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Android Q: Get to know its new gesture navigation

Forget tapping buttons to get around your Android phone -- full gesture navigation is coming.

Juan Garzon / CNET

When your phone updates to Android Q later this year, you'll have a new option for navigating around. Instead of relying on Android's tried-and-true three-button navigation, Android Q introduces a true gesture-based navigation method that gets rid of the back button you saw linger around in Android Pie.

Android's new gesture navigation method is part of the Android Q beta, which means there's always a chance Google could change how it works before the final release. If that happens, we will update this post.

Gesture navigation in Android Q is optional -- for now at least -- so you'll have to purposely opt into using it. Here's how to enable it, and then how to use all of the new gestures we can find right now, including how to master the new back gesture.

Enable gestures

The process will vary based on who makes your phone, but if you search the Settings app for "Gestures," you shouldn't have any issue finding it. However, here's how to enable gesture navigation on a Pixel 3 XL ($699 at Amazon):

Gesture navigation on Android Q is just a few taps away. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET
  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the app and tap on System
  3. Select Gestures
  4. Tap on System Navigation
  5. Select Fully gestural navigation

Your screen will flash, and a few seconds later the buttons that were just present along the bottom of your screen will be gone. In their place will be a single white line.

How to get to the home screen

A quick swipe up from the bottom of your phone's screen will take you back to your home screen.

Just swipe up to go home. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Get to the multitasking view

To view all open apps, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen but pause about a third of the way up the screen.

The trick here is to not go too far. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Quickly switch between apps

You can quickly switch between apps by swiping left over the small line at the bottom of the screen. After you start scrolling through open apps, you can swipe to the right in the same area to go back and forth between apps.

You can quickly move between apps from any screen with a flick. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Access the app drawer

Accessing the app drawer is simple. From the home screen, just swipe up. It's the same gesture you use to get back to the home screen from inside an app.

You can get to the app drawer with a swipe up on the homescreen. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Access Google Assistant

You can still access Google Assistant in Android Q without a wake phrase -- but it's a bit wonky. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Without a home button to long-press and trigger Google Assistant, how do you access Assistant without using the wake phrase? I couldn't figure it out at first, then someone on Twitter pointed it out to me. You'll need to swipe up, diagonally, from either corner at the bottom of the phone's display. It takes some practice getting it to work every time, and honestly, I'm still not there. Hopefully, this is one of those features that Google changes during the beta. 

How do I go back?

The lack of a back button and the subsequent replacement Google is using as of Android Q beta 3 is the most shocking change to navigating your Android phone.

The biggest adjusted you'll have to make with Android Q's gestures is the lack of a back button. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

To go back, swipe from the left or right edge of the screen. It's a quick gesture, and you'll know when you did it right because an arrow shows up on the screen.

If an app uses a slideout menu, swipe down at an angle to open it instead of going back. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

The problem is that a lot of apps use a slide-out menu that's accessed by swiping from the left edge of the screen. With the same gesture now used by Android as a back command, it'll be interesting to see how Google and developers figure out the middle ground. Until then, you can swipe down and to the right from the edge of your phone's screen in order to pull out the menu drawer. 

Force close apps

This hasn't changed, but it's worth mentioning again. When in multitasking view, swipe up on an app's card -- pushing it off the top of the screen --  to close out the app. 

Force closing an app hasn't changed at all.

Jason Cipriani/CNET
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