One of the most notable changes in Google Android 9 is the new gesture-based navigation system. You can swipe up from the home button to bring up a new overview screen showing recent apps or to bring up the app drawer and Google search bar from any screen.

There’s no more dedicated recents app. And the back button only appears when you need it.

But Google isn’t going all in on this new user interface just yet. If you upgrade from Android 8 or earlier then you’ll still see the old-school back, home, and recents buttons by default. You’ll have to manually enable the new gesture-based navigation.

In the future you may not have a choice though. Google’s EK Chung tells Android Central that future Google phones will only feature the new UI. Say goodbye recents button.

Google is expected to unveil its Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones in October, and it sounds like they’ll both feature gesture-based navigation by default. I wouldn’t be surprised if future Android One phones also use the new navigation system.

But Google isn’t requiring all third-party manufacturers to use the new system. Device manufacturers will have the option of shipping Android 9 devices with Android 8-style buttons if they choose. Or they could develop their own navigation system, which makes sense because there are a handful of companies that are already doing that, including Motorola and OnePlus.

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8 replies on “Android 9 gesture navigation is optional now, will be mandatory on the Pixel 3”

  1. Oh, man. While I do enjoy gesture based navigation, this is going to suck for regular users. My grandfather can do just about anything with his smartphone… As long as he has buttons. Button for back, button for home, browser icon. But he does not seem to understand swiping. He can’t pull down notification center even though I showed him how to do that multiple times. Same goes for my grandmother and mother. I don’t know about others, but it will be living hell for me to explain to them how to do stuff once they get new devices.

  2. Seems like Google is still getting (bad) ideas from Apple. My first Android phone had 4 buttons. I think it was Home, Back, Recent, Search. We are getting down to just one button. I can’t help but wonder, why? On my Nokia 6.1 the buttons show up when I need them and disappear when I don’t. No space is saved by reducing the number of buttons.

      1. I don’t mind losing the physical buttons. I just want the buttons when I need them. I don’t see any faster/easier way of doing things. I had a Blackberry tablet and it was all gestures. It worked, but wasn’t nearly as quick or intuitive.

        1. I think the sweet spot was the Samsung Galaxy S3 which had a physical, “real” home button in the middle, and had touch-sensitive (but still “physical” in the sense that they were not just rendered on the display) “back” and “recents” buttons on either side thereof.

    1. I wish I could up-vote this more than once. This is the reason it frustrates me when Apple makes bad design decisions. It’s only a matter of time before they show up in other devices. At least Google isn’t making the gesture-based navigation mandatory. Hopefully larger manufacturers like LG and Samsung will either make phones that are gesture-based and phones with buttons (physical or virtual), or allow the phones to toggle the interface in the settings. I am definitely in the “I want buttons” camp. I have apps that can be controlled with gestures, and gesture-based controls tend to be much less reliable.

  3. Yeah, I was a bit befuddled when I installed my piece of Pie on my Pixel this afternoon and didn’t see any changes to the regular three button navigation scheme. Haven’t had a chance to experiment yet, but the rest the Pie seems to be functioning nicely.

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