Pixel 3 only has gesture navigation and it is the future of Android

Girl in a jacket

Gesture-based user interfaces, if well-executed, could be superior to traditional, button-based navigation, especially on bigger screens, where reaching down to the bottom is more cumbersome. Google seems to recognize this, as it introduced gesture-based navigation in Android 9.0 Pie as an alternative to the traditional navbar. With the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, Google has gone a step further to make it the default and only option.

That's right, on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, you can't disable the gesture navigation and return to the familiar three-button scheme. But what's far more interesting and important, however, is that this decision also reflects Google's future plans for Android as a whole. In a reply to a user question on Twitter, the official @madebygoogle account tweeted that "Pixel 3 introduces a new pattern that will represent navigation on all Android phones going forward."


What this means is that gesture-based navigation will become an integral part of Android in the future and won't be limited to Pixel devices. Of course, considering the open nature of the OS, it is unlikely that Google will make it the only option and push phone makers to use it exclusively in their proprietary Android skins. So even if you don't like gesture-based interfaces, you'll still get your traditional navigation (as long as you stay away from Pixel phones).

Having said this, many companies, such as Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi, and Huawei, have already begun developing (or released) their own takes on gesture navigation to varying degrees of success. Xiaomi's gesture UI is perhaps one of the best and it is easy and intuitive to use with either hand on both big and small screens. It is also arguably superior to Google's stock gesture navigation, as it doesn't take up any screen real estate with unneeded UI elements, whereas Google's implementation revolves around an interactive "pill" at the bottom of the screen.

Going forward, we're definitely going to see more Android phone makers offering different takes on gesture-based interfaces. We're just hoping that most Android skins will still offer the option to switch back to the traditional button-based navigation (for those who need it).

What do you make of this? Do you like this approach to controlling interfaces or would you rather tap your way through everything with the good ol' buttons? Tell us in the comments below.

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34 Comments

1. baldilocks

Posts: 1545; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

That's a LOT of wasted screen real estate. Why even do away with the buttons when it doesn't have any benefit? I think OnePlus and Samsung's new gestures have it nailed a lot better.

2. ahmadkun

Posts: 670; Member since: May 02, 2016

Yeah .. i sill don't like google's new navigation.. it doesn't go back there is a separate back key and there is still wasted small white bar .. this new navigation system should get rid of it , and I agree with you, samsung and OnePlus doing it better

7. piyath

Posts: 2445; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

Xiaomi's implementation is by far the best, it's almost as good as Apple's. I have the POCO F1 thus I know what I'm talking about.

13. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3168; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

NO, you don't know what you're talking about. If you did you'd know that the Palm Pre introduced (and perfected) the gestures back in 2009.

25. NateDiaz

Posts: 1092; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Okay, Palm had them in 2009 but why everyone started using them right after Apple implemented those gestures?

28. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3168; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

So something's only relevant if Apple uses it? That mentality, by definition, is what a sheep is. I like iPhones, I have an 8+ Red Edition myself, but they ain't the cat's meow.

31. NateDiaz

Posts: 1092; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

"So something's only relevant if Apple uses it?" No, Apple makes things relevant, isn't that the reason why other OEMs copy Apple?

33. kabhijeet.16

Posts: 894; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

Then why Apple copied dual camera from Huawei? Why Apple copied App store from Android's market place? Why Apple copied gestures which were available in Palm & Android 5yrs before it was implemented in iOS? Why Apple copied Notification center from Android? Why Apple copied Large Screens from Samsung & Huawei? So Apple copied the"relevant" stuff of other OEMs.

6. piyath

Posts: 2445; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

This is the crap you get when your beloved company shamelessly copy others and make an inferior product in the end. They always make a lot of fuzz every time about everything and come up with something horrendous. Google, you have to grow up to do grown up things like this.

11. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3168; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

And Apple is the crap you get when they try to imitate webOS and their gestures. Palm came first homeboy, deal with it.

20. nodes

Posts: 1163; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

and where is Palm/webOS now?

22. ssallen

Posts: 214; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Who cares? That doesn't change his point at all. :/

26. nodes

Posts: 1163; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

why mention something that isn't relevant anymore, if some OEM want to imitate webOS/Palm they have done it years ago, OEMs moving to gesture navigation today not because they want to imitate webOS, but because how smartphones evolved in recent years, taller screen, changes in UI, etc.

3. ahmadkun

Posts: 670; Member since: May 02, 2016

One more thing, give the option to people to choose since you bringing it for the first time, don't force 'em , don't be Apple

4. STRANG3R

Posts: 234; Member since: Sep 24, 2015

This shows. Nokia N9 was alot ahed of its time. Thanks elop for killing nokias

5. Borh77

Posts: 16; Member since: Oct 25, 2012

Hiding basic controls is a very poor idea because people have to remember how to perform each basic task. That's a cognitive burden. Many UI let the users decide and most users still use these buttons. Google is making the same mistake as Microsoft with Windows 8.

8. piyath

Posts: 2445; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

You are absolutely right. This might make Pixel users to jump the ship to Apple world probably.

21. andrewc31394

Posts: 304; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

so you're saying people are going to leave Google due to being forced to use gesture navigation and in return switch to Apple which also forces gesture navigation?

27. NateDiaz

Posts: 1092; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

They won't buy this ugly ass phone at first place lol

15. Subie

Posts: 2430; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

If there's a big enough outcry Google may bring the buttons back with an update... But consumers need to complain with their voice AND wallets.

9. WAusJackBauer

Posts: 456; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

LOL epic fail google. Options are never a bad thing.

10. Trickzter

Posts: 83; Member since: Apr 21, 2015

Google trying to be like Apple. Forcing us to use a new feature and not giving us a choice! Oh well, with the ugly design of this years Pixels, I'm not buying one anyway... I'm probably going to get the OnePlus 6T.

12. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3168; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

As an avid webOS fan, I'm all for the gestures but with a caveat - it has to be done right. I have the gestures already set up on my Moto and frankly, it doesn't work as it should. If Google is going to copy webOS, and they should, may as well use a capacitive gesture area in the chin for those with large thumbs like me. I'm actually surprised it took Android this long to adopt the gestures since Matias Duarte has been working for Google for so long now.

14. bucky

Posts: 3795; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Nice try, Google isnt aiming/copying for webOS gestures...

17. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3168; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Have you used the single button gesture? I guess that's a rhetorical question since it's obvious you haven't.

16. I_have_boxes

Posts: 74; Member since: Jun 02, 2018

Removing something and calling it an improvement? Sounds familiar. I'm not opposed to gesture navigation but not having the option to go back to buttons is bad, especially when it's just software. They should focus on letting people customize their phone.

18. xchatter

Posts: 44; Member since: Mar 25, 2013

Sad story. :(

19. japkoslav

Posts: 1552; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

Not really feature I liked on my Meizu :( On the other hand, it's Android, there is a slim chance we can't activate it or install it back anyway.

23. ssallen

Posts: 214; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

I don't get the outrage, I fully use the gestures on my Pixel 2XL since they were released. They do everything the old system did and just as well. I don't even think about them. It took maybe a week to develop the muscle memory and now its a non issue. The only way you could be outraged or hate them is if you just really dislike change.

24. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

"we believe it's a better navigation pattern & makes app switching a faster experience". Did they just trying to put their word in user mouth? That user is asking it it's possible to disable it, it's clear that he didn't think it's better and faster. They should give option for the old navigation.

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