycomb before that, neither of them had a menu button. I just always assumed ICS got rid of it for every device that comes with it.

    • Daniel

      Yeah, they didn’t really announce anything today, they’re just elaborating this point further. It’s their traditional cycle of quick one-paragraph announcements of changes and dev docs whenever a new version is out, followed by more detailed blog posts for developers during the several weeks that follow.

  • sunrise

    I LOVE the menu button. I love capacitive buttons too. I don’t like the onscreen buttons, they actually end up taking up lots of screen real estate. :-(

    • Dan Doan

      You can only complain about screen real-estate, if you have hardware/capacitive buttons. If you have on screen buttons, but not hardware buttons, you get a larger screen without needing a larger device.

      • professandobey

        Exactly, with the Gnex the screen with the buttons visible is functionally 4.3 inches, but I get the whole 4.65 when I’m watching a video or playing a game. You can’t say that about my wife’s Bionic, which has about the same footprint as the Gnex.

    • ihatefanboys

      the onscreen buttons disappear when not in use, so you dont lose “screen real estate”. that, plus, no hardware buttons equals…….more screen !! YAY !!

  • Billy

    I liked the menu button … but lots of things don’t have it on my Nexus and I never really noticed until just now. Haha.

  • Ben

    I feel like they’re trying to be mire like Apple, and I don’t get it. If I wanted something that works like an iPhone, I’d have an iPhone.

    • homer

      Hmm apple has an action bar? Or a menu bar for that matter? Maybe you deserve to have and iPhone since your just as ignorant as applefanboys

      • Ben

        No, but all menu like functions have to be accessed using onscreen real estate, which I find obnoxious. And now Android will be following a similar model. Better implemented than Apple, sure, but too close for my liking. Thank you for the respectful tone though…

        • professandobey

          The screen real estate isn’t a problem when you have more screen in the same package, because the space for buttons is adaptable to your task at hand.

        • Phil

          Yea I kinda felt the same way. But the implementation to me after checking it out does make a difference. The normal iOS menu pattern is really no different than the hard menu button on Android. In fact I don’t see how iFans complained….they both just say menu and at least you know theres always one there on Android. The action bar however does a couple of great things for us that I think are worth the screen real estate. For one the most common or important menu options are exposed and not hidden behind “menu”. Second the title icon navigation gives us inner app navigation while the back button can be used for app level navigation. It makes the already great back button even easier to use to me for quick task navigation. I haven’t played around to see how the back button has changed in Honeycomb and ICS.

      • inviolable

        Maybe you should actually consider what he is saying rather than attacking him like a child.

    • pjax

      It’s not trying to be more like apple. It’s trying to be more intuitive
      it makes no sense to put a dedicated menu button if it doesn’t work on every screen. It does not make sense to put a dedicated search button if there are apps that doesn’t have to search

  • Dan Doan

    They should have placed the three-dot button in the same location as the menu button. It serves the same purpose in every app; I shouldn’t have to remember a different location for every app.

  • rashad360

    Boo!!! I like the menu button, it keeps apps free from the clutter of virtual buttons

  • http://www.brokemanstech.com Juan

    The menu bar isn’t completely dead. It’s just not universal any more. It still exist as the “3 dot” icon in ICS whenever a menu is available for a game to use. I do admit, I miss the universal search key as opposed to anything else.

  • Naitsaves

    I agree with them trying to simplify the UI, but I really liked both the search and menu button.

  • Tornato7

    Yeah, I liked the menu button. AND the search button. Now I have to hunt around for them in apps.

    • AsakuraZero

      thus why they are insisting on standards and made the android design website

  • inviolable


  • Blake

    I just can’t support the removal of buttons.

    iPhone is a terrible experience for me because apps put things in different places. I can always rely on my 4 hardware buttons to do the basic functions within an app.

    In short, WHY remove it?

    • Daniel

      Because it was a button that, a very large number of times, did nothing. You eventually learn that it doesn’t work on certain kinds of screens (preferences, dialogs…) and stop bothering pressing it. And suddenly you’ve missed functionality because you didn’t think such a screen could even have more actions (simple example: very few people know about the built-in advanced Wi-Fi settings).

      Now, whenever a screen supports more actions, you’ll know they will be present on screen one way or another. No more guessing games, no more frustration on false negatives, no more frustration on false positives.

