Is there a case where the Back button does something when on the Launcher? Is there a reason not to disable it when on the Launcher?


I'm designing a customized version of Android. I'm replacing the Android Navigation Bar with a custom implementation.

I had originally intended to visually disable the 'back' button when on the Home screen (the Launcher), under the belief that it never does anything there. Then a coworker pointed out that the Back button is never disabled on his device...even when it does nothing on the home screen.

And then with frantic clicking on various things he was able to create one scenario where he got to the launcher and clicking on Back did something (took him back into an application). However, we could not reproduce that scenario. Now I question whether it actually occurred.

So, I'm trying to understand:

  1. Is there a situation in Android where the Back button does something when on the Home/Launcher screen?
  2. If not, is there a reason to show it in an enabled state while on the Home/Launcher?

2 Answers 2


The Back Button on the Stock/ Google Now Launcher on Android isn't assigned to do anything on the Home Screen.

However, pulling down the Notification Bar, will result the Back button to push it back up on pressing it.

Or dismissing the Google's Voice Search if you say "Okay Google"

You could use different launchers and apps to assign a specific function for the Back button on the Home Screen. But by default, it isn't assigned to anything except the one exception I mentioned above.

  • Do you have a personal opinion about why the back button is not disabled, then, or whether it ought to be?
    – Phrogz
    Sep 11, 2015 at 15:45
  • It's for being consistent throughout the OS. If the user is accustomed to having the Back button in say 90% of the screens, removing it from one screen will need the user to adapt. Keeping it doesn't cause a harm, but can be mapped to do a different action. Also, Screen Pinning requires Back + Recents button to Unlock. Sep 11, 2015 at 15:50
  • +1 on @SwapnilBorkar comment. It works on the same principle as showing/not disabling the Save button on a form. Disabling it can cause confusion as the user wonder why it's disabled. ux.stackexchange.com/questions/78663/…
    – nightning
    Sep 11, 2015 at 19:09
  • Thanks for your answer and opinion. You have not cited any authoritative references in your answer, but based on your profile I take it that you're sufficiently in the know at google that I should perhaps take your word for it.
    – Phrogz
    Sep 11, 2015 at 20:37
  • You can take my word for it. Sep 12, 2015 at 4:55

I personally like the behaviour where you can click back multiple time and once back in the launcher it does nothing. I can imagine the frustration if there was another action and you would click it one more time than you wanted.

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