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Google's gesture controls for Android are a usability nightmare

Hey y’all, time once again for an OCD phone post from me! As part of Android P, Google added gesture controls to replace the traditional Android back/home/multitasking buttons. Except Google’s gestures are a mess. The video above is a great comparison of the different gesture controls from Google, OnePlus, and Motorola.

TL;DR: the Google and OnePlus gestures are kinda trash, and Motorola’s are the only ones that really make sense.

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And now, an extended nitpicky rant on all the problems with Google’s gestures. Because unlike most other phones that let you choose between 3-button or gesture navigation, the Pixel 3 on up are all in on Google’s shitty gesture controls.

One of the main reasons for gesture controls is to increase the available screen real estate, but Google’s gestures gain you back zero new screen real estate. The area on the screen for Google’s gesture controls is the exact same height as the old 3-button nav.  

There’s NO BACK GESTURE. It’s still a damn button, but it’s now a teensy < icon that you have to squint to see.

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Google got the idea that people want to access their app drawer all the time and not only from the home screen, which is a nice thought, but the way they’ve implemented it is all messed up. Both the app drawer AND the multitasking screens are accessed by slightly different swipe-up gestures, and inevitably you mess up which type of swipe-up you’re supposed to do for the app drawer or your recent apps, and end up with a bunch of double up-swipes trying to get into one or the other of these things.

BUT...there are other multitasking features that involve swiping right on the home button. If you swipe right and let go, that flips you back to your most recent other app you were in. This is a the same as the double tap on the multitasking button in the 3-button setup.

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If you swipe right and hold your finger down, you can then slide the home button side to side to move between different open apps. Except, this is a complete duplicate of just swiping up on the home button and then flicking the app cards themselves left or right. Why have 2 different ways to do the same damn thing, Google?

If you install a custom launcher, this sorta kinda fixes and also breaks Google’s UI. Custom launchers remove the app drawer from the recent apps screen. Which means that if you swipe up on the home button, you get only your recent apps and no app drawer. To go to your app drawer you have to go to your home screen and then do whatever your launcher of choice does for accessing the app drawer.

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I like Nova Launcher which has a setting for swiping up anywhere on the home screen to bring up the app drawer. This way, you only need to remember to swipe up on the home button for your multitasking view, or swipe up anywhere else on the home screen for the app drawer. It’s still two different goddamn up-swipes but they’re at least distinct enough to avoid constantly activating your app drawer when you wanted your recent apps, or vice versa.

On my Essential PH-1, I have the option to choose between 3-button nav or Google’s gestures. Even with Nova launcher, whenever I try the gestures, I basically manage to use the phone fine, but inevitably switch back to the 3-button nav as it’s way more intuitive.

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I suppose with a Pixel I could live with the gestures, but they’re just goddamn irritating. Google should give up on the mess they’ve created and simplify things like Motorola. Hell, just straight up steal Motorola’s gestures and be done with it. 

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