      • Samuel

        This is not true! I have an iphone (for work) and a Galaxy S2 and I am getting insane on an iphone because I Never know where stuff at, I love that menu button.. for fuck sake, I will have to stay on that SGS2 + Cyanogenmod the longest as I can!

        • professandobey

          But this doesn’t have to turn out the iPhone way. They’re standardizing the location of the overflow button through their design guidelines. Any app that doesn’t follow the design guidelines on this probably gives you lots of frustration in other ways due to being a poorly designed app. Perhaps on rare ocassion there would be an app that would intentionally break from the guidelines for a good, renegade design, in which case, you should not have any problems finding their overflow button as a result of the well thought out design.

        • pjax

          you hate it because we’ve all been used to using Android, and muscle memory is looking for the menu button when you are using the iPhone

          but everything Daniel said is true. the menu button is a guessing game of false positives and false negatives. developers should do their best to keep interfaces consistent all over android (hence Action Bars and the Android Design website)

          menu button has to go

  • Emmanuel Lazcano

    Darn it! I like and often use the menu button! Taking it away makes me think of the iOS…

  • ihatefanboys

    I always use the MENU button, so itll be sad to see it go. But as long as the functionality of the button still exists in the Android UI I’ll be happy. I mean, arent they only getting rid of the “dedicated” button ? not the functionality? thats what i got.

  • lokidokie

    This is a good thing. Please don’t comment on this if you’ve never used ICS. It isn’t needed (or wanted) there!

    • Jennifer

      Why can’t we comment if we have never used ICS just cause I haven’t used it other then playing a bit at the store with it doesn’t mean I won’t still miss the menu button. It was one of the reasons when I played with ICS that I didn’t like it. It makes it easier to navigate the apps with out a bar at the bottom just sitting there when using the app. I like the menu being hidden unless I need it. Just because you don’t need or want it doesn’t mean other people might. I am not sure why everyone is so damn ego centric that they think because they like it or not then everyone else should as well.

  • h0ruza

    Android is an amazing platform because without saying it Google and the Android team admit that they need to evolve and refine the OS so it can be a choice for all and fit many needs and not just a few needs. The other reason why Android is an amazing platform is that Google and the Android team have also recognized that they don’t have all the answers for all users so it must refine the way its used so the user thinks beyond the basics of having a dedicated button with one use. Much like Super Mario in the early levels jumps on platforms to get from A to B but by the end of the game jumping from platforms that fall after the first touch or flying adversaries elevates the player to ninja level proportions because their way of thinking evolves and the speed at which things are achieved increases ten fold. All of a sudden your phone isn’t just a phone, its a lifestyle synthesizer with limitless options and applications. This is what the iPhone has managed to capture and as much as I hate to say it Android as a platform should aim to better what Apple has achieved or perish when windows phone beats Android to it. Lets not forget these phones we love so much are called “Smart Phones” not remote controls. I vote for progress and ninja skills x2.

  • ondore

    I am not sure if this trend is the best way, ok, maybe we wont miss menu button, but there are several situations where I miss hardware volume buttons – you start game at an airport and trailer starts playing with full volume and you are waiting until SW buttons will be available… Blanket will be one of the must accessories – to cover tablet or yourself :-)

  • LoveAndro

    Now apple will add this menu button to their iphone and it will “REVOLUTIONARY” for iphone fans…

    • juice370

      Good one.

  • pjax

    Hoooray! I’m glad google was smart enough to do a double back and decide to kill the menu button after all these versions.

    Many users will miss the menu button because we’re all used to it (and forced to use it), but the menu button has never been a good idea. We probably won’t miss it if it wasn’t in Android from the start

    it makes no sense to put a dedicated hardware button if it does not work on all screens. The menu button is a surprise, and the user has to guess if there is a context menu. Sometimes, the user misses out on the feature because they didn’t know that the page has a menu.

    the same is true with search buttons. It doesn’t work everywhere, so why put it everywhere? THAT is a waste of space.

    I’m really really glad they’re OFFICIALLY killing menu button. Hooray! Hooray!

  • Paul

    Its the search button that should go.

  • Kyle Gibson

    Da eeeffffff??? The capacitive buttons are the one thing android has got over apple regarding consistency!!!

