Google I/O: Android Q will standardize navigation controls and add new gestures

According to a brief mention at the “Supporting mobile usability with Dark Theme and Gestures in Android Q” session at Google I/O 2019, Google is laying down the law where device navigation is concerned and is standardizing navigational controls in Android Q.

One of the best (or worst) parts of Android is how flexible Google’s grip on it is. While Google’s vision of Android is always open for manufacturers to use as part of its Android One program, most manufacturers opt to create their own version of the Android UI. The introduction of gesture navigation systems has given manufacturers another area to play with, and the result has been a series of different gesture navigation systems across different devices, with varying levels of usefulness.

Unfortunately for fans of different gesture systems, differences between gesture systems have the potential to become a headache for app developers, so navigation methods in Android Q will be locked to Google’s two preferences: A series of redesigned gestures and Android’s classic three-button system. It seems this choice will only apply to devices on Android Q and later, though it’s unclear how this will affect the usability of third-party launchers like Nova Launcher, which have traditionally offered users even more gesture options.

The newly redesigned gesture navigation system in Android Q will also do away with the “pill” from Android 9.0 Pie, and instead, move toward a system more like gestures on iOS. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen will send the user home, while swiping from either the left or right edge will send the user back. Recent apps are accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and holding for a moment.

We were also treated to more news about the Dark theme coming in Android Q. As was briefly mentioned during the Google I/O 2019 keynote speech, the Dark theme is expected to help with conserving battery life — especially where OLED screens are concerned. According to this session, Android Q’s new Dark theme can reduce battery consumption on some apps by up to 60%. As such, Dark theme will be the default when Android Q is in battery saving mode.

As such, Google recommending that app developers take the time to implement dark themes of their own. As the theme is system-wide, Google argues users will expect every app to adopt a darker look when Dark theme is enabled, and probably won’t take kindly to an app blinding them with a bright white background while Android is in its Dark theme. Thankfully, Google has a stopgap to help devs (and our retinas) in the meantime. A piece of software called “Force Dark” will automatically convert lighter themes into a darker tone. However, Force Dark is opt-in, so don’t assume you’re safe from bright white themes while browsing a dark Android Q in bed.

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