Report: Microsoft to let OEMs use virtual buttons in Windows Phone 8.1

News that Microsoft may kill off the physical back button in its next major Windows Phone update caused a splash last week, but a new report claims the news wasn't correct.

According to a new article by The Verge, Microsoft won't actually be removing the back button in Windows Phone 8.1. Instead, the company will let its hardware partners replace the physical back, home and search buttons with virtual versions, similar to the menu bar in many Android devices, such as Google's Nexus line. The buttons would allegedly appear in a black bar at the bottom of a screen "in an effort to lower costs for device manufacturers," the article states.

The report claims the change would allow developers to dual-boot smartphones with both Android and Windows Phone, as Microsoft was rumored to be pushing HTC to do.

If the report is accurate, it would provide Microsoft's hardware partners with more options in designing their smartphones. Several OEMs have appeared to scale back Windows Phone plans in recent months, with HTC saying it is "assessing the situation" of Microsoft's agreement to purchase Nokia's smartphone division. Nokia is the clear market leader of Windows Phone hardware sales, with other hardware manufacturers lagging far behind.

Hardware partners have reportedly canceled several smartphones because of Microsoft's strict requirements, with Bloomberg reporting in December that HTC scrapped plans for a large-screen smartphone with Microsoft's mobile operating system. Though Microsoft didn't support large-screen smartphones at the time, it has since announced Update 3 for Windows Phone 8, which supports devices up to about 6 inches.

Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to launch early next year, though an exact time frame is unclear.

Source: The Verge

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