Google has revealed that going forward the new Android Q gesture navigation system will be the default option on all Android Q and higher devices. The move comes as part of Google’s attempt to standardize gestures on Android phones, which it says will ensure “a consistent user” experience and for app developer as well.
According to a blog post written by Allen Huang and Rohan Shah, Product Managers on the Android UI, gestures are a “faster, more natural and ergonomic way to navigate your phone.” But the post also admits that gestures don’t always lead when it comes to some factors.
Android users prefer with the ergonomics of the standard three-button setup at the bottom, instead of the new navigation gestures, based on Google’s own qualitative research. But when it comes to one-hand use, the new navigation gestures take the lead over the older system.
Google says it has worked with partners like Samsung, Xiaomi, HMD Global, OPPO, OnePlus, LG, Motorola, and many others to standardise gesture navigation going forward. Still, it admits that not every user is comfortable will gestures “especially those with more limited dexterity and mobility.” In order to ensure options for such customers, the three-button navigation will remain an option on every Android device, adds the blogpost.
With Android Q, which will release later this month, Google will introduce the new gesture navigation feature. The blog post also answers some questions about the gesture navigation system on Android Q, and what Google learnt during its testing.
Reason for standard gestures on Android Q
“Gestures are harder to learn and can take some adjustment. Gestures can interfere with an app’s navigation pattern But most of all, we realized that there was a larger issue of fragmentation when different Android phones had different gestures, especially for Android developers,” explains the blog post. This is the reason why Google is going forward with a standard gesture interface with Android Q across brands.
Gestures have become common as nearly all smartphone manufacturers move towards the full screen model, which has no bezels on the side with the newer edge-to-edge display. The extra screen space also means that app developers have to adjust for the newer screen ratios. In some case, phones still have a notch and there are various kinds of notches, pinhole cameras being used, which can impact app experience as well.
The blog post explains that Google did an in-depth research on how users interact with their phones, how they hold them, speed-of-use, ergonomics, and studied “how quickly users learned the system, how quickly users got used to the system, how users felt about it.”
One area of challenge was the Back button, which has been an essential part of Android since the beginning. Google reveals in the post that the back button is used a lot, 50 per cent more than even Home. With the new navigation gestures, Google had to prioritise the Back button feature.
Google’s study showed that on average users performed tasks involving Home and Back more quickly with navigation gestures than most other models, and it was even faster than with the buttons system. But when it came to Overview/Recent, the gestures model was not as efficient as the three button system. But the blog post notes that users go to less than half as often to Overview/Recents as they do for Home screen.
According to the research, users viewed the Q model as more one-handed and reachable, although buttons were still viewed as more ergonomic.
The blog post admits that gestures are a big change for people and it took on average one to three days to adapt. Users struggled with patterns like swiping right or left on a carousel and triggering Back, notes the blog. However, once the users became proficient, a majority of them did not want to switch back to the three-button navigation, even though that remains an option.