Before Android 10 Q is released later this summer, Google is continuing to experiment with and improve its gesture-based navigation. Recently, the company moved so close to Apple’s iPhone X approach that it almost feels like a carbon copy. But to do that, Google had to rethink Android’s traditional back button. Instead of keeping an on-screen button, Android Q will use a swiping motion — inward from either side of the screen — for the back feature.
This change immediately clashed with the slide-out menus used in countless smartphone apps. Many of them let you tap a hamburger menu icon to access that pane, but those icons can often be in a tough place to reach (like at the top left corner of the screen) when our phones keep getting bigger and bigger.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
Sliding your finger to open the drawer menu is more intuitive. But doing so now fails to load those side menus unless you slide your finger diagonally, which is a workaround some users have discovered.
The drawer behavior is changing. Users will be able to open the drawer by peeking the drawer, and then swiping. Big benefit is that this works with existing apps with “old” DrawerLayout versions. pic.twitter.com/WVyOzQFzHO— Chris Banes (@chrisbanes) July 2, 2019
Thankfully, this situation is about to get better with the upcoming Android Q beta 5. Google says that to reach slide-out menus, people using fully gestural navigation will be able to tap and hold near the edge of the screen. The menu will start to appear, at which point they can slide it out all the way. In coming up with this solution, Google allows the quick swipe from either side of the display to continue to trigger a “back” action.
Alongside this officially announced change, there’s also possibly another fix coming in, as 9to5Google reports. Apparently a user got the next beta of Android Q early and uncovered a new setting called “Back Sensitivity.” It can be set on a sliding scale, and the user reportedly says it led to a “marked improvement to navigation.”
If you’re not a fan of Google’s gesture system on Pixel phones, Android Q offers the option of just returning to Android’s older three-button navigation experience and completely ignoring the newer method. At least, it does so far in the public beta releases. In my experience, the gestures aren’t necessarily faster, but you’re able to see more information on-screen since those larger buttons are gone and you’re left with a long, thin line that indicates where to swipe up to go home or bring up multitasking.
Updated 6:30pm ET, July 3rd with more information from 9to5Google.