Microsoft might be taking a cue from Google and adding the option of software navigation buttons in Windows Phone 8.1.

windows phone 8.1 on screen buttons Microsoft pulling a Google, might add on screen navigation buttons in Windows Phone 8.1

Notorious leakster @evleaks took to Twitter and posted an image of the Windows Phone 8.1 (aka Windows Phone “Blue”) home screen, showing the standard back, Windows, and search keys of the OS in software form. According to The Verge, manufacturers will have the option of either opting for the software buttons or sticking to hardware (capacitive) ones (as is the case on Android as well). This is reportedly a step towards reducing the manufacturing costs for devices, which Microsoft hopes will give manufacturers more incentive to make devices running its mobile OS, while also letting them use the same hardware for both Android and WP. 

The addition of on-screen buttons will reportedly be joined by other methods Microsoft is rumored to be employing in an attempt to court more hardware partners, such as removing all the licensing fees for the OS, axing requirements like hardware camera buttons, among others, though it remains to be seen how many of these rumors actually turn out to be true when Windows Phone 8.1 arrives in early 2014. Decisions like cancelling licensing fees might be considered odd by some – Microsoft has been critical of Google giving away Android for free, though it’s a step the company might have to eventually take if it wants to increase the adoption rate of its mobile operating system.

Windows Phone 8.1 is also expected to introduce features like a dedicated notification center, a digital virtual assistant similar to Google Now and Siri, tile grouping, and various UI improvements.