Recently i have noticed there an <-(Back Arrow Button) on top of the tool bar in new material design themes.We have an back button in android then why do we need The top back button arrow.

Not sure may be they are trying to remove the back button from mobile.

  • 4
    Can you include an image of what exactly you're referencing? Maybe you mean the "action bar". Cuz there's always been a back button in the action bar.
    – Big_Chair
    Aug 5, 2016 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


The left-pointing arrow in the action bar is actually an "Up" button. It works a bit differently than the back button -- instead of going back to the screen you visited last, it goes to the screen that's one level up the hierarchy.

Google's Developer Guide gives a detailed look:

The Up button is used to navigate within an app based on the hierarchical relationships between screens. For instance, if screen A displays a list of items, and selecting an item leads to screen B (which presents that item in more detail), then screen B should offer an Up button that returns to screen A.

If a screen is the topmost one in an app (that is, the app's home), it should not present an Up button.

The system Back button is used to navigate, in reverse chronological order, through the history of screens the user has recently worked with. It is generally based on the temporal relationships between screens, rather than the app's hierarchy.

When the previously viewed screen is also the hierarchical parent of the current screen, pressing the Back button has the same result as pressing an Up button—this is a common occurrence. However, unlike the Up button, which ensures the user remains within your app, the Back button can return the user to the Home screen, or even to a different app.

The Back button also supports a few behaviors not directly tied to screen-to-screen navigation:

Dismisses floating windows (dialogs, popups)
Dismisses contextual action bars, and removes the highlight from the selected items
Hides the onscreen keyboard (IME)

EDIT: Take a look at the Google I/O video explaining the reasoning behind having both.

  • Is this a new feature?
    – Fiksdal
    Aug 5, 2016 at 22:19
  • 1
    It's been there since Honeycomb (3.0).With Android Lollipop (5.0), Its stylization changed from an app icon with a narrow left-pointing caret to a simple left-pointing arrow.
    – Tin Man
    Aug 6, 2016 at 8:32

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