With the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Google dumped the capacitive buttons in favor of on-screen navigation buttons. This move allowed Google to completely dump the “menu” button, but still maintain backward compatibility with older apps since the navigation bar would automatically show a menu button when running older apps.
The navigation bar would automatically hide itself while playing back videos thus freeing up extra real-estate for a better video watching experience. On the flip side, the navigation bar always occupied precious space on the screen. The Galaxy Nexus effectively had a 4.35-inch screen, instead of the measured 4.65-inch, because the 0.30-inches were always occupied by the navigation bar. The Nexus 4 is no exception to this rule. While Motorola and Sony have switched to on-screen navigation buttons for most of their handsets, HTC and Samsung are still sticking to capacitive navigation keys. This allows them to bundle bigger screens on their devices in a size that is similar or marginally bigger than a device with on-screen navigation buttons.
Many custom ROMs nowadays come with the ability to completely disable the navigation bar, thus allowing users to enjoy the full real-screen estate of their device. These custom ROMs usually offer another way of accessing the navigation bar so that users can still swiftly navigate through the UI.
However, if you want to disable the navigation bar on your Android device, but don’t want to flash a custom ROM, don’t worry! There are quite a few apps available that can disable the navigation bar without requiring the user to flash a custom ROM. These apps do require root access though. While it may not be sensible enough to disable the navigation bar completely, it does make great sense on tablets especially when watching videos.
How To Disable The Navigation Bar On Your Android Device
Before you proceed further, please keep in mind that you must have root access on your Android device.
Step 1: Head over to this XDA thread to download and install the DoubleX APK. Download this APK if your Android device is running Android 4.1 or Android 4.2. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich running device users need to download this APK.
Step 2: Find and start the “FullScreen Toggle” app from the App Drawer. To disable or hide the navigation bar on your Android device, simply select the “Disable nav bar, full screen” option. Allow root access to the app when the Superuser or SuperSu root prompt comes up.
Step 3: You now need to restart your Android device. The app does not work in real-time and requires you to restart your device to enable or disable the navigation bar. Only custom ROMs allow you to toggle the navigation bar in real-time, which makes them really useful.
Do not disable the navigation bar on your Android device without using apps like LMT Launcher or GMD Gesture control. Otherwise, you will be unable to navigate through your Android device properly.
If you want to resize the navigation bar to make it smaller or bigger, or want to have more control over it, you will need to flash a custom ROM like AOKP or ParanoidAndroid.