Google explains why it’s killing on-screen back button with Android Q

Yolanda Curtis
August 10, 2019

A day after releasing the final Android Q beta with yet more tweaks to the new swipe-based navigation system, Google has outlined why it thinks it's better than the traditional three-button setup that a billion users are familiar with.

Other changes implemented on the user-facing side with this update include the removal of tools for adjusting white balance and color temperatures, previously occupying the top bar. "The model did, however, come at the cost of being able to quickly access Overview/Recent apps, which users go to less than half as often as the Home screen". Still, it admits that not every user is comfortable will gestures "especially those with more limited dexterity and mobility". They can be harder to learn and require a conscious effort to alter muscle memory. And this week Beta 6 of Android Q-the final Beta update according to Burke-began rolling out. It blames fragmentation over and above gestures not working for users, the learning curve, and an app's navigation pattern. This is a big problem from Google's point-of-view as it leads to varied experiences across the OS on a core subject like navigation, effecting both users and developers. With no other choices for gesture navigation allowed, Google needs to get this right.

Google then further defends the decision to go with the current implementation of gestures, mentioning how all of their decisions are backed by extensive research and testing on the entire gamut of the subject.

It says that it made a decision to press ahead because the gestures work well within reachable areas for both thumbs. At some point within the near future, we should see a statue-unveiling, official confirmation that this is "Android 10", and the highly awaited "Q" snack name [Editor's suggestion].

An engineer in the Google Android Developer Relations Team, Chris Banes said "The behavior of the exclusion APIs are changing". It could also hinder an app's navigation pattern which is evident from how users now use the swipe from left edge gesture to pull out the app's setting drawer. To facilitate the process, Google has provided additional resources which detail good practices for developers to adopt. Stay with us and keep reading if you're interested in finding out what it's about.

Why do we need gestures?

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