Google is fixing Android 10 gestures once and for all in 2020

(Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google is using its service agreements as leverage to force gesture conformity.
  • Tweaked 'back' gesture will include screen space allocation for swipe-in menus and Edge Panels.
  • Gestures will finally work properly with third-party home screen launchers in the near future.

Ever since vendors started cooking up their own solutions for gestural navigation a few years back, the landscape has become convoluted and confusing for users and developers alike. Google is looking to clear that up for everyone with a handful of new guidelines for smartphone vendors. These will apply to all new Android phones launched after January 1, 2020.

We've already covered how Google will be making third-party navigation more difficult to enable out-of-the-box, but there's a lot more to these new gesture requirements than Google outright banning something.

When it comes to user interface elements, there are lots of things fighting for screen real estate. Aside from navigation gestures, we've seen plenty of other swipe-inward actions appear over the years, most notably from Samsung. The Edge Panel, as debuted on the Galaxy Edge devices some years ago, appears when users swipe inward from the curved glass edge. This conflicts with Google's design of swipe-in from the side to navigate back and, thus, Google has mandated that such features only reside on the top 1/3 of the screen in the future.

This effectively fixes the issue many had with Android 10's gestural navigation, as the top 1/3 of the screen would be reserved for other actions. This includes special vendor features like the Edge Panels as well as simply pulling out the left-hand menu that many apps use. Google is also providing a way to adjust how far inward users will need to pull for the back action to happen, so there's a bit of room for customization.

Gestures have been tied to the home launcher since Android 9 Pie debuted, and switching out your home screen launcher sometimes meant that gestural navigation was disabled entirely. Google is now recommending that vendors cease this practice and is even rolling out a fix for its own Pixel line to remove this behavior in the near future. That's music to the ears of many who love custom launchers and still want additional navigation choices.

Google is also changing up the requirement for calling up Google Assistant. Since Assistant launched some years back, the typical way to call for Assistant was to hold the home button. Since there's no home "button" in a gestural navigation environment, Google wants vendors to utilize its swipe-from-the-bottom-corners design. Assistant is one of Google's most important pillars of business, so it makes sense to see this being mandated.

For vendors who still implement their own version of gestures, Google will allow alternative ways of calling up Assistant. While these have to be individually reviewed and approved by Google, this still leaves a path for vendors to use additional physical buttons or gestures to call Assistant (hello OnePlus, Xiaomi, LG, and even the Pixel line).

What does it all mean? Gestures are clearly the future in Google's view, and it wants to make sure that gestures don't mean more confusion for users and developers. Google also doesn't want to remove the possibilities that choice brings and, as such, is continuing to allow ways for vendors and users to utilize their own navigation gestures and home screen launchers as they see fit.

Android 10 gesture FAQ

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu
23 Comments
  • We'll see. I'll reserve judgement.
  • Hahahaha, oh you sweet summer child! Nothing Google do is "once and for all". They HAVE to corroborate and needlessly re-engineer everything. I think the big problem here is that Google's gesture system is still pretty bad... Probably worse than that of every other manufacturer. "and it wants to make sure that gestures don't mean more confusion for users" really? Are you sure? Because I'm fine getting a different sense.
  • I think after what's happened to Huawei and ZTE respectively these companies know and is vital to them thus they will obey the guidelines... It's about time Google puts these companies in check.
  • Fix. Their gesture system is the worst and they're going to force it on everyone else. To have continuity. For who? The reviewers who use more than one phone. Nobody else needs 'continuity' since Google is out the tablet game
  • You can opt of using gestures. It is not being forced. If they want all phone makers to utilize 10, they will keep the same options. Gestures, Back and Pill, or 3 Buttons.
  • Well, I might be the exception, but I adapted rapidly to gestures navigation and I don't see a single problem with it. Works great.
  • I use the gesture system too. I have some problems tho. Whenever I try to crop a photo it triggers the back button (I have to accurate when adjusting)
  • Amen! I have been looking to see a comment like this! I've used the gesture navigation since day one and I don't want to go back to the 3 or 2 button navigation. It makes for one handed operation to be so easy! I really don't get the fuss. Maybe because I never really used apps with hamburger menus. Sensitivity is adjustable as well, I do just fine with the default setting If they add swipe down from home screen to bring the notification tray I am set!
  • No problems here either! I love the gestures and can't use a phone without them anymore.
  • I totally agree. I absolutely love the new "Back" gesture as it lets me use the phone one handed much easier. I got used to all the changes in about two or three days. I have an old ASUS tablet that of course still uses the old gestures and I keep swiping to go Back until I remember that I have to use that old button on the bottom. Good riddance.
  • How do you know it will be soon for third party gesture support? Where was that announced?
  • Funny how BB had gesture navigation over half a decade ago and it was smooth, intuitive and worked well but people didn't or couldn't let go of virtual or physical buttons for navigation. Doing things on the phone just flowed so smoothly.
  • Indeed. BlackBerry 10's gestures were fantastic. I found my old Z30 in my electronics drawer and charged it up. Haven't used it in at least 5 years and it was as intuitive as riding a bike.
  • I'm about done with Google's Android. perpetual beta. Nothing is ever done. It's always a mess
  • Yep, totally agreed. They have absolutely no coherent and stable overhauls, they either see what sticks and then discontinue it or copy what others are doing *cough iPhone gestures cough*
  • Is it true "stock" Android still doesn't have to ability to swipe down anywhere on the screen to get to notifications or quick settings?
  • @Google: Back off with your terrible gesture system. Google's Android skin (and, NO, its NOT stock Android) is by far the worse gesture system out there... way behind Samsung and OnePlus. The *only* people who seem to want this are the small number of Pixel users who represent a tiny sliver of the Android community... and even many of those folks who buy Pixel's don't want this system. Samsung and Onplus need to start paying an OS fee to Google so they no longer get forced to install Google bloatware and get forced into the inferior UI design coming out of Google. If Google won't allow this option, then Google needs to be forced into it via antitrust proceedings like they did in the EU. Google is quickly turning into 1990s era Microsoft.
  • This is a cooked up issue that only tech blog people care about. Pure and simple. In taking the gestures are funny and people like you just love to complain
  • 0:19
    We've Already Got One
    YouTube · MrBorkmancool
    Jun 6, 2013
    Google be like they really got one. Haha
  • Gestures aren't broken. This article title is disingenuous and another example of why this site is quickly going down the tubes
  • I like the gestures. They took a hour or so to get used too but now, I wouldn't go back. The gesture bar has given me a lot of screen space on my OG XL.
  • As someone has already remarked above, if Google could manage to push their gestures to be more like the ones from BB10, that in my book would be a plus. No recent version of gestures based OS has been able to match what BB10 had. The flow, fluidity and intuitive nature of the BB10 was in my book unmatched. IOS gestures I find clunky, awkward and limited in nature. Android one, well whatever gestures Pie contains, are a bit cleaner and simpler, but still a far cry from BlackBerry 10. Hopefully Android 10 Quaaludes will be better and move the gestures forward. Hell, Google should just go ahead and buy BlackBerry...or at least stomp out TCL and take over the BlackDroid licence.
  • We already had these kind of conflicts in place before gestures. Some put the back button in a different spot than the recents app, and some had hardware buttons instead of software buttons and some others did some odd other stuff in its place. This is just the next iteration of this now that gestures have taken over.