Android 14 makes me excited about the future of gesture navigation

Google first introduced gesture navigation with Android 9 Pie in 2018, as we already detailed in our brief history of Android gestures. This initial solution was decidedly half-baked, with Google keeping both the back and home buttons, and only adding gestures for multitasking. A year later, the company did the right thing and made the full switch to gesture navigation on Android 10, turning the home and back buttons into gestures as well.


While navigating this system is mostly intuitive, the back gesture still felt stuck to me, all this time. The home and multitasking gestures are accompanied by beautiful and meaningful animations, with application windows flying in and out of view depending on the movement of your finger on the screen. In contrast, the back gesture only offers limited animation suggestions in Android 10 through Android 13, with nothing but an arrow that extends from the edge of the screen in response to your movements. You have to let go before you know where your next move will take you, which can sometimes take you to the wrong place.

Some iOS inspiration goes a long way

When you compare this to the situation in the iPhone, which probably pioneered gesture navigation as we use it today on Android, you might notice that Apple handles things a little more intuitively when it comes to animations. iOS offers almost the same multitasking and home gestures as Android, although it lacks a universal back gesture that always takes you to the home screen. But the way transitions are handled within individual iOS apps is much more intuitive than on Android. Many iOS apps allow you to swipe in from the left edge of the screen, which reveals any screen or panel you’ve seen in that same app before.

This approach allows you to preview the navigation step you are about to take before you actually follow it. That means you can stop if you’re not going where you wanted to go, making the experience more intuitive and enjoyable. The system gives you instant feedback based on the movements of your fingers, keeping you in control and helping you directly interact with the application. Android lacked this kind of intuition with its back gesture, with the transition animation from one app screen to another just following after you let go of the gesture.

Android 14 might give us the best of both worlds

Predictive back gesture within a single application

That’s why Android 14 excites me so much. The new Android version promises to change that, introducing a more intuitive back navigation experience, and it might just combine the best of both worlds. In Android 14 Developer Preview 2, a new, predictive background animation is available for a select few apps where Google is asking developers to add support for it.

The new gesture lets you see which step back you are about to take. As you slide your finger across the screen, an animation quickly reveals whatever screen you’re about to navigate, accompanied by some satisfying haptic feedback as you cross the threshold. You can slide back and forth between these two screens as you swipe your finger across the screen, and decide if you really want to return to the previous screen before you finish the action.

Predictive back gesture across different apps

It’s fair to say that most of the time, you’ll probably be aware of where that next gesture will send you, so you might think the new animation is just unnecessary fluff. However, Google’s own research shows that users are sometimes surprised about where their next move takes them. Even if this is something that only happens to you once in a while, it’s still a great addition that can prevent accidental navigation to screens you didn’t mean to visit.

As Google previewed last year, app developers will also be able to implement their own custom transitions for this new predictive back gesture. The company demonstrated a mockup of Google Calendar, which offered a smooth transition from a single event view to the agenda overview.

The new back gesture could also help us eliminate a workaround introduced by many third-party developers that precedes gesture navigation: When the next back step exits a given application, it will ask you to confirm the action with an additional tap. the back button or an extra swipe across the screen for the back gesture. This was intended to prevent accidental exits, and this stopgap solution only exists because of the uncertainty that back navigation presents.

It may take some time until all apps use Android 14’s predictive back gestures

As with any new Android feature introduced with a new version of the operating system, it’s likely that not all apps will support it from the start — especially since Google requires developers to manually change a flag in their apps to enable the new one. back navigation This is to ensure that nothing breaks when using the feature, but it may also mean that we will have to wait quite some time before the system is widely adopted. The same goes for Android 13’s per-app languages ​​and optional transparency behind the navigation bar at the bottom, which is something many apps have. still does not support – including Google’s own programs.

Given how useful the new back gesture is in making phones more intuitive, I can only hope that it will be one of those features that app developers embrace sooner rather than later. The Android 14 Developer Previews and Betas will give them plenty of opportunities to try out the new system with their apps. At the same time, it’s also clear that Google still needs to put a lot of polish into the brand new predictive back gestures. In Developer Preview 2, the system is still incredibly buggy and finicky, with it either not starting or only working for a few transitions. At the time of writing, I’ve also only seen it work with Google News and the settings app, which isn’t really a bunch of apps.

However, the potential is clear, and I, for one, cannot wait until Android applications broadly support this new intuitive back gesture. If you’d like to try it out now, learn how to install the Android 14 Developer Preview on your Pixel phone.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: