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Gesture-based navigation through Android Q Beta updates: Boon or Bane?

Navigating from one screen to another on Android has always been simple, until now. Users have always had three buttons on the bottom of their screen, be it physical or on-screen — Home, Recents and Back. These buttons have been present ever since Android’s inception and had only changed in ways that one may deem useful until Apple’s take on the gestural control for their UI came along.

When iOS changed its way of interaction with the iPhone X, Google and others like OnePlus and Vivo decided to change things on their end too. Google did this by implementing what is popularly known as ‘the Pill’ in Android 9 Pie.

With Android Q, the company seems to have embraced Apple’s system and have now implemented controls similar to theirs. Here we discuss all the changes that Google have made to the navigation system throughout this Android Q beta program and the latest ones introduced with Beta 5.

Changes to the navigation system in Android Pie

Gesture-based navigation through Android Q Beta updates: Boon or Bane?
Navigation buttons before Android 9 Pie | Photo by Tinh Khuong

The changes made in Android Pie were not like those from iOS, as they still maintained the basic controls of Android with a dedicated back button and the pill-shaped home button. This update brought changes to the Recents button (known as Overview now) and the access to the app drawer. The button was replaced with a swipe up gesture on the home button, a swipe after the first one would bring up the app drawer.

Changes to the navigation system in Android Q

With Android Q, Google changed up the very essence of navigation on Android as they adopted an iOS-esque bar at the bottom of the display, and all did away with the back button completely. Through Android Q Beta 1 through Beta 4, several updates were pushed to implement gesture-based navigation.

  • Users can now swipe up on the bar to return to the home screen.
  • Swiping up on the bar while on the home screen brings up the app drawer.
  • A swipe followed by a slight movement to the right brings up the recent apps.
  • Users can swipe horizontally on the bar to switch between all open applications.
  • The back button was changed into a swipe towards the centre from either end of the display.

The gestures for the back function had many users confused as they were left wondering as to how it would gel with the menus present in several apps, which are accessible via a similar action. Google’s solution for this was to allow users to choose how many swipes would perform what function in affected applications.

Changes brought to Navigation with Beta 5

With Beta 5, Google has added one new gesture, which launches the Google Assistant when a user swipes from either of the bottom corners of the display. Changes were not made to the functionality of the back gesture, but a small ‘drawer peek’ was added to inform users about the presence of a drawer.

Anyone using a custom launcher will have their navigation scheme changed to the traditional three-button layout to prevent any issues regarding the stability of the software.

Trial and error seem to be the way for Google to implement its best iteration for gesture control. With the Beta software starting to behave more like the stable builds with every update, the next letter update does not seem far away.

It’s also important to note that there is a possibility of the features seen on the beta builds not making it to the stable version of the Android Q OS. The features are currently being tested and based on the feedback given by the beta testers coupled with the company’s own a/b testing, features for the final build will be decided

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