Swap navigation buttons - software subscription model

I would very much like to swap the navigation buttons on my new Fairphone 4!

From a previous post, with the very same wish/question, it was said that it is NOT an option one the Fairphone4.

So I contemplated to learn how to compile the OS, and then program the functionality my self.
But that seems to be quite a task!

Then I contemplated crowdsourcing some money, in order to possibly persuade Fairphon developers to add the “swap navigation buttons” option to the OS.

But for now, I am trying out an app, that allows one to swap the navigation buttons.
This app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=nu.nav.bar
" Navigation Bar for Android" by Wormhole Space

But I would still much rather prefer it to be an option in settings.

So, has anyone heard about options of how to assist the development of functions/setting in the Fairphone OS?

Is there a subscription option for supporting software development within Fairphone?

I love the user-replaceable hardware concept that Fairphone lives by.
But to me, the software also needs be functional. And with a minimum of standard options.

What do you think?

Would you support a software improvement subscription model?
So we are even more sure that Fairphone has the resources to keep their many-year-long-promise of supporting new versions of Android.

If by ‘swap’ you mean ‘have the back button on the right’ I think there are custom ROMs with that featute already. If I remember correctly, I’ve used a version of Lineage OS that had that setting. I haven’t cross-chcked that with the current version for the FP4 though.
Also Fairphone already cooperates with multiple custom ROMs. (See /e/is via Murena for example.)

Welcome to the forum.

I have a feeling that it might be easier to learn the current button layout - or gesture navigation for that matter - than learning how to build your own Android just for this purpose. Maybe you can elaborate on why this is so important to you. I have also used other layouts before and it’s irritating for a while, but you’ll get used to it.

Also, as far as I know, the navigation buttons are at best treated as “legacy” by Google these days. The preferred way (by Google, anyway) of navigating is with gestures since some versions already. So at some point the button option might be completely removed from new releases. The whole idea of button navigation comes from a time when the early Android phones still had actual physical buttons, after all.
While it’s yet another change to get used to, one advantage is that the layout really doesn’t matter any more and you’ll also get some more valuable screen space where the buttons used to be. I also find it unlikely that those gestures will really change much in the future - in contrast to the button layout.
Gesture navigation is also configurable to some degree.

Thank you for the good reply.

I need visual buttons. My brain does not work well with invisible “buttons” like gestures.

The day navigation buttons are no longer available, I will need to switch to one of those “old folks” phones, with very limited settings/options - and enlarged buttons.
That day will be one more of a significant loss of ability, self-reliance and freedom in my life.
There are SO many abilities (and options) I (because of health challenges) that I do no longer have. Life-abilities and life-options that are lost for good.

With the back button on the right, it becomes much easier for me to use my phone in some circumstances.

One of the main reasons I bought a Fairphone is because I hope to not have to change things too often.
It typically takes me at least one year, to get used to a new phone. And the older I get, the harder it becomes for me to re-learn things, just because interfaces are updated/changed.

My current phone is 5 years old, and still in perfect working order. However, my banking apps are starting to tell me that my version of Android is too old, and they will no longer open (or not even install) so I am down to my last mobile-phone bank app still working. And thus it was time to get a new phone.

Where I live, every manner of communication with government, (and local municipality, and my apartment administration) is digital these days.
Everywhere that I need to login, is these days linked to a government wide ID-app on my phone.

So I have a great need for my phone to function. And very preferable, function in a manner where I get visual clues of my options.

When I worked, I made computers function, and sometimes had to do programming to get easy or tailored functionality - and that part of my brain still functions fairly well.

But every time I need to learn a new physical thing, or how to respond to an upgraded interface (where I have developed muscle memory), it is quite a bit of a challenge.

So these are the main reasons why I would like to have the “back button” on the right of my screen.

And one of the reasons that I am contemplating the concept of subscribing to software updates, for existing (old) phones.
It seems to me, to be very wrong, that in order to make a living, our society needs to rely on a system where discarding (relatively new hardware) is the only way to keep the wheels turning, and for a willingness of money to exchange hands.

As see it, the next natural step, for a hardware concept like the Fairphone, is to establish an option where people can choose to donate, to subscribe to software improvements/updates.


Thanks for your very thorough explanation! I can certainly see your point now!
In that case your best bet is probably to look for an alternative ROM that has those features. One challenge arising from that is that not all (banking and similar) apps are happy with such a non-google system.

Additionally, it won’t hurt to contactsupport and state your case. If they can see it from your perspective and it’s easy enough to implement, they might just do it! :crossed_fingers:

1 Like

Does this mean you haven’t purchased the Fairphone yet?

