How l Learned to Love the Capacitive Buttons on My OnePlus One

OnePlus One Capacitive Buttons

If you squint just a bit you can see the capacitive buttons on my OnePlus One, when I first unboxed it last July. I never thought I’d actually be using them, as I’ve grown quite accustomed to the on-screen buttons present on every Nexus since the Galaxy. But thanks to some clever innovations on my latest custom ROM—and, unfortunately, a key shortcoming—I’m now living, and loving, the capacitive life.

The ROM in question is SlimKat, which I’ve written about before. The bad news is that I can’t completely disable the capacitive buttons even if I wanted to. I can easily turn off the backlight but if I press anywhere on the chin the corresponding button press will still register. There is a high-level workaround that would involve putting a custom script into my /system/etc/init.d folder. Sounds sketchy.

The good news is that I can do a lot more with the capacitive buttons than I would have thought!

If I’m not mistaken CM11S (the stock ROM) gives the user two options for each capacitive button—that is, different actions that can be assigned to a short or long press. Not to be outdone, SlimKat gives you three. Here’s how I’ve configured mine:

Menu Key
Single-tap – Menu
Double-tap – Custom app (Foursquare)
Long-press – Recents

Home Key
Single-tap – Home
Double-tap – Custom app (Google Now)
Long-press – Torch

Back Key
Single-tap – Back
Double-tap – Custom app (Swarm)
Long-press – Last app

With three custom apps that can be launched from each of the three buttons, I no longer have any need for the navigation bar ring targets that you get with Cyanogen and other ROMs—check this screen grab to see what I mean.

Customizations aside, the other obvious benefit to using the OPO’s capacitive buttons are that you’ll always get all of the available display, all of the time. And SlimKat’s higher PPI setting means that I can see more text per screen on web pages and such. On my Nexus 5 I found SlimKat’s default resolution too small; on the OPO it’s just about perfect.

It’s honestly like I have a brand-new phone. 4K video recording is off the table but I never used it anyway. Battery life seems at least on par with the latest stock firmware. All in all, it looks like SlimKat is my new favourite ROM… again.