Android 10 was released today and gestures is one of the main upgrades included.
Here’s what you need to know to get started with Android 10 gestures.
What can I do with gestures?
Before switching over to gestures it is important to know what you can and cannot do with gestures. Basically, In Android 10, Google fully removed the on-screen controls and so all actions will now require a gesture to access.
This includes “back,” “home,” “recents” and switching between apps, as well as launching Google Assistant. We’ll focus first on the “back” gesture as that’s likely to be the one that takes the longest to get used to.
How you ‘go back’ on Android 10 is one of the biggest changes to gestures. Gone is the option to simply tap the “back” button and instead users will need to swipe from one side of the phone.
In principle, it doesn’t matter what side of the phone you swipe in from as the gesture will work from both the left and right sides. However, it will probably suit more people to swipe in from the left side.
To do this, starting from the outer side of the screen and drag your finger inwards a small amount while maintaining contact with the screen. If done correctly, a small arrow icon will be shown.
It is then just a matter of letting go and the back action will take effect. If you're in an app then this will work as you would expect and return you to the page before. If you are on the homepage of the app then the back gesture will work as an “exit” for the app. In other words, it will close the app again.
Back and “peeking”
When Google introduced the new back gesture it did come with an issue affecting in-app drawers.
Many apps allow the user to access the app’s menu by swiping from the left. Evidently, that’s an issue when swiping from the left in Android 10 sends the user back a step.
To combat this, Google introduced a new peeking action. This allows the user to continue using the back gesture while also assessing the in-app drawer when needed.
The action is exactly the same as using the back gesture. The only difference is there’s a delay. Basically, to peek, touch the left side of the display but instead of immediately swiping inwards, hold for a moment. The user will then notice a small part of the side menu becomes visible.
Without losing contact with the screen, the user is then able to swipe in and drag the in-app drawer into an open position.
With the on-screen controls now gone, the home button is accessed via a swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Although there’s no visible buttons or controls, users on Android 10 will notice a small bar at the bottom of the screen.
This bar is the point to focus on and heading home is as simple as swiping up fairly fast. At which point any app you are in will be swiped away and the system will return to the home screen.
Recents and navigating apps
To access the recently used apps is not that different to going “home.” The main difference is how you use the gesture.
While a fast swipe up from the bottom will send the device home, a slower one where the user maintains contact will open the recents menu.
Letting go at this point lets you see the apps the recently used apps and from here you can swipe left or right to navigate between them. Then of course, tapping on any will launch the app again.
You can actually navigate the recently opened apps even quicker than what’s described above. For example, all of the actions listed in the last section can be completed in one gesture. To do this, swipe up slowly and without letting go move left or right.
This will not only open the recents menu but also allows you to immediately navigate between open apps.
The only exception to this is when accessing the recents menu from the home screen. In this instance, swiping up opens the app drawer and will require you to let go when the app drawer is mid-way up the screen to view the recents menu.
As there’s no main buttons on the screen anymore, there’s also no obvious way to launch Google Assistant. If you have a Pixel phone then this is less of an issue as you can simply use Active Edge and just squeeze the phone to launch Google Assistant.
If you don’t have a Pixel phone or simply don't want to use Active Edge, then you can also use a gesture to summon Google Assistant.
This one is slightly different from the others but if you swipe in from either bottom corner you’ll notice ‘Google colors’ start to appear in the left and bottom right corners.
Continuing the swipe in gesture will see these colors grow until they cover the bottom of the screen. This will then launch Google Assistant.
What if I don’t want to use gestures?
If you don’t want to use gestures in Android 10, you don’t have to. Google has made this an optional feature and so it is one you can choose to get used to now or avoid for now.
In fact, gestures are not enabled by default so users will have to manually opt-in to using gestures once their device has been upgraded to Android 10.
What navigation choices do I have?
Android 10 now offers three different navigation setups to choose from. These are “Gesture navigation,” “2-button navigation,” and “3-button navigation.”
Before going through how to access or change the navigation setup, we’ll briefly describe what each of these are.
Gesture navigation is exactly what it sounds like. It is the new gesture system in full effect. Choosing this option will mean you are immediately required to use all of the gestures described above.
2-button navigation is likely to be the navigation setup familiar to those who were using Android 9 Pie. This system includes two buttons located at the bottom of the screen. One is the larger “pill-shaped” button which is essentially the “home” button.
Pressing this quickly will send the system home. Dragging the pill up from the bottom of the screen will open the app drawer – this is not a requirement as you can pull up from anywhere on the lower part of the screen to access the app drawer. Tapping on the pill and holding will launch Google Assistant.
The other button is the “back” button. This should need little explanation as the back button will simply take you back a step or exit the app. It's worth noting the back button is not visible when you are on the home screen. It will only show up once you are in an app or away from home.
3-button navigation is what many will consider the “classic” navigation style on offer with Android. Therefore, if you are really not in the mood for change then this might be an option for you.
3-button navigation effectively disables all of the gestures and returns to the user experience to one that’s wholly reliant on on-screen buttons. The back button will be present and not only more visible but also visible when the user is on the home screen.
Speaking of which, the home button is pre-Pie days and so it is not a pill but a circular button. Although it looks different to the 3-button navigation option it works just the same. Tapping it will return the user home, dragging up will open the app drawer and tapping and holding will launch Google Assistant.
The 3-button navigation basically ads the “recents” button once again. Therefore the user can no longer swipe up to access the open apps. They will have to tap the third button shown at the bottom of the screen.
How do I change between navigation systems?
With three options to choose from, the user will need to make the decision of which to use with Android 10.
To access the options, the user needs to open the settings, scroll down and tap on “System.”
This will then open a new page and from here the user will need to tap on the “Gestures” tab.
Again, a new page will open and if the user scans down to the middle they will see a “System navigation” tab.
Clicking System navigation will open a new page and now it is just a matter of choosing which of the three navigation options you want.
Once you click on one, the system will immediately change to that system and you will be shown an animation at the top of the screen explaining how the main actions work.
Gestures are here to stay
Regardless of what you think of the new gestures, it does look like they are here to stay. Therefore it is worth getting used to them as soon as possible.
Thankfully, Google has made this optional in Android 10 so if you don’t want to go all-in right now, you don’t have to. However, it remains to be seen how long the feature will remain optional in future Android versions.
Google wants you to start using Android gestures and Android 10 is a good place to start to make the change.