I have verified that this swapping the buttons is(/was) possible on a Xiaomi MI 5 with lineage os via the system settings. So it should be possible on a Fairphone as well. Note that /e/os is derived from Lineage OS, so there’s a good chance that they still maintain that functionality. And Murena actually sells /e/os pre-installed. So that might be worth looking into.

On the other hand banking apps and government IDs might have issues with custom ROMs. So be careful about that.

Have you checked whether they support alternatives such as YubiKeys for authentication? That’s basically a security device that looks like a USB stick and can authenticate you when you touch it. That could allow you to do government stuff via any PC’s Browser instead. I once again would need to know which government we’re dealing with here, but I can tell you that the Austrian government does support certain certified security keys as alternatives to their ‘ID Austria’ App.

Hi AndreasChris,
thank you for investigating options with custom ROMs.

I will do some additional research on custom ROM options.

I have already bought a Fairphone4, and I am hoping that it can soon become my daily go-to-phone.

But I will definitely also take a look the Xiaomi MI 5, to see what it can do, in case a friend asks for phone buying advice.

If I can however come up with durable solutions for my needs from my new Fairphone4, where I REALLY like the longevity aspect, I am very likely to also recommend it as a good option to my friends.

I live in Denmark, and there IS a hardware key option for the government/banking ID scheme. And the hardware key is even free to order.

This will however give me one more device to have to carry around (and keep safe)
and from my understanding, it lowers the security level some.

One aspect of login-security is a hardware device.
A hardware device that one must have acces to/have in ones possession, in order to login.

For the separate key to work, one simply need to have it in ones possession. So if it was lost or stolen, anyone could use it.

One other aspect of the ID login is also “a secret”, something one needs to type in, in addition to using a hardware device. But this piece of information is fully visible on the screen where it is typed in, so it is somewhat easy to uncover, in someone wanted to (socially) hack me.

For a phone to function as the device, in the ID security scheme, one also needs to be able to open the phone, before it will reveal the code (or similar), that having a physical device in the security scheme ensures.

So I prefer to have an app, on a phone that requires to be opened by pin, fingerprint or pattern. As part of the security scheme of a safe ID login.

Recently, one more layer was added to the ID app. The use of the camera to read changing QR-codes was added, so now the phone needs to be close to the PC screen, if I use a PC in order to login.
This is a layer that is missing from the only Hardware Key option, that the government/banking ID system offers.

So though a Hardware Key device option IS available, then it is (in my opinion) preferable to use the available ID app.

1 Like

Hi mde,
thank you for the good advice, to contact support.

Once the debate has happened here, I am very likely to send a message to support, with my request, suggestions and/or arguments.

I just thought that I would start with getting some community feedback first.
And I am very appreciative of the feedback I have gotten so far, it has been very helpful.


Please don’t misunderstand my above statement. I didn’t mean to recommend you buy a Xiaomi MI 5. I just had access to a phone of that model with lineage os installed earlier today to verify that the setting exists. The available settings should be mostly the same across devices with Lineage OS installed. It’s definitely better to stick with the Fairphone. :slight_smile:

Lineage OS is available for the Fairphone 4. Just make sure to look into whether unlocking the bootloader and installing a custom ROM will interfere with the security policies of your banking and government apps.

Yubikeys actually support requiring a pin for their FIDO2 functionality as well. So if stolen they cannot simply be used by anyone once that PIN has been set. There’s even one with a fingerprint sensor, but that one is not sufficiently certified for the use with the Austrian government ID. As for the hardware token offered by your government I’m not sure which functions it provides as I haven’t looked into it yet.

1 Like

I haven’t read all replies in detail but I once tried to compile a custom ROM (Lineage in this case) myself because I wanted to try out something non-standard and I think nobody so far talked about computing requirements.

Back then my PC only had 8 GB of RAM and it just wasn’t able to perform the build step. I don’t know where the exact limit is, meanwhile my new PC with 32 GB RAM was able to build it. Maybe 16 GB is fine?!

Also you’ll need to have a few hundred GB of free disk space on an SSD.

And for me, downloading all the source code with a 100 MBit/s connection (yeah, anyone outside Germany should do better…) took around 5 hours.
And then the first build on a i7-9700F eight-core CPU also took around 5 hours IIRC. Subsequent builds (I assume you’ll need some before the process succeeds/your image actually works) will be faster.

Just so you get an idea about the computing resources you need to have.