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Google considers replacing the back button with a swipe gesture in Android Q

Published Apr 23rd, 2019 4:03PM EDT
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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Android Q will bring a host of significant new features to the mobile operating system later this year, from a system-wide dark mode to 3D Touch-like pressure-based input. But Google might also be looking to change up some of the fundamental elements of Android, as the latest discovery from XDA Developers appears to suggest.

This week, one of XDA’s senior members spotted a new gesture experiment contained within Android Q. The gesture seems to give Android users the ability to go back by swiping on either the left or right side of the screen. The gesture has yet to be fully implemented, but, as Apple has proven with the iPhone X/XS, it is indeed possible to replace most physical and digital buttons with gesture controls. Google is at least considering following suit.

If you want to test the swipe back gesture yourself, you will need Android Q beta 2, which is only available on Pixel devices. If you’ve installed the latest beta update and want to try it out, you’ll need to follow the instructions from XDA, which involves using ADB (Android Debug Bridge) commands. If you don’t want to go to all that trouble (or don’t have access to a Pixel phone in the first place), you can see what the gesture looks like below:

As XDA notes, other Android phone makers (Huawei, Xiaomi) have eliminated the back button in favor of gestures before to varying degrees of success, but the gestures often interfere with Material Design apps. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Google will replace the back button without a major UI overhaul, which isn’t in the cards for Android Q. Nevertheless, Google did build this gesture into an Android Q beta, so it’s at least on the table.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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