Android 10: Master Google's phone gestures with these 8 tips

A tap here, a swipe there, and you'll be flying around your Android 10-powered phone. We walk you through everything you need to know.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
4 min read

Android 10 adds a lot of things, one of which is gesture navigation.

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Android 10 is slowly reaching more Android phones, and as it does, it adds the option of gesture navigation, which uses swipes and taps instead of the three buttons you might be used to for getting around your phone. The new gestures are very iPhone-like, but that's not a bad thing -- we're certainly not complaining. 

For example, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go back to the home screen, or a quick swipe across the bottom of the screen will switch back to the last app you used. Once you get used to the new gestures, you'll be navigating your phone with ease. 

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL both come with Android 10 and gesture navigation enabled by default, but -- for now, at least -- gesture navigation is optional. You'll need to turn it on if you want to swipe your way around your phone. Below we cover how to enable gesture nav, and walk you through each gesture with a fancy animated image.

Watch this: Android 10: Tips and tricks

Enable gestures

The process will vary based on who makes your phone, but if you search the Settings app for "Gestures" you should be able to find it. As an example, here's how to enable gesture navigation on a Pixel 4 XL:

Enlarge Image

Gesture navigation on Android 10 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 Gesture 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. 

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

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

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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 home screen. 

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Launch Google Assistant

You can still access Google Assistant in Android 10 without a wake phrase. 

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Without a home button to long-press and trigger Google Assistant, how do you access Assistant without using the wake phrase? You may randomly notice that Android 10 will briefly display 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 10 is the most shocking change to navigating your Android phone. 

The biggest adjustment you'll have to make with Android 10'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. 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. Google spent a lot of the Android Q beta program (now Android 10) tweaking the back gesture and even added a sensitivity slider you can adjust in the settings app. My advice? Instead of trying to get the sensitivity just right, use a diagonal swipe from the side of the display (as seen above) to pull out any navigation drawers. It's the most consistent method I've found, despite Google's efforts. 

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

Android 10 has a lot of other changes, including a dedicated dark mode, a new bubbles notification feature and new privacy settings

Originally published earlier this year. Updated with current information.