The menu button on Android handsets is set to disappear and be replaced by the software-based action bar, according to Scott Main, lead tech writer for the official Android blog developer.android.com/.
In a new post Main has states that, "Honeycomb removed the reliance on physical buttons, and introduced the ActionBar class as the standard solution to make actions from the user options immediately visible and quick to invoke. In order to provide the most intuitive and consistent user experience in your apps, you should migrate your designs away from using the Menu button and toward using the action bar."
This transition has already started on some phones, with the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) packing Samsung Galaxy Nexus leading the charge, and most new Android phones are set to follow. Buttons for Home and Back will remain as they are while the new ICS Recent Apps button will essentially take the place of the menu button. Any users that have also used an Android HoneyComb tablet will be familiar with these software-based controls.
The action bar sits along the top of apps and is used to house icons for quick actions such as search or refresh. Through the action overflow button (the three vertical dots) it also supports extra actions, such as accessing settings and information about the app. It's this overflow area that Main suggests should be used to house actions that otherwise relied on the menu button.
Meanwhile apps that aren't updated but are used on HoneyComb and Ice Cream Sandwich devices will find an action overflow button appear next to the main navigation buttons at the button of the screen. However, Main goes on to explain that, "This is a compatibility behavior for legacy apps designed to ensure that apps built to expect a Menu button remain functional. However, this button doesn’t provide an ideal user experience. In fact, in apps that don’t use an options menu anyway, this action overflow button does nothing and creates user confusion."
Given that we're still seeing new handsets being released with Menu buttons, it could be sometime before this transition begins to pick up pace, but at least developers now have a clear message.
Are you looking foward to this transition or have you always found the physical Menu button a useful navigation tool? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.