I can't imagine that the usage level of popcorn substantiates its special treatment on a microwave's user interfaces – at least any more emphasis than other common foods.

Removing this (and other presets) would likely clear up the clutter and overall terrible experience that comprises most microwave interfaces. Is this poor UI design, or is there a reason that I'm missing?

  • I have never used any button other than defrost, the numbers and start. Although I cook popcorn far more often then whatever else is on the buttons. – Austin French Jun 26 '13 at 17:33
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    I've never seen a popcorn button. Perhaps it's country-specific. – Andrew Leach Jun 26 '13 at 17:34
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    I would actually be surprised if microwaves are used for anything other than popcorn and reheating leftovers for most users. – Charles Wesley Jun 26 '13 at 18:10
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    And every time I've used a popcorn setting, it burns the popcorn. – thursdaysgeek Jun 26 '13 at 21:01
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    Andrew, there's probably a 'reheat lukewarm tea' setting in there though :-) – PhillipW Jul 2 '13 at 17:29

For the answer of why a specific button is used for Popcorn, I recommend looking at this discussion from Reddit which has this to say :

Many microwaves nowadays, except for very basic models, will actually have a humidity sensor built into them. They measure the moisture content coming off of your food to determine when it's done, because microwaves work by exciting water molecules in your food. The different food buttons basically narrow down the expected range of humidity, because if you think about it, your popcorn has a much different moisture content than Grandma's turkey dinner.

That said, the microwave has become synonymous with the making of popcorn and since popcorn does have the same content and similar moisture across different brands, setting up a single button to just do the job is just another selling point about what all the Microwave can do and how it can save time.

Interestingly, popcorn was the first item ever heated in the microwave if this quote from History of Popcorn is true

Microwave popcorn -- the very first use of microwave heating in the 1940s -- has already accounted for $240 million in annual U.S. popcorn sales in the 1990s.

Note : I'll update this answer with a more scientifically driven response if I can find more data to back it up rather than relying on some poster in Reddit.

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    While I can't directly refute anything the Reddit poster said, my microwave's Popcorn button, and every other one I've seen including some expensive ones, is just a preset; it sets a power level and a cook time that should be sufficient to pop the corn but not burn it. It's just like the "Pizza", "Entree" and "Hot Drink" buttons. Mine is fancy enough to have settings for not only the 3.5oz "standard" bag, but the 1.75oz "Smart Pop" bag (which, interestingly, specifically tells you on the bag not to use the popcorn button, because most 'waves only have a 3.5oz cook time). – KeithS Jun 26 '13 at 22:24
  • I have seen both types of microwaves. Many do use a sensor and change cooking time based on sensed humidity. Others just preset a time. Mine is currently 10 seconds too long so I have to use the numbers anyways.... – Frank B Jul 2 '13 at 15:20

It's a marketing / ease of use feature. People like microwaves because they are quick and simple. They don't want to think. They want to push the button of what they are eating. There's also a baked potato button. And a pizza button. The popcorn will cook it at a different power level. Some microwave ovens use light.

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