  • Phil

    I think the action bar is a step forward over all when stepping back and looking at it. I was against on screen menu buttons but I like that the most common options are exposed first. So in a sense its not really the waste of space for just something that say “menu”. Its the common action that were probably there on the screen anyway. The in app nav via the app icon is great. Makes the back button even stronger to me.

    But the question is whether devs will use it. And right now I think too many keep trying to bring iPhone design patterns to Android…which are ugly and suck. I much prefer the apps that push towards the new design guides. I’m working on an app right now and really liking what I can do with these patterns.

  • Chris H

    This is one of my biggest gripes with ICS. Thing is, they don’t really defend it much past “simplify the UI”, and at this point, it’s done anything but. Simplified in that there is one less button, sure, but the flipside is that it’s now anywhere. Maybe as apps are rewritten to use this new design, it might start making more sense, but in the meantime, it kinda sucks. Go into google’s own gmail app, and reply to a message. There are now two of the “three little dots” “action overflow” icons on the screen. One for reply all and forward, and one for the rest of the “overflowed actions” . This is not an improvement, especially since this new button is skinny and can be harder to hit.

    It reminds me of the “no minimize button” in gnome 3, the “edict passed down from above” approach is the same, as is the developers coming up with workarounds. Hopefully it’s the same in that I learn to work “their way” yet again. Even though I’ve adapted to the no minimize approach, I don’t see that it’s really made anything better.

  • Chazzers

    I won’t terribly miss the menu button. I only wish that Google employed it consistently in ICS. Although I don’t mind having to hit the top of the screen vs. the bottom, it is still a design inconsistency that they should fix if they’re looking to unify their looks across third-party apps.

  • Tim

    What happens to the menu button on phones like the razr? Will it still bring up the menu or will it just sit there and do nothing?

    • masterpfa

      Dedicated menu buttons would still work, just ICS will not present you with one by default

  • http://willoughbyjunction.com Jayson Olson

    I know they want to simplify things, but the ‘Menu’ but just seems to be intuitive for anyone who is picking up a device for the first time.

    It’s just so ingrained in us that when we pick up a device, whether it be a TV remote, Windows Start button, XBox/PS3 front end….there is a ‘Menu’ like feature. It helps us calibrate our brains to look at a ‘starting point’ when we want to dig deepr or looks for configuration options.

    How much easier does Google think this will make our lives? Are we that pressed for time and logic that saving all of 2 seconds by not slecting/looking for a menu button will somehow revolutionize how we use/operate phones now?

  • brklynmind

    Actually No – Android still will have a menu button for the OS and the apps but instead of being in consistent and accessible place; it will be in various locations and difficult to find. BRILLIANT!
    After my experience (bad) with ICS I am convinced that Google has a bad case of Apple envy and they are going to ruin alot of what is good with Android in the process. If Balmer would move the other way Windows Phone might have a shot yet. Sad

  • hurric

    I personally liked the menu button as it didn’t clutter up the screen (especially phones) but oh well.

    i also appreciate these kinds of posts better than “rumors” sometimes. much useful and i could actually use it sometime and be up to date.

  • iamXiV92a

    Hmmm. this makes me think of all the phones coming out *JUST* around the corner that still have our buddy, the menu button, on the device – I suppose he’s still there to help us out with the UI of the device and not so much the market, correct?

  • Alex Belko

    So what about the games that use this menu button to bring up some kind of in-game menu?

  • autonomousgerm

    Not only games, but what about your launcher? How do you bring up the prefs for that.

  • mustybooks

    The menu button has definitely been superseded by action bar! Capacitive and physical buttons as well with software. All good stuff.

  • Adam Snyder

    i think we saw this coming from honeycomb, but thank you google, uniform

  • vbvbvbvbvbvbvbvb

    I think they removed the menu button because of the apple patent on multi tasking….

    • LEAP24-21

      What patent on multitasking are you talking about?

  • Real

    Forget menu, bring back search! I need to access settings from anywhere! ):

    Or even better, OEM’s should implement a dedicated hardware button for instant custom functions!

  • juice370

    If it ain’t broke and all that.

    Lets hope “simple” doesn’t mean like Apple, simple AKA you can’t find sod all.

  • Fran

    Those 10 penny menu buttons are just WAY too expensive for a $300 device.
    And the search button? That’s another 10 cents.

