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In our poll last week we asked whether you thought smartphones still needed physical buttons.

By buttons we meant the ones on the side, such as the camera shutter, volume and power keys. I argued that these were rapidly becoming obsolete and their removal would enable smartphones to be sleeker and more beautiful.

This informal poll is now closed and nearly 1,000 votes were cast! How many of you agreed with me? As it turns out, not very many…

Do smartphones still need physical buttons?

  • Yes: 71.43%
  • No: 28.57

A clear majority thought I was being foolish and, if there was any doubt before, these side buttons are clearly valued by many people.

The voting was remarkably consistent from country to country with a clear majority all in favour of keeping the buttons.

Just as illuminating were some of the comments left on the original post. It was an excellent debate that obviously generated some strong opinions.


One very clear message was that the camera button are seen as sacrosanct – so if any smartphone designers are reading this, remove this at your peril! 

Naufal Shazwan

“Bring the double tap on the screen to wake up the phone to Lumia! That’s a cool feature! Other than that, a gesture based volume would be cool to but a physical shutter button is a must have! It is necessary to focus more accurately on a subject.”

Many of the comments also made the distinction between the physical side buttons and the capacitive buttons for back, home and search that are found on the front of the Lumia smartphones. 

These front buttons, at least, do not appear to have many fans at all. This comment below was one of the more mild ones about the front capacitive buttons.

John Doherty

“In addition to keeping ALL of the current buttons, it would be nice to 1) have a true SILENCE switch, and 2) have non-capacitive buttons on the front. Ever try to let a 3 year old watch Netflix on your phone?… What a disaster.”

Meanwhile, there was an excellent point about the physical buttons making smartphones more accessible.

Randall “texrat” Arnold:

“How do we accommodate the vision-impaired customers? Who’s thinking of them as the industry continues to strip away physical buttons?”

Finally, there was a single comment swimming against the tide of opinion: 

Sai Kiran

“Removal of Buttons makes A Phone SMARTER….”

Remember this poll was just a bit a fun so please don’t read anything into it about the future direction that Nokia might take. Or not take.

Thanks for all your comments and votes!