Here's why Google added gesture navigation in Android Q (not because everyone else has it)


With the last Android Q beta release before the official build gets shipped to manufacturers, Google wanted to clarify why it added swiping to tapping in order to move around the interface on a system level with a complete "Gesture Navigation: A Backstory" post. No, it's not because everyone else already has gestures.

Apple's non-customizable but fluid and simple gestures on its notch-y iPhones take the iOS cake, while Huawei's rich set employs an innovative side-sliding one that replaces the back key as the one that forces you to stretch down most often.

Samsung is a bit handicapped when it comes to navigation gestures, as the sides of its curved OLED displays are doing their People Edge or other duties, so busting a move from there is a toughie. It already has a pull-down and swipe-up gestures on an empty screen area to bring the notification shade from the clouds or open the app drawer, therefore the only side left for a new navigation party, is the very bottom. You can, however, download its app that adds side gestures and much more. 

Samsung's Good Lock app that lets you sideload features and options to the interface now allows you to enrich the Galaxy S10 or Note 10 gesture systems. Dubbed One Hand Operation +, the plugin can assign side-swiping gestures to do a variety of things, including to serve as your back key, too. All in all, that makes the top-tier phone makers all on board the gesture train now.

Google, of course, didn't point this as the main reason it caught up, or that gestures have already been proven incommensurately more comfortable and ergonomic to perform than stretch all the way down on a 6"+ phone to hit a small triangle or arrow at the bottom of the phone. It's because... wait for it... they make the screen larger:


That's not all there is to it, of course, as, Google being Google, they ran the numbers and are supplying the tests behind the choice for adding gesture navigation to the usual three-button strip option at the bottom. Ultimately, they concluded that "gestures can be a faster, more natural and ergonomic way to navigate your phone," and, "gestures are more intentional than software buttons that you might trigger just by grabbing your phone." Sherlock level deductions right there.

We kid, as Google posted the following charts and graphs to illustrate why gestures are a better idea than virtual or physical buttons. First off, here is the heatmap that shows the reachability of left and right thumbs when you are holding your big-screen phones with one hand.


As you can see, not much wiggle room here, and we can't fathom why it took manufacturers years to figure out that the decade-old navigation buttons - on or off screen - system, had reached beyond its shelf life as soon as phones went beyond four or five inch screen diagonals. Better late than never, though, and Google has the charts to prove why it went with the gestures it went with - because multiple tests showed that's what users prefer, leaving the smallest subset of them uncomfortable with the change, as should be the case with any drastic measure.


Another fascinating tidbit is the research on wrong swipes or the break-in period of users adjusting to the new way of doing things around Android, and here's the final conclusion that Google reached:


We can't say if Google was wise to put so much energy in this kind of research, seeing as Chinese phone makers and most others, have already implemented them beforehand and they have proved popular in the wild but in the end we are glad that gestures won the day on a system level. Are you?

Will you set Google's new Android gesture navigation as default?

Yes, bottom navigation and one-handed usage don't mix well indeed
48.15%
I'll give it a try to see if gestures work out for me
40.56%
I prefer the old on- or off-screen button ways
11.3%

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15 Comments

1. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Apple’s gesture is the best. Simple and fluid.

3. TBomb

Posts: 1668; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Next article people will be saying that Apple's gestures and Android's gestures are the same and copycat this, copycat that. So, is it better or the same? I'll let you, as the resident Apple expert, choose for everyone on your "team".

9. cmdacos

Posts: 4331; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Reaching to the top of the screen for anything is an instant fail.

17. Eric7779

Posts: 19; Member since: Feb 13, 2019

You can use the app "reachability cursor". I have no problem reaching the whole screen with one hand on the Pixel 3XL.

2. DFranch

Posts: 558; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

I've been using Oneplus's gestures, I'll try google's to see which is better. Assuming Oneplus has 2 gesture options enabled.

4. ECPirate37

Posts: 347; Member since: Jul 14, 2011

I really like the gesture controls on my Mate 20 Pro. My wife went with the buttons when she first got it, but she switched to gestured now as well. They work very well once you get used to it.

5. CalvinWx

Posts: 1; Member since: Aug 09, 2019

I can't believe that no one mentioned the BlackBerry gesture system, it's was better than anyone, but of everybody was so fascinating with the Apple trash, so BlackBerry dies and now everyone else is telling the users that they innovate the world with they gesture system

6. ECPirate37

Posts: 347; Member since: Jul 14, 2011

I didn't know Blackberry had one. I've used Android and iPhone but never got into Blackberry. What was their gestures like?

10. yalokiy

Posts: 1113; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Something like palm had in their WebOS and Nokia in their maemo.

7. oldskool50 unregistered

The new 3 button navi Samsung has on the Note 9 I tried it for a week or so to try to get use to it. I hate it to say the least. I rather have the navi buttons. They are there when I need them and disappear when I don't Apple gestures yes are clean and fluid, but on my iPad it's too easy to activate gestures you don't want. I rather just have the swipe and the hoke button instead. The main issue with a gesture driven UI, is trying to remember all of them. Samsung changes them with every model, so by the time I do start to get use to doing it one way, they change it again on the next model. So I rather just have the 3 buttons and will use them as long as they are unavailable.

8. Eric7779

Posts: 19; Member since: Feb 13, 2019

I have been using LMT pie instead of navigation buttons since Nexus 5 and it was indeed to have more screen estate.

11. WieXXX

Posts: 25; Member since: Feb 03, 2019

First problem with Android “gestural navigation” is the back gesture. There is no back button to hide keyboard. On iOS, keyboard is a part of application UI so the back gesture on iOS does not cause trouble on the keyboard because user can use swipe to back without messing the keyboard, while on Android, keyboard is a separate app that appear on top of application UI and the back button is needed to hide the keyboard. The second problem is that Android landscape orientation is different than iOS counterpart. On iOS whatever the orientation, when user press home or close an application, the animation will always be the same, it gives a good user experience, while on Android, if an app is on landscape mode the user click home, notice that the animation is different, The animation is a rotation animation. While that animation okay if user press the home button, it will be a terrible experience if user use swipe instead. It is what I see from my side of course. I have use both OS so I can give this conclusion

12. yalokiy

Posts: 1113; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Back gesture to hide keyboard works fine on OnePlus phones.

16. WieXXX

Posts: 25; Member since: Feb 03, 2019

yes, that because it is implemented differently(or correctly) by Oneplus

18. DrakenFX

Posts: 19; Member since: Feb 05, 2016

Totally concur with you, OnePlus Nav. Gesture implementation is the correct and perfect way for gestures.

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