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.