Skip to main content

Google explains the rationale behind Android Q's new gesture navigation

(Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has explained the reasons why it decided to switch to a fully gesture-based navigation method with Android Q in a new blog post.
  • In its qualitative studies, Google found most users did not want to go back to 3-button navigation after a break-in period of 1-3 days.
  • Users will still have the option of using the three-button navigation bar if they do not like the Android Q gestures.

Google released Android Q Beta 6 earlier this week, bringing further improvements to gesture navigation. Many users, including our very own Joe Maring, have so far not been very impressed with Android Q's gesture-based navigation method. The company has now responded to the whole controversy over the gesture navigation in a new post on the Android Developers Blog.

The biggest problem with the new navigation method is the Back gesture, which requires a user to swipe from the left or right edge of the display. While the gesture itself feels intuitive, it breaks the hamburger menu on most apps. Defending the Android Q gesture model, Google says only a small number of users swipe to open the app navigation drawer. The back button, according to Google, is used 50% more than even the Home button. Which is why, the company's developers decided to prioritize an intuitive back gesture over other less frequent navigation.

Both the Back and Home gestures on Android Q were designed to coincide with the most reachable areas of the screen for most people. The Android Q model, Google found, allows users to perform tasks that involved Home and Back faster than other models, including the classic 3-button navigation bar. However, Google admits that the Android Q model comes "at the cost of being able to quickly access Overview/Recent apps" and most users still consider buttons to be more ergonomic overall.

In order to standardize gesture navigation on all devices running Android Q, Google worked closely with several popular Android OEMs such as Samsung, Xiaomi, HMD Global, OPPO, OnePlus, Motorola, and LG. While gestures will be the default navigation method on Android Q, users will still find the option of continuing to use the three-button navigation bar, even on future Android devices.

Babu Mohan
Babu Mohan
  • I was hooked on gestures after bb10 and hated to have to go back to android when I did. Thus far, android still hasn't got it like bb10 on P anyway, butbits better
  • Gestures on BB10 were great! Googles reason for switching to a fully gesture based navigation is pure bs.
  • I still think BB10 had the best geture system. Just imagine if it had gotten more time to mature...
  • Agreed. BB10 had gestures locked down. I wish they open sourced the OS and offered it it to the public to further develop and thrive.
  • Looking forward to the day Android catches up to BB10 in terms of user experience.
  • So much BS to say "Apple did it, we just wanted to do what we always do and copy them".
  • ^ This! Exactly that's the only reason why they did it. Just like how they want to go strictly with Face Unlock as their biometric authentication method with the upcoming Pixel 4 just like how Apple did it with their iPhone X phones
  • I'm just glad that the nav bar will remain as an option. Of course I'll give the full gesture based nav a serious try. I dont want to be a dinosaur.
  • The reason is definitely "we want switching from an iPhone to be easier"
  • So true! To make the switch easier. Makes sense when you go head to head.
  • Glad they are giving the option to continue to use 3 buttons. Regardless of what they say it is pretty obvious it was because of Apple just like the removal of the headphone jack and the removal of the fingerprint sensor in the Pixel 4. The faster more ergonomic thing simply isn't true if you compare the two methods without bias toward one. They are just different. I would switch to gestures if/when it completely removed the bottom navigation bar. If gestures require basically the same screen real estate as buttons then I am not interested.
  • It has more real estate.
  • Apple has also copied android in so many ways too!
  • Yes Apple has in festures. Android OS has been redesigned how many times to be more like iOS? I ve counted 3 times. How many times has iOS been redesigned to be more like Andoid? Zero times.
  • I believe something like OnePlus (preferred) or Samsung methods would be superior to cloning iOS. I can't navigate my wife's Xr without wanting to throw it because it isn't natural to my fingers. I'm super bummed that OP seems to be latching on to Google's method without keeping their current method as an option, at least so far in the betas. How can you really be sure people prefer it over another method if it's the only option you give them?
  • Their explanation re hamburger menu was very week, I still don't see why they couldn't just make it swipe from the right only rather than right or left and destroying the menu in the process.
  • I have to agree with them (Google) on this, the usefulness of gestures. I found the peek and flow of BB10 to be way more efficient and faster, for me anyways, compared to what IOS and Android had to offer. Personally I'm looking forward to see what the gestures will look and be like on Android Q. I've already gotten used to the current iteration of gestures on Pie. I haven't been back to the three button navigation setting. Besides, as long as Google will keep the three and two button navigation as options on Q, then it shouldn't be a problem. Options are always good. PS Glad to hear that they cooperated with HMD Global on this.
  • I've been using gestures for a few weeks after a previous false start. I'm on an OG Pixel and some of the animation is less than smooth, but I do really enjoy the back gestures. One-handed, the back button was never easy to reach. Biggest adjustment is making sure I scroll and swipe with my finger/thumb closer to the center of the screen so that I don't inadvertently activate the gestures.
  • Gestures are better, huh? On my pixel 3, instead of a button to see the app drawer, I now have to swipe up twice. How is that more efficient? And on a similar note, it's really annoying not having app groups in the app drawer. I don't want them on my home screens because I don't use the apps much, but many apps would be 100x easier to find if it was in a group and at the top of the list.