Is it too much to ask to have physical music playback buttons on our phones?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| October 31, 2011

Trends are kind of a big deal. They may not seem like it to those who “buck” them, but for companies all over the world a trend can mean the difference between success and failure. And just like any other market out there, the mobile industry is built upon trends. Unfortunately, as quickly as our favorite market moves, trends don’t really last all that long. A few have here and there, but they usually get upgraded in some fashion or another, maybe even a few times, until what it is now doesn’t look anything like the trend that started it. It would seem that one of the newest trends starting to take off is this button-less design for our phones. And with the likes of Google, Samsung and Nokia (not counting their Windows Phone efforts from here on out) backing it –and plenty of other manufacturers about to jump on board—I’m wondering where my music controls went.

A long while ago I asked all of you if you’re someone who likes to use multiple devices, or if you’re a fan of cramming all your features and needs into one tiny device. The comments were mixed, with people coming up with plenty of clever and realistic reasons as to why they would need multiple devices, or why having only one is the best bet. In truth, this conversation isn’t one that we can have when talking about trends. I don’t think manufacturers, or companies in general, will ever be able to make absolutely everyone happy with one device to rule all others, so that will always come down to just personal preference. But, the button-less design that we’re seeing starting to emerge, now that’s definitely going to be a trend that either catches on, or people start crying out to get rid of.

Unfortunately for Google, unlike Nokia, there is plenty at stake here. Obviously Ice Cream Sandwich is going to be installed on previously launched devices that have physical buttons. But, moving forward, Google’s focus is on devices that are all about the touchscreen, sacrificing any and all physical buttons that we’ve grown accustomed to. And no, I’m not talking about volume keys – those are a standard that I don’t even think Google can get rid of. I’m talking about the navigation keys, like Home or Search and what not. Or, more to my specific point, the controls that we use to play music.

For me, I’m someone that can definitely use one device more often than not. But, over the years, I’ve been really missing the physical buttons that come along with some of those dedicated MP3 players out there. I used to enjoy just being able to keep the device in my pocket and change a song, whether forwards or backwards, or to pause or play. With these all-touchscreen devices that’s relatively impossible – unless you’ve got the lock screen memorized or something. But, it isn’t as easy as it could be. And that’s why we need physical music playback buttons again.

There are some devices out there that would be worth using over again, I imagine. But, if I want to be able to use the new devices, with all those fancy new pieces of software, I’ve got to learn to sacrifice my physical music playback buttons. As much as I’m not a fan of that, it looks like the trend is set for button-less devices. And, unfortunately, I like button-less devices more than music playback keys. I think. I actually haven’t decided, yet. Once I get to start using those devices I’ll be able to make a better judgment call with it, but since I’m such a fan of getting into the science fiction part of our market, I think the more gesture-controlled my phone is the better.