How to Enable Soft Keys (Navigation Bar) on any Android Phone (4.0+)

If you don’t know what soft keys are, take a look at the picture below. Soft Keys were introduced in android with the first Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) device, the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy Nexus did not feature any hardware buttons below the screen. It had only three hardware buttons viz. power and the volume rocker buttons. Even though the soft keys were introduced about three years back, most of the current devices running on Android 4.0 and above, come with hardware buttons and soft keys are disabled on them by default. But the soft keys or the navigation bar can be enabled easily by following the below steps.

Soft Keys

Before proceeding, you must know that following this procedure may render your phone inoperable (bricked state). This happens very rarely. Neither we nor the developer will be held responsible for any damage caused to your device in any case.

How to Enable Soft Keys:

Section 1: Pre-requisites

  • You need to have root access on your device.
  • Install Root Explorer or ES File Explorer or any file manager with which you can access the system partition. Below steps are given for Root Explorer.
  • Make sure your device is at least 70% charged to avoid complications during the process.

Section 2: Procedure

  • Open your preferred file manager and mount the system partition as read-write in stead of read only. Grant superuser access when it prompts.
  • Go to the system folder present in the root of file system. i.e the path- /system

root explorer

  • Now open the file  “build.prop” in any Text Editor. For Root Explorer users, long click on “build.prop” file and tap on “Open with Text Editor”. (Before editing this file, for a safety, copy this file to the external memory card and save as a backup.)

build.prop

  • Now add the following line to this file at the end:
qemu.hw.mainkeys=0
  • Save and Exit.
  • Now reboot your device.
  • Voila! You now have soft keys on your device!

If soft keys are still not enabled, please check if you have typed in the exact line as above. There are some apps which do this for you with a single click. But these apps may cause boot loops. Happy Androiding!

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