Today’s Android smartphones are becoming more seamless. Manufacturers want to make their devices more thinner and coherent, with glass & metals being the choice of materials this days. The latest victim of this trend was the headphone jack which got the axe on many popular flagships of this year.
But long before the port-jacking, physical buttons where the first to be shunted out for a variety of reasons. Oh I so fondly remember the two stage shutter button on my Sony phone, which allowed me to first focus on the subject and then click the picture. But since the rise of the Android, the staple configuration found on every phone was the combo of power-volume buttons and navigation keys(the keys below your screen).
But that too is being under threat with many of the newer phones opting for one screen nav keys.
While some might not see a problem in that, buttons are useful more than you think. Ask it to a person whose power button has malfunctioned.
By default, Android doesn’t offer many options for configuring what the buttons do. This feature is mainly offered as an additional feature in many custom UIs from manufacturers and some custom ROMs. Outside that, the few apps that enable this customisation require root access. The mighty Tasker also can configure button functions but that is complex beyond explanation. To make this task simple and universally accessible to all, XDA-developer flar2 developed the Button Mapper app, which is simple to use and doesn’t need root.
The App: Button Remapper
This app is available as both free & paid. As you might expect ,the free version has some unique features disabled, but at just $0.99, its recommended to upgrade. The UI is simple enough to understand by normal users who don’t have problems like this. The upper part lays all the buttons on your device ,while the bottom half has some misc extras.
Configuring the Buttons
The three basic activities which you can change for each button are Single Tap, Double Tap & Long Press. You can assign either an action, Application or Shortcut to each of these activity.
The one thing to note is that the Power Button & on-screen Nav-keys cannot be configured.
Thus a phone having only Volume buttons can be customised for a total of six different actions(3 for each one). Not bad at all I would say. Now let’s see how you can do all these.
As you can see above the actions range from something as simple as a toggle like play/pause, WiFi On/Off, Lock/Unlock to more complex things such as linking a Tasker intent. This app can also switch the layout of the Recent & Back keys, useful if your phone has physical Nav-keys but you are not accustomed to the layout.
The app also has some great options to change other button-related settings. For starters, there’s a Lockscreen Peek feature which allows you to turn of the screen by pressing the Home button.
Similarly you can also change the order of Volume keys based on the orientation of the phone.
Finally you can also change the timings for Double Tap & Long Press and by pass the app altogether in certain apps like Dailer or Camera . While the app is very good, there are few quirks to iron out. Sometimes the buttons did not execute the actions I assigned them and one time I had to uninstall the app to restore normality as the buttons started behaving in a weird way But it’s acceptable as during the time of testing, the app was in Beta.
As for the competition there is one more app with similar name, Button Remapper, which also does the same thing sans root. But it’s UI is not as polished & and it also does not have as many features.
In my opinion, there isn’t a better app designed for this task and my $0.99 have gone to the developer. And if you don’t want to spend, the free version is equally apt. In future version I do hope the developer adds support for the alert-slider on my OnePlus 3T and also for headset buttons. Please do share your thoughts and views through comments.