  • Jackie

    Let me get this straight… the “menu” button will be gone… but it will just still be there… just called a different name. And you’ll have to hunt all over the screen because every app will put it somewhere new. And some apps won’t even have it at all… even when you need it.

    How is this *MORE* consistent than “it’s always a button and always right where it is”???

    • 666

      Um, it’s called the action bar, a UI standard. It’s not suppose to be somewhere new on each app. The advantage to this is that you KNOW that there are menu options and you can provide context to individual menu categories.

      • Lyude

        Yes, but some developers are like “HURR DURR I MAKE DA PRETTY UI eeeeeeee” and make some sort of shit UI that doesn’t follow the standards that look just fine. So it’s quite possible someone will put it somewhere else. Or a lot of people.

  • EspadaA

    Happy I guess

  • masterpfa

    I did like the Menu button, but times move on. Adaptation to ICS4 and the new UI did not take much getting used to at all and I no longer miss the menu button,

    Well done Google in a move forward IMHO

  • Ray


    Finally, those noobish buttons will disappear for good.

    Also, I would like to put in a suggestion.. Please ban Verizon from adding that ugly afghan looking bezel on their devices. Thanks.

    (this comment is in no way suggesting that Afghan people look like Verizon smartphones. Please excuse my honesty) el o el?

    • Ray

      But…I do find Afghans to be quite noobish in their game. They camp a lot and spawn kill all the time. those bastards!

  • Terry Rook

    The menu has been around since the beginning, getting rid of it is a big mistake, I had to put it back on the gnex.

  • Lyude

    My question, is who the hell was confused by the menu button.

  • greeny42

    Menus? We don’t need no stinking menus!

  • lawr tang

    It doen’t change anything, transformer trick- Menu TRANSFORM into Action bar. This function still required.

  • Fraser Ntukula

    Where’s that post header image from?

  • Chris

    Why Google, Why? For simplicity??

    My question is, when in an app, how does one bring up the menu for that app then? Soft menus in app that could be anywhere on the bloody screen?

    If people find android too hard to use because it has a manu, perhaps they should be using some other ‘simple’ device, with the one button, they are after all quite popilar with many.

    I guess that Googles new slogan could be “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.

    Dev’s aren’t going to want their apps to have no menu, can you imagine Titanium Backup with no menu, that’s a hell of a lot of swipe actions to remember.

    This is the Dropbox ICS instructions to get to the settings:
    Android Change camera upload settings with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher

    1. Launch the Dropbox app and press the Menu link on the top right of your screen (marked by three vertical dots)
    2. Press the Settings menu option
    3. Scroll to the Camera Upload section

    -end rant-

  • Chris

    The Galaxy Nesus has so much room for capacitive keys between the bottom of the screen and the bottom of the device, and it’s certainlly thick enough at the bottom for this, instead we have less usable space on the screen with this awesome bar.

  • Shawn Clark

    I use that button nearly every chance i get, but unfortunately gotta adjust with the times i guess.

  • humpty

    If they are going to rid of the hardware button, at least they could have made sure it ends up in the bar for all old apps. It doesnt.

  • ananthram

    my samsung ace is not working with home button…

    it was not working after my last factory reset

  • Troy Hester

    How do YOU hold your phone? When I hold my phone, in one hand, I need my controls at the bottom and the displayed info at the top. That way I can reach the controls on a big phone comfortably and I’m not always obscuring my data to operate the controls. The Action bar should be at the BOTTOM of a phone display. Tabs should be at the bottom of a phone display, not the top. Otherwise, your phone either requires two hands to operate or you need to hold the phone with an ‘iPhone antenna grip’!

  • Tim

    Troy, I agree with you. My S3 is set up just about perfect. I got a hardware menu “cap” button (which doubles as a search on long hold) at the bottom which allows for easy one-hand operation. I hate the fact that the Play Store (I miss the Android Market, too) now has a screen menu button all the way at the top left corner, which is the farthest away from my hand. It was so easy before, tap the menu button on the way to “My Apps”. Now, I’ve got to reach to the top of the phone, which really irritates me because there is a separate menu activated by the hardware button. Why is Google imitating Apple? I bought a Galaxy, not an iPhone. I’ve already rolled back my Maps app because the iOS 7 lookalike Google rolled out sucks. The only thing I can figure is, everything was running so well, they had to break it to keep their jobs (I work IT support, so I know what that can be like).