March 3, 2021

Android 12 fixes one of the most frustrating things about gesture navigation


You either love or hate gesture-based navigation. Fortunately, Android lets you use whichever you like best. But even if you’re all about swiping around with the smaller navigation bar, there’s always been one sort of annoying impediment: Exiting the full-screen view in apps. It’s one tap or swipe to bring up the navigation elements and another to actually swipe home or back. But Android 12 fixes that; it’s all just one swipe now (though apps may need to be updated to do it).

Google first divulged the details in its initial announcement, and following publication, we dug up some more information in the developer documentation. Visually, nothing is any different, but if apps are constructed the right way, gestures are now allowed even if the navigation bar is hidden by a full-screen or immersive view.

 

Back gestures on Android 11 (left) and Android 12 (right).

We can also confirm this behavior for ourselves on Android 12, and it does seem to vary by app. Google Photos, for example, will let you exit from a full-screen immersive view with just a single swipe, triggering back or home without first showing the nav bar and notification shade. However, it doesn’t work in YouTube — presumably, the app needs to be updated to be in line with Google’s documented requirements. (Given how much YouTube deviates from the rest of the Google apps suite in other basic ways, we’re not holding our breath.)

Home gestures on Android 11 (left) and Android 12 (right).

This might seem like an inconsequential change, but it’s been a point of frustration. Back when the new gestures landed in Android Q, it took a bit for Google to iterate onto the solution we ultimately got, which required that you perform an action to first bring up the notification bar, and then swipe again to actually go back or home. That two-step process is a little unintuitive, and it’s awkward to remember when just swiping for back on its own seems more intuitive. But now, simply swiping a single time can trigger back or home even in a full-screen view on Android 12 — so long as apps are put together correctly.

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