Google Tweaks Navigation Gestures with Android Q Beta 5

Today, Google released the fifth beta of Android Q for testing on Pixel phones, and its shining feature isn’t more notification or security improvements. Rather, it’s the navigation gestures Google has been trying to transition to since the time of the Android P beta last year. They sucked then and kinda suck now, but they should suck less with Android Q. At least that’s Google’s goal with beta 5.

With this build of Android Q, Google is tweaking the back gesture. Before, you used to hit a simple button at the bottom of your screen. Now, you can swipe in from either the left or right side of your screen. If you swipe in from the left and you’re in an app that uses a navigation drawer, the drawer will “peek” out and let you know it’s there. You can then pull the drawer out. If the app or interface you’re in doesn’t use a navigation drawer, the gesture will simply take you back to the previous screen.

This sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. If you’re in an app like the Play Store which still uses a navigation drawer, you can just swipe from the right side to go back. Just remember, instead of tapping a button, you now use iPhone-esque swipe gestures from either side of your phone.

Another new gesture with Android Q is the way you trigger the Google Assistant. You can still trigger it by saying “Hey Google” and squeezing your phone. But with Q, you’ll also be able to swipe up from either bottom corner. This gesture is meant to replace the press-and-hold gesture you used to have with the home button in past versions of Android. My guess is that it’ll be as convenient as holding down the home button, but it probably won’t speed anything up unless you squeeze your phone.

Interestingly, Google also states in its Android Q beta 5 blog post that custom third-party launchers won’t be able to take advantage of the new full-screen navigation gestures just yet. Starting in beta 6, every third-party home screen will be forced to use the traditional three-button navigation service. Until Google can figure things out behind the scenes with developers, don’t expect your favorite launchers like Nova and Lawnchair to support the new nav system.

Rounding off Android Q beta 5, Google also re-adds the Force Dark toggle to force apps to switch to dark mode, the boot animation is now darker when in dark mode, notifications receive some tweaking in terms of silencing them and managing Do Not Disturb, and there are further optimizations for foldable phones. Y’know, for whenever they decide to come.

The fifth beta of Android Q is rolling out to registered Pixel phone owners now.