It’s been a few months since I started using Android’s take on gesture navigation, having enabled it on my Pixel 2 XL smartphone as a beta feature back in May. Now that the feature is out of beta alongside the rest of Android 9.0 Pie, I’m turning it back off again.
Compared to the iPhone X’s gesture navigation features—such as swiping up from the bottom to get back to the home screen, in lieu of a dedicated button for that purpose— Google’s version is far less intuitive. It doesn’t even free up extra space on the screen. If you have a Google Pixel or another phone running Android Pie, you ought to leave it disabled.
While it’s tempting to blame this on a few bad design choices, the real problem with gesture navigation on Android runs deeper: Too much of Android’s core functionality still revolves around a dedicated Back button. This is arguably Android’s best feature–even if it’s sometimes derided by design snobs–but it also gets in the way of a full swipe-based system, and makes keeping up with the iPhone X much harder.
Android gesture navigation explained
For most of its existence, Android has relied on three buttons—which, these days, are generally on-screen virtual ones—for getting around. The Home button returns you to the home screen, the Recents button lets you switch back to previously used apps, and the Back button mainly takes you back to previous menus within an app.
Gesture navigation (which you can activate on Android Pie phones by visiting Settings > System > Gestures > Swipe up on Home Button) replaces the Recents…