Google's awful gestures are ruining Android Q

Within the next month or so, we're anticipating Android Q to receive a proper name and be launched out in the wild in its final form.

Like most people, I'm really looking forward to its release. Google's system-wide dark mode looks fantastic and has been a long time coming, the new theming options buried in the beta's developer settings bode well for the future of customization on Android, and the improved handling of app permissions is a great step forward for user privacy.

Among all of the good, however, I'm worried that Google's gesture navigation could put a damper on the entire Q experience and make using it as a daily driver a pain in the butt.

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Google's first attempt at bringing gesture-based navigation to Android was seen in Pie, featuring the two-button system that tried combining gestures and buttons into one awkward mess. Likely following a lot of user feedback and seeing what companies like OnePlus, Huawei, and Samsung were doing, Google used Q to introduce its take on fully gestural navigation.

In a lot of ways, Q's navigation is better than Pie's.

In a lot of ways, Q's gestures are a huge improvement over what's currently offered with Pie. Swiping up to go home feels natural, accessing your multitasking page is identical to how you do it on an iPhone X, and it no longer takes two swipes up on the home screen to access the app drawer. That's all great, but there are a few areas in which it all breaks down.

With the back button now gone, Google's moved the functionality to a swipe from the left or right edge of your screen. The gesture itself works well, but as you might expect, this essentially breaks any app that has a slide-out hamburger menu.

Andrew shared his take on this last month, but that was before Google launched its solution for repairing the broken functionality — peek behavior.

Available starting with Android Q Beta 5, peek behavior aims to bring back the functionality of slide-in drawers with a couple of new gestures. Your options include:

  1. Holding your finger on the edge of your screen, waiting for the slide-in menu to peek out, and then sliding the rest of the way over.
  2. Using two fingers to slide the menu out.

Here's what they look like in action.

As you can see, they are not good. In fact, they're really complicated and not intuitive in the slightest.

The hold-and-swipe gesture works 50% of the time at best. It requires you to be incredibly precise with the move, and if you don't get it just right, you end up swiping to go back instead of opening the menu. The second method that requires two fingers works far more reliably, but it's also impossible to perform if you aren't using your phone with both hands.

Slide-out menus are in a ton of apps, including many Google-made ones such as Photos, Drive, and the Play Store. If you're like me (and I assume most people), that means Android Q doesn't only mess up this functionality, but Google's "solution" for it muddies the waters even further.

Perhaps this is so annoying because of how well the other gestures work. Going home and switching back and forth between recent apps feels fast and fluid, but the back gesture feels forced and out of place. Even more irritating, we've seen plenty of other companies create their own fully gestural systems that work well and don't interfere with the way you use applications.

Unfortunately, that's not the only area in which Android Q throws a wrench in the way Android's navigation works. Starting with Beta 6 and confirmed to be present in the final build of Q, Google's gestures simply will not work if you're using a third-party launcher.

The gestures are designed to be tightly integrated with Google's own Pixel launcher, and the second you switch to something like Action, Nova, Evie Launcher, or anything else, you'll be reverted back to the old three-button navigation with no option of turning gestures on unless you go back to using the Pixel Launcher.

Not only is that confusing for people that switch back and forth between the Pixel Launcher and third-party ones, but it's also a slap in the face to anyone that happens to enjoy Q's gestures and custom launchers created by incredibly talented devs.

To Google's credit, Android Q is still in the beta and will get one more beta release before the final version if launched — likely mid-to-late August.

Google has said that it'll offer a "post-launch update" to enable the use of its gestures with third-party launchers, but that still means Q will launch without that option in place. Furthermore, it's unclear how long it'll take Google to enable functionality.

As for the peek behavior, I'm honestly not sure if or how this will change between now and next month. With Pie last year and Q this year, it feels like Google still doesn't know what it wants to do with gestures for Android. I appreciate that the company is trying new things and doing what it thinks is best, but in the meantime, we're left guinea pig testing what it creates and forced to deal with the various issues that come with it.

