Recently with the release of latest Android (10), apart from fancy things, a core part of the OS changed. The one which was present for more than past 5 years; the 3-button navigation.

Back then manufacturers provided way more options than required, some even with up to 4-hardware buttons on their models. But with Apple’s adaptation of a gesture-based navigation system, Google soon followed.

The Backstory

The 3 button navigation was initiated by Google, which then shortly moved onscreen. These were – Home, Back and Recent buttons. Simple to understand, easy to use. But, not all manufacturers marched to Google’s tune. Samsung for example, preferred its 2-capacitive 1-physical home button layout. While Google initiated Nexus phones (the good ol’ days) were the only ones which carried the intended 3-soft button layout.

navigation comparison between samsung's and google's android

Samsung’s button layout vs Google’s

I preferred Google’s layout. Mostly because tapping is easier than pressing an actual button (no, I am not lazy). But this wasn’t the case with android phone manufacturers. Because of this, there used to be no seamless-switching between phones of different brands.

The Transition

Google soon realized that going forward this can hurt the adaptability of Android. As well as increase the fragmentation problem even more, putting iOS ahead.

So with the Android Pie, a new semi-gesture-semi-button based navigation arrived. How did it look? Uhh, here’s a screen shot for you:

pie navigation bar

Pill shaped home button that changes to an app slider when slided over

I mean obviously Google tried, but something was off. It was kind of like a Frankenstein’s monster, made up of different parts. Scary! (Trick or Treat anyone?)

It definitely made my thumb exercise more.

The Current story

One year later, along with dessert names, this not-so-good navigation got dropped too. And finally, for competing with iOS, Google realized the situation and did something creative….
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copied Apple 🤦‍♂️

I mean its not that Apple never copied Google, or vice-versa. It worked very much like iOS’ navigation system. Have a look:

navigation system in android 10

“New" navigation system in Android 10, seems familiar iSheeps?

While it allowed apps to have more screen real estate, it created another issue. The swipe-from-left-edge-to-go-back gesture, interfered with the gesture used to open drawers from left. Because the app drawers, are present in many apps, it creates ambiguity among users.

Although according to Google, only a minority of people swiped-in from left to open drawer. It also stated that in its research, the new gesture based system got rated higher than classic one. An additional point was made that within 3-days, users became fluent with all the gestures.

It even requested OEMs to get on a single page for navigation, and create a more consistent experience on all the devices.

Conclusion

So, the gesture system is here to stay. If your app provides a side drawer, or isn’t making use of the full screen real-estate, its high time to get your app fixed/ updated. Need someone to get it fixed, or develop a new one in accordance with latest updates? Feel free to contact our team.

Prafull Mishra

Android Developer at Terasol Technologies
Hi! I am an Android Developer at Terasol Technologies. I convert coffee to mostly Java and Kotlin code. Also responsible for designing of apps and backend services.
Prafull Mishra