The ability for an Android smartphone’s display to change orientation to match the phone’s physical orientation is nothing new, but a feature included in the fourth Android Q beta will be a welcomed addition to those Q users who have already migrated over to full gesture mode.
The feature is rotation lock and was introduced to Android with the second beta release of Android Pie. This feature works different to auto-rotate as it is purpose-designed to be used when auto-rotate is off.
In other words, if a user decides to not have rotation on by default, when they did rotate their phone a small one-time use rotation icon would appear in the navigation bar. Clicking the icon would rotate the display and lock it again in the alternate orientation. To get back out of landscape and into portrait the user would have to once again rotate the phone back to portrait, wait for the icon to appear in the navigation bar again, and tap it again.
Following rotation lock’s initial debut the feature remained active throughout Pie’s releases and can still be used today.
However, when Google announced the beta launch of Android Q earlier in the year, Google placed less of a focus on on-screen buttons in general preferring Android Q users to rely more heavily on gestures.
“Fully gestural navigation” mode removes the navigation bar resulting in the use of various swiping actions from different directions to go back, home, and so on. Of course, with the navigation bar not really shown when in this mode, there was no way to activate rotation lock anymore, and no replacement gesture for the action.
To be clear, this issue only affected those making use of fully gestural navigation. For example, if an Android Q-running phone was set to “2-button navigation” then the rotation lock was available - as the navigation bar in general was available.
In fact, with the last beta release (Beta 3) of Android Q Google re-added a 3-button navigation mode as well, and anyone using that mode were also able to see the icon and activate rotation lock. Therefore this was only really an issue for those who were using full gesture mode.
Now, however, that is no longer even an issue for them. With the addition of rotation lock support when in full gesture mode, the icon now appears again offering the option to rotate the screen when the phone perceives a change in orientation. Although it is a little different in this mode compared to before.
Due to the absence of the navigation bar when in full gesture mode the rotation lock icon does not appear in the same bottom-right location. Instead, it now shows up on the left-hand side of the display as an overlay.
The repositioning of the icon from the right to the left makes sense as it seems to tie in with the gesture support in general. Essentially it is now within the user's reach when using the phone in a one-handed mode - it wouldn't have been if the button was still located on the far side of the display.
In short, if you upgrade to the latest beta version of Android Q, prefer to use the phone in full gesture more while also keeping the auto-rotate feature disabled, you’ll now be able to easily rotate the display as and when you need to, and the button itself will be within easy reach when using one hand.
Those using the phone in either the 2 or 3-button navigation mode won’t see any difference following the update with the icon looking the same, on the same side, and functioning in the same way as it did before this Android Q release.