Android Q gesture FAQ: Understanding how Android's new gestures work

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • Dang Google the OS is supposed to be simple, easy, and intuitive. It's supposed to be the manufacturers job to add on awful skins that add dumb crap. Then if we hate a certain company's take on Android we can buy from someone else. I certainly hope all this is going to be optional.
  • The author seems a bit fussy. They give you the option to go back to the old 3-button setup and they don't force their gestures on third-parties. What exactly is wrong with that? The articles main point was that the Q gestures are a mess and Google seems to realize that the gestures aren't a one size fits all type of thing so they aren't forcing them on the users or developers... Why complain when they are a work in progress?
  • That's temporary. The final product will eliminate the options
  • What evidence do you have to back that up?
  • I'm amazed of your high IQ with that commend.
  • I asked a valid question. What evidence is there that the option will be removed? How does that indicate that I will have a low IQ?
  • agree. Google put too much work into the menu that allows people to choose which navigation style they want. there's no reason to eliminate the option. there's also no evidence anywhere that would suggest it's temporary. the only reason they're even doing this is because Google is blatantly copying Apple at this point, hoping to pull iphone users to the pixel. there was a time when Google had taken the lead in my opinion, and somehow they've since resorted to copying whatever Apple does. it's not a successful business model for hardware.
  • Agreed, seems like a shock article to draw attention, gesture can be turned off.
  • I've been using the gestures on Pie (Android One version) and I don't find them to be an awkward mess at all. I don't know if I'll adopt this as the default mode to navigate my device as supposed the three buttons. But for now I'll keep using this feature and see how it goes. It will interesting to see the evolution on Android Q. Speaking for myself, having used BB10, the gestures feature on Pie is not really that unfamiliar, so not a big problem for me as a user. Given the right balance and design, gestures could really make the OS more efficient and user friendly. At least as far as I can see. I think that Android is overdue for a serious overhaul in it's architecture and UI. This could be at the very least a step in the right direction.
  • I'm not really a fan of the gestures in Android Pie I use Android One as well) I could use them and they're better than Apple's on the iPhone X which I struggled with when trying out a friend's iPhone X and I didn't like it all, Google's gestures are easier to use but I prefer the 3 button on screen keys which I've reverted back to.
  • There is a reason Google is copying the iPhone X gestures and it's not because Android Pie gestures were better. In fact, copying is basically Google's open admission to that point. The gestures in Q are definitely an improvement. Getting consistency with the iPhone is just a bonus.
  • I see where you're coming from but I found Google's gestures to be easier to use than Apple's email especially the gesture to bring up the multitasking menu which was a pain for me on the iPhone X. I just couldn't get on with the gestures on the iPhone and I didn't have an issue with them on Android 9.0 Pie but I just prefer the 3 button on screen keys and also with the mess that is Android Q's gestures, especially with the ridiculous swipe to the edge gestures for multitasking, I'm likely to stick to the 3 button on screen keys for the foreseeable future.
  • I agree with the article.
  • Why can't they just do it like Samsung does? There's an option in their launcher that swiping up in the middle goes home, swiping on the right side goes to multi-tasking and swiping on the left side goes back. Why is that so hard?
  • Samsung gestures are amazing. Funny how even though samsung is always behind on their version of android numerically, they are always ahead of google on features. I've got an S10 and a pixel 3a with Q on it. I don't see a whole lot of "new" in Q compared to what samsung has already brought to the table with their customization.
  • Yeah, there are certainly things Samsung does that I don't like, but after resisting trying out the gestures for awhile, I can't go back to just having three buttons sitting on the bottom of the screen. It's really intuitive. Only thing I miss is the dedicated keyboard-switching button which doesn't appear if you're using gestures.
  • It's in the notification pull down
  • I guess this is why it's nice to have options. I have a Pixel 3XL and a S10+. I don't like the Samsung gestures at all. I primarily hold my phone in my right hand. Even with the back gesture moved to the right, it still requires me to balance my phone to swipe up. With Q gestures, it's much easier to swipe back, without adjusting the phone. Both however, are so much better than the buttons.
  • I also tried to get used to Samsung's, though it was after running a OnePlus 6 for months. Could not get used to the way it was set up. While intuitive, it was super awkward after having the back gesture be on both sides of the phone, with the home & recents gesture in the middle. No matter which hand I was holding the phone in or whether I was one-handed or two, it was easy to navigate.
