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The complete guide to Android Q's new gesture navigation

How you get around your Android device is about to change.


Android Q adds more than just a dark theme. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

With the official release of Android Q getting closer, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with Google's new approach to gesture based navigation. That's right, you'll soon have the option to ditch the staple three-button navigation that we've had on Android for years. The new gestures are very iPhone-like, but we're not complaining.

We know about Android Q and the included gestures thanks to Google's beta program, which you can sign up for and take part in if you're willing to deal with random bugs and issues. That said, it's entirely possible Google changes how the new gestures look or behave, and if that happens, we'll be sure to update this post. 

Gesture navigation in Android Q is optional -- for now, at least -- so you'll have to purposely opt-in to using it. Here's how to enable it, and then how to use all of the new gestures we can find right now, including how to master the new back gesture.

Now playing: Watch this: Android Q beta: What's new?

Enable gestures

The process will vary based on who makes your phone, but if you search the Settings app for "Gestures," you shouldn't have any issue finding it. However, here's how to enable gesture navigation on a Pixel 3 XL ($698 at Amazon):

Gesture navigation on Android Q is just a few taps away. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET
  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the app and tap on System
  3. Select Gestures
  4. Tap on System Navigation
  5. Select Fully gestural navigation

Your screen will flash, and a few seconds later the buttons that were just present along the bottom of your screen will be gone. In their place will be a single white line.

How to get to the home screen

A quick swipe up from the bottom of your phone's screen will take you back to your home screen.

Just swipe up to go home. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Get to the multitasking view

To view all open apps, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen but pause about a third of the way up the screen.

The trick here is to not go too far. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Quickly switch between apps

You can quickly switch between apps by swiping left over the small line at the bottom of the screen. After you start scrolling through open apps, you can swipe to the right in the same area to go back and forth between apps.

You can quickly move between apps from any screen with a flick. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Access the app drawer

Accessing the app drawer is simple. From the home screen, just swipe up. It's the same gesture you use to get back to the home screen from inside an app.

You can get to the app drawer with a swipe up on the homescreen. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Launch Google Assistant

You can still access Google Assistant in Android Q without a wake phrase. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Without a home button to long-press and trigger Google Assistant, how do you access Assistant without using the wake phrase? As of Beta 5, Android Q now briefly displays a white line in each bottom corner of the screen. Those handles, if you will, are how you activate Google Assistant. Gesture up and towards the middle of the screen -- you'll know you're doing it right when you Google Assistant's blue, red, yellow and green colors race across the bottom of the screen -- and let go when you see Assistant show up. 

How do I go back?

The lack of a back button and the subsequent replacement Google is using in Android Q is the most shocking change to navigating your Android phone. 

The biggest adjusted you'll have to make with Android Q's gestures is the lack of a back button. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

To go back, swipe from the left or right edge of the screen. It's a quick gesture, and you'll know when you did it right because an arrow shows up on the screen. As of Beta 4, Google made the arrow more prominent and easier to see when the back gesture has been triggered. You don't have to do the gesture as slow as I did in the above GIF; it's just a quick swipe from the edge. 

If an app uses a slideout menu, swipe down at an angle to open it instead of going back. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

The problem is that a lot of apps use a slide-out navigation drawer that's accessed by swiping from the left edge of the screen. With the same gesture now used by Android as a back command, that's clearly a problem. As of Beta 5, Google claims Android Q is better at identifying if an app uses a navigation drawer and if it does, being able to tell the difference between a back gesture and an attempt to open the navigation drawer. Early tests show the gesture works the same as it did in previous betas, with a horizontal gesture from the left edge of the display acting as a back gesture, and a gesture moving down and to the right being the most consistent to open the navigation drawer. 

Force close apps

This hasn't changed, but it's worth mentioning again. When in multitasking view, swipe up on an app's card -- pushing it off the top of the screen --  to close out the app. 

Force closing an app hasn't changed at all.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Originally published May 9, 2019.
Update, July 10, 2019: New gesture information.