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Free app brings iPhone X gesture navigation to Android phones without Android P

Updated May 21st, 2018 12:24PM EDT
Android P Features On Oreo
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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Though it died a quick and untimely death, Palm’s webOS smartphone platform will always have a special place in our hearts. It was reborn as LG’s smart TV platform, and in our humble opinion it powers some of the best televisions on the market right now. But on smartphones it was truly something special, offering a breath of fresh air in a market that was dominated by Android and iOS at the time. The market is still dominated by Android and iOS, of course, making it practically impossible for a third mobile platform to break through for the time being. Luckily for us, Google and Apple took some of the best features from webOS and built them into their own operating systems.

The most recent and perhaps best example of this is gesture navigation, which was easily one of our favorite things among webOS’s core features. Taps and button presses were replaced by swipes, and it felt far more natural and fluid. In 2017, Apple ditched the iconic home button on its tenth-anniversary iPhone X and replaced its functionality with gestures. Needless to say, that meant Android would be quick to follow — and Google indeed announced earlier this month that gesture-based navigation will arrive in Android P.

But why wait for Android P to ditch those old on-screen buttons and start swiping instead of tapping? A new free app lets you add gesture-based navigation to any modern Android smartphone.

Google announced during its Google I/O 2018 keynote presentation that gesture controls will be coming to the Android platform later this year when Android P is released. There’s already a public beta of Android P available for people with certain smartphones, but everyone else will have to wait until sometime later this year or in 2019 when Android P updates finally start rolling out to phones. Some smartphone makers don’t want to wait for Android P, so they’re adding their own take on the iPhone X’s gesture navigation. OnePlus is a good example, though gesture navigation on the OnePlus 6 is kind of terrible.

There are already a few different apps out there that let you add gesture-based navigation to an Android phone. The problem with these apps is they require you to root your Android device. Not everyone wants to bother rooting their phones, and there are also security implications that many people aren’t comfortable with. Don’t worry though, because we have some good news: There’s a new free app that brings the iPhone X’s gestures to Android without the need for root access.

The app is called Navigation Gestures, and it was built by an admin from xda-developers. It’s currently available for free in the Play store. The app can be installed on any modern Android phone, and it doesn’t require users to first root their devices. There is one small caveat though. Navigation Gestures uses an API that is only accessible by granting a special permission, and you’ll need to connect your Android device to a Windows or Mac computer in order to grant that permission. It’s quite easy, and XDA provides a video that walks you through the process.

Once installed an enabled, the navigation buttons will disappear from the bottom of the screen and will be replaced by a home bar just like on the iPhone X. All of the standard gestures you’ll need are supported in a free version of the app, and then there’s a premium version for $0.99 that adds support for additional features.

Here’s what you get in the free version:

  • Taps
    • Single tap
    • Double tap
    • Tap and hold (long press)
  • Swipes
    • Swipe up and hold
    • Swipe left
    • Swipe right
    • Swipe up
    • Swipe down
  • Actions
    • Home
    • Back
    • Recent apps
    • Open Assistant
    • Hide pill

Here’s what the $0.99 premium version of Navigation Gestures adds:

  • Previous app (requires Android Nougat+)
  • Toggle split screen (requires Android Nougat+)
  • Pull down the notification shade
  • Pull down quick setting tiles
  • Open power menu
  • Skip to previous media track*
  • Skip to next media track*
  • Play/pause current media track*

There is one last thing to mention, and it’s pretty important if you want to avoid a headache. Here’s the warning from the xda-developers blog post:

Warning: If you try the app and don’t like it, please DO NOT simply uninstall the app UNLESS you have turned off the navigation gestures toggle to bring back the stock navigation bar! Unfortunately if you uninstall the app without doing this, you may be unable to navigate your phone!

That’s a bit dramatic and Redditors have already found a few simple ways to restore functionality if you uninstall the app without first disabling gestures. Going into settings and disabling the app’s gestures before you uninstall the app is certainly the smartest and easiest way to do it, though.

Here’s a video that shows off some of the features available in Navigation Gestures:

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.