Ice Cream Sandwich brings many changes to Android devices, and one of the main ones is doing away with physical buttons. We all know that Apple has one button to rule them all, but it seems like every Android device has a different button configuration. Some have as many as four or more including a home, menu, back, and search button. In Google’s push to make it so that Android isn’t so fragmented, they introduced buttons directly into the OS in Honeycomb for tablets, and in ICS for all new phones and tablets.
This actually works out really great for some devices, and not so great for other ones. If you have a tablet like the Touchpad that only has the one physical button, then you are grateful for the buttons built into ICS. If you are using a smartphone that maybe doesn’t have all that much screen real estate to begin with, you might want to keep those physical buttons. I’ve always enjoyed having the four buttons on my EVO, and have been annoyed at the lack of them whenever I’ve tried to use an Apple device. I’m sure I would get used to Apple’s way of doing things if I had to, but I really enjoy my buttons in Android.
But even in the midst of Google’s push to remove physical buttons, they are also paring down the number of buttons in Android altogether. They are encouraging app developers to move to the model of not using the menu button in their apps, instead they would use the Action Bar. This is a good thing since ICS actually removes that Menu button altogether. What you see in the image above is the way that your buttons look in ICS. If you are looking for the menu button functionality in ICS, you’ll have to look for three little dots somewhere on the screen. Where they end up is different in every app, so moving away from them completely will be a very good thing.[Android Developers Blog]