You can usually recognize a Samsung phone, even from a distance. Well, or a phone that’s trying really hard to look like a Samsung phone. Starting with the Galaxy S3, Samsung standardized its button design with a large physical home button and two backlit capacitive navigation keys below the screen. The Galaxy S8 is expected to change that up with on-screen buttons, and you might even be able to change the order of them.
While most Android phones have the back button to the left of home and an overview button to the right, Samsung does it the other way around. With the GS8’s on-screen buttons, you should be able to change that. This is not an outlandish idea in the grand scheme of Android — phones from companies like LG and OnePlus allow you to edit the on-screen navigation buttons. It’s a big step for Samsung, which has held firm to this part of its brand identity.
This news comes by way of yet another leak of the Galaxy S8. The images of the Galaxy S8 show the screen on with the new navigation buttons visible. Samsung’s icons are a little… weird. The phone above is rotated landscape, but the order of the buttons doesn’t change when you do that. They’re in the traditional Android order of back, home, overview. So, maybe Samsung is just doing it that way now? Nope, there’s a second phone in the image; it’s upside down, but the button order is clearly the other way around (overview, home, back). There’s probably a toggle in the software.
This tells us that Samsung is taking this opportunity to give users a little more choice in how they use the phone. It has always been jarring to use a Samsung phone after carrying almost any other device because of the reversed nav buttons. Having the buttons rendered by the OS lets everyone get what they want. Well, mostly.
Simply having on-screen navigation buttons will require an adjustment for long-time Samsung users. You’ve always been able to wake up Samsung phones with the home button. Now you’ll either need to use the power button on the side or tap the fingerprint sensor on the back, where it has been relocated. The use of on-screen buttons means some screen real estate will be lost, but both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus are expected to be larger than past phones with very slim bezels. The GS8 will have a 5.7-inch display and the GS8 Plus will be 6.2-inches.