This article is from WeChat official account:Love Faner (ID: ifanr), author: Musi, from the title figure: vision China

We also have a lot of articles discussing physical buttons. Although the categories of knobs, home, and keyboards are different, they are actually constantly emphasizing the innate advantages of “physical design” in line with intuition, and the sense of stability they bring in operation. Voice, touch screen and other interactions are very good. Incomparable.

Of course, the argument of eliminating physical keys has been around for a long time, and we always envisioned integrating all the operation processes into large and small screens, but the reason why many keys survive is not just that we still have “use As simple as habit, the evolution of the system and the dimensions of operation are actually giving these buttons new value.

This time let’s talk about the side buttons of the phone.

1. Shutter, scroll wheel, switch… How rich were the side buttons on mobile phones back then?

The side buttons of modern smartphones have been basically finalized, and they are nothing more than volume up/down buttons and lock screen buttons.

But if you look forward, the number and functions of the buttons on the side of the phone are actually more abundant, and the placement of them is not limited to the left and right sides.

In the past, on the side of the phone, there were often many buttons with different functions. The picture is Nokia N95

The main reason is obviously the overall size of the phone. In the previous era of feature phones and small screen phones, our fingers can easily touch the top of the fuselage, so manufacturers are also used to putting the power button in this position.

Since then, the screen size of mobile phones has continued to increase. In the past, mobile phones that can be operated with one hand now have to use both hands. It is obviously anti-human design to put frequently used buttons on the top, so the side buttons are gradually becoming Transfer on both sides of the fuselage.

However, during this evolution, there are also some interesting side key designs that have been gradually abandoned by the times.

For example, the independent camera button that many people are familiar with.

Independent shutter button

This button basically appeared along with the trend of camera phones. The purpose is to allow users to capture more efficiently. And many models support half-press to focus, long press to take pictures and other “two-stage button” design. The points are also consistent with traditional cameras.

The three-position switch of OnePlus. Picture from: ITIGIC

Nowadays, the only ones who can insist on leaving the mute button as a separate switch are the iPhone and OnePlus.

Second, the function is single, so there is no need to keep the side button

The continuous decrease in the number of side buttons is related to the mobile phone’s pursuit of a non-opening design. Whether it was the non-opening concept phones that Meizu and vivo tried to make, or the pressure-sensitive keys on waterfall screen phones such as Mate30 and NEX3, they were all trying to get rid of the button structure.

At the same time, the degree of integration of modern mobile phones is getting higher and higher. Even the surrounding physical buttons have begun to consciously integrate with the body in terms of material and color matching, such as Google Pixel 3 and 4. Deliberately making the power button into a mobile phone of other colors is just using it as a decorative embellishment.

This design-oriented thinking has also gone to an extreme, giving birth to a very different form. The Smartisan T1 mobile phone of the year is a typical example.

Much of the structure of the hammer T1 is just to meet the symmetry beauty, so there will be an alternative design such as an independent brightness adjustment key

In order to give the phone a balanced look and feel, at that time T1 specially designed an independent brightness adjustment key on the side of the phone, which happened to be symmetrical with the volume key on the other side.

This design is obviously controversial. After all, brightness adjustment is not a function that needs to be operated frequently. It is a bit “luxury” to have a button hole for it.

Samsung’s Bixby voice key has been questioned by users because of its low frequency of use

Samsung’s Bixby button is another example of failure of the side button. This independent voice button, introduced since the Galaxy S8, is specifically placed near the volume button. At first, it was hoped that users could wake up quickly, Direct access to Bixby voice service.

But this side button eventually caused dissatisfaction among users. The main reason was that Bixby’s performance was not ideal, so that the probability of this button being idle was high, and it became more and more obvious that there was no need for it.

Before, many users hope that Samsung can open the custom function of the Bixby key, so that it can be used as a shutter button for taking pictures or a screenshot button for other functions, but Samsung has not given such a choice.

Up to now, you can no longer see the independent Bixby button on Samsung’s flagship phones for the past two years, such as Note10, S20 and Note20. For Samsung, removing this redundant design is probably a better choice than leaving it in disguise.

The player control buttons on the side of the Nokia 5310 were once standard on many music phones.

In fact,Many side buttons that existed in the era of feature phones will be eliminated in smart phones. Most of them are due to the consideration of the internal space of the fuselage, but more importantly Yes, the touch screen also brings another simple, direct and efficient alternative.

The convenience of gesture operation is naturally needless to say. With the maturity of the mobile phone system, now we can quickly and close a certain function by pulling down the control center, negative one screen and other interfaces, and specifically design a physical button The reason for it is no longer sufficient. The people who use it are nothing more than heavy users or pure geeks.

Even for the frequently used camera, music control, etc., most systems put them on the lock screen by default, and the operation efficiency is not worse than pressing a physical button.

Three, the side key is moving towards the era of “one key, multiple uses”

A good design is not only the part that we can see. Although the side buttons such as the shutter and scroll wheel disappeared, the volume buttons and power buttons can continue to stay. They are not touched by the touch screen, pressure sensitive design, etc. replace.

This is obviously related to our usual super-high frequency of use.

AppOptix, a statistical agency, once did a data statistics. They found that Android phone users have to unlock their phones 65 times a day on average. If 8 hours of sleep time are removed, it means that we have to light up the screen every 15 minutes.

And this operation basically has to be done by the power button.

An inconspicuous value of the physical side keys: These two bumps are also the presence of us to identify the up and down direction of the phone.

The same is true for the volume key. In daily audio-visual entertainment, calls and other scenes, we always need to manually adjust the volume level due to the influence of different environments around us. It can be said that these usage scenarios give them the power to stay on the side of the phone.

However, regardless of their frequency of use, the volume buttons and power buttons are actually changing their original functions with technological innovation.

Especially now, the functions of these two buttons are no longer as simple as the names indicate, but are gradually moving towards the design of “one key for multiple functions”.

I remember a few years ago, there was a “Mi key” on the Mi phone 1, and the positioning was the “multi-function key” on the phone. It allows the user to customize the short-press operation in the settings, while the long-press calls the camera to take pictures, which is actually to let the side buttons carry multiple composite functions.

On smart phones, the functionality of the side buttons is no longer single, but can be customized freely

This “one belt, multiple” design has gradually been applied to the lock screen key and volume key. So in addition to adjusting the sound, the current volume key can also act as a shutter when taking pictures, or take screenshots with the power key.

After the concept of switching on and off is faded, the power button on the original mobile phone is now more used for “locking and unlocking” operations, and it can also be used to point according to long press, short press or double tap Different functions.

As smart phones move towards full screen, the volume button and power button also integrate more complex operations. Picture from: The Mac Observer

Just like the iPhone’s lock screen button, since the iPhone X has moved towards a full-screen design, the original functions of long pressing the Home button to call out Siri and double-clicking Home to call out ApplePay have been changed to rely on the power button to achieve the switch, so that The operation also needs to cooperate with the volume key to realize.

Since then, the iPhone’s power button has become larger than before, almost twice the length, just to make it more convenient for users to use services such as mobile payments and voice assistants.

Android 11 integrates the control interface of the smart home into the power button menu

In the latest version of Android 11, Google has also integrated the control panel of smart home devices into the “long press operation” of the power button. The purpose is to let the power button play more roles.

It can be said that this feature of realizing key composite functions through the system, giving the physical key operation programmable and customizable space, will certainly appear more and more on our mobile phones.

In the foreseeable future digital age, finding such new interactions for buttons may be more important than discussing their own value.

This article is from WeChat official account:Love Faner (ID: ifanr), author: Moose