How do you trim down even more screen bezel? Make the softkeys entirely optional. And with its latest GS8 update, Samsung is already halfway there.
A few weeks back, Samsung started rolling out a new software update to the Galaxy S8 series in India and Europe, including a curious new option for the phones’ navigation bar. As standard, a small dot icon in the bottom left corner lets GS8 owners hide the on-screen navigation buttons for home, back and recent apps, freeing up space for whichever app is currently on-screen.
That’s not a huge deal on the surface. Other manufacturers have included similar features for years, and Android itself has had the ability to auto-hide the navigation bar in some apps going all the way back to version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. But when you combine this new feature with Samsung’s “invisible” button setup, things become really interesting.
The technology already exists for Samsung to hide the softkeys by default in the Note 8 or S9 without any impact on usability.
You see, with the navigation bar hidden, you can still activate the home button by hard-pressing the area of the display where it would usually appear. (That’s not a new feature, by the way, but it becomes even more useful when combined with the new option to hide the navigation bar.) You can’t do the same with the “back” or “recents” keys on the GS8, because they’re not pressure-sensitive, but this limitation would be trivial to overcome in future phones, even if the whole area of the display isn’t pressure-sensitive. A hypothetical Galaxy Note 8, for instance, could simply include three pressure-sensitive areas, one for each key, giving Note owners the option of hiding the navigation bar at all times, and reserving the entire (rumored) 6.3-inch display for app content.
It would be a