Apr
29
2014

Add physical, customisable buttons to your Android phone with this sticker!

Touchscreen phones are all the rage these days; and while they may do the job of giving you greater interaction with the phone; and haptic feedback is helping to bring back the feeling you get of actually "pressing" buttons etc. – sometimes there's just no substitute for real, physical buttons. As well as always knowing where they are – because they can't be moved or replaced by something else like on a screen – physical buttons often provide short-cuts to the parts of a phone you want to use, letting you get to them in one press even when trying to do the same through the phone itself would take multiple touches, gestures or flicking through different screens.

Dimple on the bank of a Nexus phone; and a simulation of the app.
Image Credit: Dimple.io

Most Android phones lack any kind of physical button – even a Home button like on the iPhone – choosing to utilise virtual ones instead. If you found yourself nodding in the last paragraph and wishing you could add some physical buttons to your Android phone, let me introduce you to Dimple. As described on their website dimple.io, Dimple is "a small NFC™ sticker with four buttons for Android™ devices. You are the one who chooses the button functionality. It makes doing everyday tasks quicker and saves your precious time."

The actual Dimple hardware is a small, rubberised strip with four depressable buttons, which you can stick on an Android smartphone wherever you like – it uses an adhesive that makes it both easy to stick and to remove, though the owners point out repeated removal and reapplication may reduce the device's lifespan. Pairing it with its dedicated Android app turns each of the buttons into physical keys for the phone; and the app also allows you to set exactly what each key does. Using the magic of NFC, it literally just sticks to almost anywhere on your Android smartphone or tablet without the need for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or even its own battery. Each of the four buttons have their own unique NFC ID so that the Dimple's accompanying app and the Android OS can tell them apart when they're pressed. Dimple claims each button can withstand about 2 million clicks, and you can reassign the functionality of around 100,000 times before the button memory wears out.

Unfortunately, not every Android phone will be able to use Dimple. Dimple's reliance on NFC means you will need an Android phone that supports NFC – or to add it through an NFC-enabled case – to use the device. The app also requires Android 4.0 to run, so older phones or cheaper Android models running outdated Android builds are sadly left out of the lurch. Luckily, most brand-name Android Phones released over the past two years should meet both needs. Dimple may also not work correctly if your phone has a metal exterior or uses a metal case, as this may cause interference from the antenna, which means phones such as the HTC One are sadly also out.

If you're already sold on the idea – and your phone meets all the requirements – you might be dismayed to hear that the Dimple is not available for purchase just yet. To fund the full production launch of the device, the creators will be turning to Indiegogo, launching a crowdfunding campaign on May 6th. Assuming it's successful however, Dimple intends to start shipping the final product within 60 days of the campaign finishing – putting its release around August 2014 for early backers, retail will probably be a little longer away. As for price? The earliest backers will be able to get their hands on the first production run batch of Dimples for just US$15, rising to US$26.99 the later your pledge. The final retail price is currently planned at US$28.99 – which equates in current rates to just a shade over £17 in UK money, or €21 for the rest of Europe.

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