Google is taking on the iPhone X with new gesture navigation in Android P

Android P is shaping up to a be a big update for Google’s operating system, down to the basic way you navigate the OS, which Google is overhauling in P with a new, gesture-based system similar to the one on the iPhone X (or Palm’s webOS, if you prefer to trace these things back to their original source).

As rumored, instead of the familiar, three-icon array of on-screen buttons that have been a mainstay on Android phones for years (even Samsung, a longtime holdout for real buttons, uses them now), Android P borrows a page from Apple’s book and offers a single, oblong line at the bottom of the screen that you’ll use to swipe around the OS. Some things are still the same. Just like before, you’ll be able to tap to go back to the home, and holding down the home button will still bring up Google Assistant.

Google is also adding new gestures that completely replace the old icons entirely. Instead of the right-side square button to access multitasking, you now do a short swipe up, bringing you to a redesigned, horizontally scrolling list of your open applications, along with access to the Google search bar and a couple of suggested apps. The scrolling cards are actually interactive, too. You’ll be able to tap in and select and copy text without ever leaving the scrolling interface. A longer swipe up will bring you straight to the app drawer, should you need to find an application that you don’t already have open. Lastly, you’ll be able to scroll between your open applications (similar to the iPhone X) by tapping and sliding along the home button, bringing up a new interface that lets you pan over to the app you want.

The back button isn’t entirely gone, either. Google is still sticking with a virtual button there, too, although it’ll only appear contextually inside applications, not as a constant global key.

It’s perhaps the biggest change Google has ever made for Android navigation, which has used the same basic UI since the virtual buttons were introduced back in 2011 as part of Android 3.0 Honeycomb for tablets. (It would make the jump to phones later that year as part of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.) And while Google has updated the visual parts of the UI or added functionality (like holding down the home button to access Google Assistant), the base design has always been the same: multitasking button on the right, back button on the left, with the all-important home button in the middle.

Comments

Now we just have to wait for iOS to add a dark theme so we can finally get that on Android too.

android switches to a dark theme when you have a dark wallpaper set since oreo

Just notification/Quick Toggles tray and shutdown menu. Settings, Google Pay, new Chrome, etc all blast you with white everywhere no matter the wallpaper.

That’s not an actual system-wide dark theme.

Nice to see that Google made gestures their own here rather than the fear everyone had that it would be a copy of iOS’ gestures.

Agree. The gestures on ios are pretty slick so like that Google just went for it.

However the long swipe for app drawer seems a bit confusing..

It looks like it’s just a scroll bar, which I think may prove to be more intuitive after awhile than swiping through. Granted, I’m not sure how iPhone X handles swiping through background running apps. On Android P, it always resets to the most recent app, so the further back you go, the further you pull it across to the right. I’d hope a quick pull of that new home button would get you to your last app in a similar way, but I guess we’ll wait and see.

At least they’re similar… hopefully it will be less confusing this way for people who switch devices often.

I’m worried about missing the recent apps button, I used that guy more often than home. The new UX looks amazing though — which I mean both sincerely and because of how similar it is to what the Palm Pixi languishing in my desk drawer did.

Their gestures seem to allow quicker actions which is sort of sticking to the theme (android scrolling vs iOS scrolling)

All I could say was "Wowwww" both OS are getting very close to each other in terms of how they look and function….I love my iPhone X but I have to say Android is looking nice these days.

Then I think about app support all the Apple products I have and realize I can’t switch even if I wanted to.

I loved double tapping the multi-tasking button to switch between the two most recently used apps. Until I use the gestures, I don’t know how much better or worse this is, but I am going to miss that double-tap gesture.

Also, with that button now gone, how does one enable split-screen apps? Or has that functionality been removed completely!? If so, I am going to have to stick to Android O for a long time as I use split-screen apps almost on a daily basis!

swiping to the right on the home button and releasing performs the same function as the double tap function. Also in the beta at least u cant turn gesture off.

Still, that swiping gesture takes a measure of precision that could otherwise be done blindly with a double tap of the multitask button.
However, currently there is no function on my Android phone for a double tap of the circle home button. I wonder if a double tap of the new oblong home button could instead take you to your most recently used app and preserve this valuable function.

I’m using it now on the preview and can already tell that this will become as second nature as the double tap.

Question though… what’s the purpose of a blind gesture to switch apps. I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t be looking at your phone when performing either motion.

By "blindly" I didn’t mean that you would be looking away from your phone entirely but from that area of your screen (the button). I also assumed that greater care would be needed to use the new slider function, which included more visual attention in selecting your previous app compared to what the double tap would accomplish. Good to hear from your report that this might not be the case!
On a side note, though, does a double tap of the oblong home button on Android P serve any function?

visual attention in selecting your previous app

Switching to the previous app is pretty fluid, but using the home indicator to scroll definitely takes more attention, which is what I would expect. At this point, I think it’s easier to use the short swipe up and thumb through the app thumbnails. Maybe that will change.

On a side note, though, does a double tap of the oblong home button on Android P serve any function?

No, it doesn’t do anything right now.

yeah i dont like it. why remove it ? back and home are still there so why dont just make it smaller and squished to the bottom like back and home and add gestures for the people how like those.

all happy and symmetric lol

Nice to see Android gaining gestures – I’ve began swiping up for multitasking on my phone, because that’s the gesture on iPad.

Am glad to see the back button is still there.

You mean in general? Or ‘new’ gestures? Because android, especially on google/pixel/nexus branded hardware, has had them for a minute.

My phone lets you swipe right on the home button to multitask and swipe left to go back (so no virtual buttons). I thought that was just a Motorola thing though, didn’t realise Android itself has gestures.

"Sure, Apple may have beaten them to the punch, but that’s just one phone! Android P is coming to all phones."

sigh

I know, it’s coming to all 5% of Android phones, just like Oreo did … Lol

Well to be fair, 2025 isn’t that far away…

He lost all creditability when he said that mess.

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