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It took a while, but I've learned to love Android 10's gestures

Google Pixel 4 XL
Google Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Back in June, before Android 10 (then Android Q) was released, I was extremely miffed by Google's latest gesture navigation system. I couldn't imagine it would roll out considering how it broke a fundamental app interaction, the slide-in drawer. But several revisions later, Google made many tweaks to the gesture implementation that almost fully addressed my concerns. With those improvements, and a couple months of using Android 10 every day, I've come around. The gestures are actually really good.

After a couple months using Android 10 every day, I've come around to the gestures.

After building up sufficient muscle memory, the only real downside of the new gesture system at this point is in a few fringe cases. It's still frustrating how the back gesture overlaps with slide-in drawers, and with apps that need full-screen views with swiping interactions (like media or gallery apps).

There are still many instances in which I can't get the angle-in swipe just right to access a side drawer, and end up getting the back gesture instead. No matter how much time I spend with Android 10, I don't think I'll ever be 100% on that, and that's frustrating. And the system of swipes you need to be aware of in an app like Google Photos that has swiping within the app, and also a full-screen mode, but makes use of the back gesture, is annoying to deal with. These are issues you don't have to deal with when you have a regular old button to press, or even a bottom-only navigation system like so many companies have implemented.

Even with back gesture issues, this navigation system is still a big improvement.

But even with those frustrations, the Android 10 gestures are easily the best system Google's put together, and there are tons of upsides to using this system over an older bottom bar-based navigation (be it buttons or swipes). Being able to use the back gesture with either hand, anywhere either side of the phone, is a huge ergonomic advantage for something you do hundreds of times a day. And not having to reach to the bottom of the phone to quickly flick back in an app is helpful, particularly as phones just keep getting larger.

You have to separate your frustration with learning something new from the core values of gestures.

You'll also notice that my only complaints have to do with the back gesture — I actually really like the home, multitasking and Assistant gestures. The use of a single continuous swipe up for home, app drawer and multitasking is far more fluid now than in Google's previous attempts. And left/right swiping along the bottom edge for one-by-one app switching is slick and easy to use 100% of the time, unlike Android 9 Pie's finicky implementation. The corner-in swipe for Assistant is also available from both edges, like the back gesture, making it easier to get to while never being activated accidentally.

Change is hard. And changing muscle memory for these core functions of how we use our phone is even harder — this isn't like figuring out a new interface for just one app. But once you make a full attempt to use the gestures, and separate your frustration with the fact that it's different from the tenets of what the gesture system has to offer, you may come around just like I did.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

25 Comments
  • After using gestures since the beta builds, I have moved back to 3 button navigation as it's the best implementation without any issues.
  • I totally agree. It's hard now to use my work's Galaxy A8 (2008) as I am so into Pixel gestures right now 😂 So I try the same on every non Pixel phone 🙈
  • is it just me, or is swiping up to go home on the pixel xl an act of TOTAL frustration because it doesnt work? Anyway, the mid tier (back and home button) would have been very nice of Larry to leave untouched
  • I think it's just you
  • I started using the Android 10 Gestures for a couple weeks then wanted to switch back to the 2 button navigation. I then went back to the Gestures because the swipe to back up caught on and I prefer it now. When I use another Android Device the doesn't have the Gestures, it drives me insane that I cannot just swipe from either side of the screen to go back.
  • I've been using them on the Android 10 beta for the S10, but not exclusively. When I go back to three button nav I'm already conditioned to swipe to go back. I'm rather enjoying the gestures.
  • Took me about a day to get used to the Android 10 gestures on my Pixel 2, so when my P4 arrived, it was business as usual. I had also become used to the Pie gestures, although I find the A10 system better. Maybe I don't use the same mix of apps, but I haven't found many conflicts between the back and slide-in gestures.
  • Love it but can't stand pixel launcher, so have to wait for pixel 3 update allowing gesture with third party launchers, it's starting to feel a bit long...
  • It's ******* ridiculous they still don't work with 3rd party launchers...
  • They work with Lawnchair launcher...
  • Not on Pixel 3a, they don't. In fact, if you set Lawnchair as your default home launcher, you can't select gesture navigation. You get a message, "Not supported by your default home app, Lawnchair."
  • I've been using Samsung's gestures since they rolled them out. They give you benefits of the familiar 3-button nav scheme without taking up the screen real estate needed for the actual buttons to be there. I'm going to have a hard time switching once the Note 10 moves to Android 10 :(
  • Totally agree. Those along with the One Hand Operation + app from Samsung make for a superb combo.
  • I've always loved them. Not being able to swipe in from the right to go back on my iPad like I do on my Pixel 3 XL is really annoying!
  • To be understood. You're mixing ecosystems. I love using the infotainment on my Ford with Sync 3, but when I get in my Mom's Buick and try to use that infotainment system, it's not familiar and I fumble around with it. It's just different... not necessarily less functional.
  • I can't decide if I love or hate the new gestures. On my pixel 2 xl I routinely switch between classic 3 button navigation, 2 button and swipe gestures. Almost daily.
  • I absolutely love Android 10 gestures.i started using them with Pie and wouldn't live without them today. Sure apps with a side menu are more "work" but not much. We should have the option to swipe from only one side to go back, the right, and the other side would only work for those menus. Sucks for people who use their phones with the left hand only but hey, I'm left handed and I use it with my right hand.
  • Not using it on a Pixel, using it on a OnePlus 7T. Have had this phone just under two weeks. I didn't think I would use the gestures and wasn't even planing on trying them. But it was something new so figured I would check them out. Within a couple hours I was in love with them and could care less now about the 3 button menu. I also don't have problem in apps woth side draws, as far as I can tell with the ones I use you don't have to swipe from the edge like with the back gesture. So they both work with no issuses. I'm sure there are some that will give you problems but I haven't found them.
  • I still prefer Motorola's.
  • I love them too but for the last month I've been having freezing issues!
  • Been using the gestures on my Pixel 2 since they became available, I don't think I can go back to using the buttons anymore, and I try this on every phone, even my wife's 3A, I haven't gotten her to convert over........
  • I can't stand the back gesture. I cannot easily open the hamburger menu and if my keyboard is up then it thinks I'm swiping. It breaks my full screen games. It is unusable for me. I wish I could have the Android 9 pill gestures back
  • I'm now familiar with Android 10 gestures from having pure Android for quite a while. I like the gestures MUCH MUCH better than the 3 "button" system. I keep hearing about how iPhone's gestures are better. So I tried it out on some demo phones at the Apple store. They're DIFFERENT, but I wouldn't say better.
  • I still switch back between total gesture nav and the two button option, but I see where you're coming from. I just haven't fully committed yet because of the times when the gestures aren't as quick, especially when you're in a video player.
  • I tried using them but after using OnePlus's gestures on my OnePlus 7 pro, I can't use Google's clunky gesture nav. I love OnePlus's total lack of UI and it's way more simple to use, swipe up from the middle for home and recent apps and swipe up from either side for back. Hold power button for a second for assistant. No confusion with the drawer and back gesture. It's going to suck when I get my next phone and have to learn a different gesture nav or when Google eneviably changes it again in the next OS version.