Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Smartphones may be heading for a portless and buttonless future, but if there’s one button that stays constant (for now) it’s the humble power button. But what it is for seems to be constantly evolving. Being the last bastion of hardware controls also means that the power button is often tasked with serving as a shortcut for multiple tasks.

This unique button has been reused so often that it rarely performs the function it was intended to do.

Samsung’s default implementation requires you to scramble for Bixby, while on a Google Pixel you can control your smart home. Except, now you can’t (more on this later). A OnePlus or a Motorola can follow Google’s lead, but then you have Poco phones that just give up and let the power button be what it is – a one-time power button. You know things have come to a head when in some cases the power button doesn’t even double as a power button – shock and horror -! Look, no one seems to come to a consensus on exactly how to use it, but someone has to end this madness.

Smarthome controls OnePlus Oxygen OS 11 Android 11

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Right away, one of my favorite additions to Android 11 was the ability to show smart home controls when you long press the power button. I’m a self-proclaimed smart home tinkerer and while voice assistants like Google Assistant are great, the ability to quickly adjust the lights or turn on my air conditioner from the power button is hard to beat. Or, it was. Earlier this month, Google released Android 12 and completely removed the ability to add device controls to the power button. So we come back to the notification shade and a quick access tile.

Read more: Android 12 – everything you need to know

This one move breaks a key workflow that I have been using for a year. But the issue extends beyond the Android 12 redesign and is symptomatic of a larger issue for Google’s approach to basic Android functionality. A lack of consistency and the need to enforce some standardization.

power buttons on android phones from top to bottom showing multiple phones

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

While using the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 for a second opinion, even I had to do a google search for how to restart the device just because the power button doesn’t do what a power button should do. Yes, I know you can change the behavior, but as a reviewer my job is to use the stock setup because that’s what the manufacturer wants the average user to experience. A first-time Samsung user shouldn’t have to look for help, as the power button displays a half-useful search engine instead of the power commands they would expect.

Add to the power button if you need to, but don’t take away basic functionality

To be fair to South Korean society, she has long been asking for a Bixby shortcut in the power button. In fact, he never embraced the power key-activated smart home device controls to begin with. This, however, takes a closer look at my concerns about how each brand treats a basic usability feature as its own personal stronghold.

OK I understand. Maybe Google has the data it needs to know that users don’t really care about smart home controls as a shortcut. In this case, maybe we’re letting the button be exactly what it is: a power button.

Galaxy Z Flip 3 how to turn off the phone

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Remove the extra functionality if you have to, or add it if you need it, but don’t remove the basic function of what the button is supposed to be. With the two biggest names in the Android space playing fast and free with the most basic accessibility features, it’s up to Google to set guidelines that ensure smartphone vendors follow suit as well.

We’ve already seen too many variations on basic features like notification drop-downs, but we’re a far cry from the wild west days of early Android customization. Am I nitpicking? Probably. But it’s the little things that make the difference, and having a consistent conception of how a key feature like the power button works is the least you could expect from your smartphone.