  • Because Samsung isn't Apple and unfortunately everything Apple has done of late Google feels it has to copy them.
  • This is a ridiculous article! I absolutely love the gestures with Android Q. They are super simple to use and work great! I call a slow day, so you had to make up stuff for an article.
  • I 100% agree I love how simple the gestures are and I like having a clean screen without buttons.
  • I am using Beta 5 on a Pixel 3a XL. While I think it would be better the left edge alone, the whole design as a whole is not AWFUL, and it is not RUINING android Q. Once I figured out how it worked, there is no problem here.
  • Just copy every gesture from BlackBerry 10. Problem solved.
  • Yes! This! ^ And imagine peek into the Hub?
    Once you knew the gestures in BB10 it became incredibly intuitive. And efficient.
  • I have the One plus 6t and the interface has zero buttons, I love the gestures, it makes for a clean screen and easy control. It took about a week to memorize and get used to the gestures. Give it a chance, you will never want to go back to a button or pill operation.
  • Finally! I've been complaining for years that using a back button to go back is confusing and counter-intuitive. What I really want is to memorize gestures for which there are no on-screen visual cues. I hate it when a UI clearly indicates how I'm supposed to use it. Thank you, Google.
  • I actually like it. But they need to fix how to get to home page without having to scroll back to it
  • agreed, that's my only real gripe about the gestures so far
  • Actually if you swipe diagonally from the edge of the screen it works. At least it does for me. Swiping out, pausing, then pulling the menu open doesn't always work, but if you swipe at a slight angle, I've been able to open the menu every time.
  • I'm running beta 5 on my Pixel and don't find the gesture navigation complicated or messy so I guess that not everybody is able to adapt to new things. BTW you'll have the option to disable it so it's simple as that!
  • swipe in at an angle. what's the big deal. is this something impossible to do?
  • I've said this elsewhere, and my biggest complaint with the new Gesture Navigation is that it's too loose. There's way too much play in the UX such that "approximate" gestures don't work as they I expect them to work. With the Two-Button Navigation, it's a bit tighter and smooth. It's kinda hard to describe, but *MY* gesturing seems to work so much better with the Two-Button Navigation. YMMV, of course.
  • Only if Google already had something to navigate through the screens...something like home, back and multitasking buttons. It would be nice to have those as they have proven to work very well through history. (Sarcasm level god) if I wanted my phone to feel like an iPhone I would buy an iPhone. I have an iPhone at work and my personal is an Essential PH1 and honestly I hate the whole gesture thing. I don't see the benefits of it and I don't find it natural in anyway. Just my humble opinion. If its not broken don't "fix" it (or screw it up Google).
  • it's way more reliable to trigger the hamburger menu with an L shaped swipe down and inward
  • I really don't understand what they're playing at here. The existing hamburger menu swipe in works really well, why are they just making it worse? Why on earth would you want to swipe forward (ie L->R) to go backwards anyway? Surely they should just make it a swipe R->L to go back and then there wouldn't be an issue? TBH it sounds like a good thing it doesn't work with 3rd party launchers! Also sounds like I'll be better sticking with OnePlus OxygenOS than risking going to stock if they're going to force this sort of nonsense on users.
  • Funny, Blackberry 10 nailed the UI for a smartphone OS - the most intuitive devices for real business users. That was back in 2013. Six years later, the largest OS providers still have archaic gestures. Apple and Android are close - but by the sound of it, still way off. I'd like to see an article that discusses why the top two doesn't buy the solid Blackberry 10 tech.
  • I love the Google Gestures. They are like a breath of fresh air. I bet no one complained when Apple did it. Keep up the great work Google. I am sick of the back button, multi tasking button. I love to swipe.
  • Completely agree with this article. Make me too think to switch to ios Everytime i think of that back gesture
  • Really? IT's 2019, and you still throw a threat to switch to ios when you're unhappy about Android? Man, you definitely won't be missed or noticed.
  • Damn, I really don't get all the hate for these gestures. Literally the only problem is with hamburger menus on non Google apps. these gestures are one of my favorite parts of Android q. Especially the back gesture just easier to use then in the.
  • You don't need to downgrade to 1 or 2 button navigation experience. You can just use 3 button navigation. And if you ever need the extra screen of one button navigation, you will probably be using immersive mode. 3-button navigation has the fastest 0 delay experience,r at the cost of having the 3 buttons constantly there (except when using immersive mode)