Nearly one month ago, I asked an offbeat question: "Are button and port placement at all important to you?"
I imagine the placement of buttons and ports on a smartphone are the last thing that crosses most people's minds. And I can't imagine many are losing sleep at night over their favorite phone having and oddly placed power button or headphone jack. It's something that's meant to be subliminal, something that should just work and be at least somewhat ergonomic to the average user's hand.
To my surprise, quite a few of you chimed in on the matter and expressed your thoughts on the placement of various buttons and ports. A nice portion of you prefer the 3.5mm headphone jack to be placed on the bottom while others like it to be on the top. Few, I learned, prefer it on the sides.
As smartphones continue to grow in size, some handset manufacturers are beginning to move the power button around. Depending on where the manufacturer decides the best placement is, that can be a good or bad thing.
HTC continues to fit their smartphones with power buttons located on the upper side of the right corner. One the One X, I constantly have to adjust my grip to bump the power button. Samsung seems to prefer slapping the power button on the upper portion of the right edge, intelligently placing it where the user's right thumb or left index finger would comfortably lay.
Acer, a less popular Android handset manufacturer, recently announced two new budget smartphones at IFA last week, the Liquid Gallant and Liquid Gallant Duo. What's unique about these two phones, however, is that the power button is not found on one of the four edges of the device. Instead, as you can clearly see in the picture from The Verge below, it's located on the backside of the device, beside the camera and LED flash.
Likewise, Motorola is open to testing the waters as they have now used all the aforementioned power button placements in their various mobile devices. The original DROID, DROID 2 and ATRIX 2 had the power button on the right side of the top edge and the DROID 3 had its power button in the middle of the top edge as did the DROID X, DROID X2 and ATRIX. On the DROID RAZR, DROID RAZR MAXX and ATRIX HD, the power button is found on the upper portion of the right edge. And on the infamous XOOM tablet, the power button was located on the rear, next to the speaker, LED flash and camera. Power buttons will be found along the edge on the back of the XYBOARD line of tablets, too.
With its thin, beveled edge, you could also count the iPad as having its power button and volume rocker on the backside. (For what it's worth, I have hated the buttons on the current iPad and iPad 2.)
Acer's reasoning behind locating the power button on the back of its Liquid Gallant phones is that it makes them easily accessible by the index finger, especially when removing the phone from a pocket, and to prevent accidental knocks to the button.
When I first saw the power button on the Liquid Gallant, my immediate reaction was along the lines of, "Kill it with fire!" Through using the Motorola XOOM, I quickly learned that the button placement on the back wasn't ideal. I would have to fumble around (blindly, unless I physically turned the tablet around) for a few seconds before finding the button. It also prevented me from quickly bumping the power button without picking the tablet up, which I tend to do quite often with both tablets and smartphones.
In the same respect, I used the XOOM quite differently than I would a smartphone. Sure, I would have to pick my phone up instead of simply hitting the power button while leaving it on my desk or a tablet. But I always tend to hold my phone a certain way, whereas I hold tablets in different orientations for different uses. For a phone, the placement of the power button seems to be within comfortable reach of an index finger. And after a few weeks of extended use, muscle memory could help in location the button blindly (whereas I was always holding the XOOM differently).
I wouldn't say I find Acer's choice in button placement all that intriguing. But it got me to wondering about the future phones I'm currently weighing: Galaxy Note II, Lumia 920 and the upcoming iPhone. I loved the button placement on the original Galaxy Note and, thankfully, Samsung left it alone for the successor. In a meeting with Nokia at CES, I was asked what I didn't like about the Lumia 800 and 900. The one thing that immediately came to mind was button placement, and that's what I told them. Unfortunately, the Lumia 920 has almost identical button placement to the Lumia 900.
And then there's the upcoming iPhone. Having the dedicated home button, the power button being placed on the top of the device has never bothered me. But now that the device is expected to be housing a significantly larger display, it could undergo some design changes (despite the ever-increasing number of "leaked parts" I refuse to believe are real). The one thing I'm hoping for most if there is a redesign is a button on the right edge. But I wouldn't get my hopes too high for such a change.
Power button placement isn't a make-or-break feature for me. And I don't imagine it is for anyone else either. (Hey, I could be wrong. There are some people who take this stuff seriously.) But perfectly placed power button can seriously improve the overall polish and feel of a smartphone. (It's all subliminal. Over time, constantly having to adjust your grip to power on your mobile device can become quite annoying.) And this time around, considering button placement is part of the overall design, it will play a role in my final decision come launch time for all these devices.
In case you hadn't already deduced what configuration I prefer, I like the power button to be in the upper portion of the right edge of a phone. Where do you prefer the power button to be? Does it annoy you if you constantly have difficulty pressing the power button? What about having to adjust your grip to hit said button? And what do you make of a power button on the back of a device?
Image via The Verge