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Most of the mobile devices that are based on Android OS have buttons on the bottom edge of the device.

These touch buttons have terrible UX issues. They are prone to accidental touch, thus resulting in going back to the previous screen, closing the current app, locking the screen etc.

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They also confuse the users, since some apps tend to have their own "back" button within the app itself. This forces users to think, whether they should tap the button on the device (hardware) or on the app (software). This obviously results in disconnect in users' thought process and user flow.

After so many years, What are some alternatives that could prevent users from accidentally performing unintended actions on this device?

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    They are VERY prone to accidental touch. Though we can only speculate on why device manufacturers haven't solved this issue. What can you do to make this an answerable question -- ask for redesign options maybe? – LindaCamillo Jan 16 '15 at 19:15
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    I've never had an issue with these. Is this based upon your own experience or actual findings? Sorry question isn't clear in it's explanation of that part. – Wander Jan 19 '15 at 16:58
  • It's quite a well known issue, which I experience myself quite often, here are some discussions on it on Android forum bit.ly/1CdH9F8 – Ades Jan 20 '15 at 2:24
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When I design for Android, I don't use in-app back buttons. Android users should be accustomed to the platform's built in back button, so including a back button is redundant, and, as you mention, potentially confusing.

As for accidental presses of those buttons, is that documented or anecdotal? This is the first I've heard of it.

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1. Make the buttons tactile

Tactile buttons do nothing when your finger rests on top of them and require physical force to click them.

All external buttons on Apple devices are tactile with the exception of the touch id fingerprint reader which has very few negative consequences from accidental touch.

Some Android devices use tactile buttons as well so this design problem is specific to the manufacturer and not Android.

2. Get rid of the buttons

Android OS expects those buttons to be there so you can't do away with them entirely, however, you could make them show and hide with the touch of a different button so accidental actions are less likely.

3. Reposition the buttons

In your example the buttons are all very close to each other and close to where a user's hand might rest. Leave the home button easily accessible where it is then move the other buttons away from the resting position of the hand.

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I believe this is already very clearly handled on android devices.

There is only one back button

Applications should have only their own 'up' buttons, not back buttons. Applications should never ever add their own back buttons. The 'up' buttons which you probably are confusing are about going up in the application hierarchy, whereas the back button is about going back to where you came from. More about this can be found in this (design guidelines article)[http://developer.android.com/design/patterns/navigation.html].

Touch based back buttons are not prone to accidental touching

First of all some anecdotal evidence to counter your anecdotal evidence: I do not know of any devices where accidental touching of the back button is an issue. Just now I have tried my absolute best to touch the button accidentally holding my phone in tens of odd ways and I have been unable to replicate this issue on a modern android phone with screen based navigation buttons (though by testing my entire palm on the device I was able to trigger countless of other buttons, so I am sure the back button should be triggerable in that way too). It could be that this is more of an issue with hardware based touch buttons, but as the principle is the same I doubt this. Lastly I know that Google had spend a huge amount of money on UX research and they decided to make the screen based navigation buttons the norm which they wouldn't have done without good reason. Concluding I believe that this most likely is an issue with your phone rather than a generic issue with android device.

Important to note

For some unknown reason Samsung has decided to invert the navigation buttons on their devices. Following your logic this would mean that on a normal android device the recent app list is prone to being accidentally opened. For this answer I have considered both theoretical issues as the same issue and I have attempted to both accidentally hitting the leftmost and rightmost buttons of the navigation.

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    This issue is worse in the Android based tablets, perhaps in the smartphone devices it's less serious – Ades Jan 19 '15 at 3:56
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One thing I've seen some apps do (ex: CamScanner, Idea Growr) is to display a notification which says "Press back again to exit" if the back button would trigger an exit. This doesn't stop accidental presses during internal app navigation, but it at least prevents the user from exiting the entire app by accident.

For internal navigation, something you could do is that when the user goes back, return to the state they were in and 'flash' (or bring focus to in some way) the thing they pressed to get to the new state. For ex, consider the case where a user starts on screen A, presses button x, and then goes to screen C. If they then go back, they would return to screen A, and button x would flash. This way, if the user went back by accident, they wouldn't have to think and could just press the button that flashed again. Something similar is implemented in the new Lollipop Google Calendar; clicking an event on your calendar causes it to expand, filling the whole screen. Going back makes the event shrink and return to its previous position.

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