Press F to Pay Respects to the Back Button in Android 10

Earlier this year, it was rumored that Google would remove the back button from Android 10. The rumors appear to be true, based on the Android 10 release notes. The latest version of Android now features a fully gesture-based method of navigation. Thankfully, there is an option to revert to simpler times if gestures are not your thing.

One can choose between Android Pie's two-button system and the traditional three-button array on existing Pixels. We don't know if that'll hold true for the Pixel 4, so, fingers crossed, I guess. In Android 10 the navigation bar is devoid of any buttons. Instead, you go home, back, and access your recent apps using a combination of different gestures without any buttons involved. Let's take a look at how the new system works:

  • Home: What was once tethered to a physical button is now reduced to a swipe up from the bottom-center of your screen. The gesture will take you back to the home screen, regardless of what you're doing.
  • Recents— Hold your finger on the screen midway through a Home gesture, and you'll be taken to the Recents menu. Here you'll see a list of all your recently used apps and can scroll horizontally to see everything you've opened.
  • Switch between apps — Repeat the above gesture, but this time, slide your finger to the left or right. This will take you to a recently used app rather than having to open the multitasking page.
  • Back — Now that the back button is gone, going back to your previous page is done by swiping from either the left or right edge of the screen.

The main problem with the new Back gesture is that it interferes with several apps' ability to show navigation menus on the left side of the screen. These are typically accessed by swiping on the left edge of your screen and will now directly conflict with the new Back gesture. You can still access the drawers with a swipe gesture and pray that it doesn't take you back a screen. The only reliable way around it is to use two fingers to swipe across your display. Bringing up the Google Assistant is a lot tricker too. You now have to swipe into the screen from the left or right corner of your phone's display. There are indicators on either edge to help show you where to swipe, and one should get used to it after a few tries.

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