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Microsoft Could Kill Hardware Buttons in Windows Phone 8.1

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Devices running Windows Phone 8.1 could come without the platform’s signature capacitive buttons in the future.

Allegedly, Microsoft is considering removing the back, Start and search keys from the hardware specifications that it requires its Windows Phone partners to adhere to when creating new devices. Right now, The Verge’s sources are only confirming that Microsoft is simply experimenting with removing the buttons.

Instead of having three capacitive buttons at the bottom of each Windows Phone 8.1 device, the operating system would simply render the buttons on-screen like Google’s Android. As all of Windows Phone’s applications are designed around the back button, users would need to rely on these on-screen buttons to continue using applications made for older version of Windows Phone.

Lumia 920 Hands On

The capacitive back, Start and search buttons on the Nokia Lumia 920.

As for the reasons for the switch, this source believes that Microsoft is making the cuts to allow hardware manufacturers to experiment with different device configurations and lower price points. It wouldn’t be the first time that the company modified the Windows Phone chassis spec to accommodate OEMs. Had the company not modified its initial hardware requirements, devices like the Lumia 520 wouldn’t have been allowed to reach users. That’s because all Windows Phone devices were required to have a rear-facing camera with flash early on. The Lumia 520 is now the most used Windows Phone on the planet.

Since creating the original specifications for hardware partners Microsoft has already dropped the requirement for Windows Phones to include a gyroscope, compass, camera sensor, camera flash and a camera button.

Reportedly, Microsoft is trying to lower the cost of producing Windows Phone to attract more hardware partners to the Windows Phone ecosystem. Rumors of Microsoft making changes to Windows Phone’s required chassis spec do mesh with reports that Microsoft approached HTC about allowing users to dual-boot their phones between Android and Windows Phone.

Read: Is Microsoft Finally Allow HTC to Build Dual-Booting Phones with Windows & Android?

Users will have to wait for a bit to find out of Microsoft will go through with this alleged plan to remove the three default Windows Phone buttons from Windows Phone 8.1’s hardware requirements. Microsoft isn’t expected to detail the operating system until early 2014.

Travis Pope is a Reporter-at-large for GottaBeMobile. He's currently enjoying a romp in the dangerous quicksand that is Microsoft's Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox ecosystem.

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