No turning back? Android Q ditches buttons for gesture navigation

Android Q has been outfitted with gesture navigation controls, instead of buttons. Here’s what it could mean for the future of back button.

At Google I/O it was revealed that the navigation system for Android Q will be composed entirely of gestures. There’ll be no buttons in the UI.

Related: Best Android Phones

The majority of Android users are still unfamiliar with using gesture navigations. The feature made its first appearance on Android 9 (Pie) which accounts for a mere 10.4% of all Android users nine months after its release, according to Google’s own figures.

That iteration of the operating system introduced a hybrid interface that combined some gesture navigation features with buttons. This gave the OS a disjointed, compromised feel. We’re remaining open minded about the switch to gesture only inputs, but fans of the button system might have a different gesture in mind when thinking about it, as a result.

To take an example, the back button will now be replaced by swiping from the side of the screen. In apps such as Gmail where swiping from the side already performs an action, you’ll have to swipe twice. By my mental arithmetic, that makes it half as efficient as a back button.

Fortunately, at least users of the Huawei P30 Pro will not have to adapt very much to this change, as the phone’s customer EMUI skin already encourages people to use gestures instead of buttons.

Currently, Android Q is only in the beta stage, available to users of selected phones (including the OnePlus 6T, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and the Sony Xperia XZ3). But we expect this new operating system to be launched in the second half of 2019.

Here are some of the other changes coming soon to Android:

  • Dark Theme: This much-requested new mode will change your phone’s interface colours to black and grey
  • Focus Mode: When can’t tolerate distractions, you can activate this new feature and selected troublesome apps will you in peace
  • Screen Continuity: This feature is aimed squarely at new foldable phones, and will allow you to shut the device but continue with the task in hand

Will you miss the back button from your smartphone? Let us know on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.

Why we’re different

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend. We use industry standard tests to evaluate products in order to assess them properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.