Any android phone and most of the tablets have soft touch buttons (the search button, the back button, and the home button) and there are many rumors about a new iPad shipping without a hardware home button, but I’m not going to go further on speculations.1
[Image from the verge - The image was deleted on 2014.]
Software buttons as everything have their highs and lows, I’m gonna cover the few ones _I think _are the more relevant to final users and to the handset makers.
For users Software buttons are easier to push than conventional plastic buttons, you just need to graze them to make them work.
One of the main reason of a hardware failure on an iPhone is due to the poor responsiveness of the home button, apple may receive some money back from fewer devices sent back on repairs for this issue.
Unintended touches can produce an app quitting right while we are working on something important and if that’s not a problem on iOs or Android (which both support multitasking) it’s a huge problem on windows phone (at the moment).
But The main problem is that if there’s a software failure you lose control of the button (it’s controlled by a software) and you are stuck, that would happen also if an app froze.
In the end, I think that they are way better than hardware buttons, but only if there was another way to force quit an app.
Update: Bill Williams said:
“This could be partly mitigated by making the entire bezel touch-sensitive, and then only detecting touches on whichever edge happens to be the virtual ‘bottom’ based on the screen’s orientation.”
This would require the accelerometer to stay on all the time = a huge effect on battery life and since Apple put great efforts on it this solution is unattainable.
I took so long to review this article that I missed the deadline (also WordPress for Android has its big fault). ↩