I recently upgraded to an iPhone XS Max (and spent way too much doing so), and much to my surprise, I don't miss the home button like I thought I would. It hasn't taken long to get used to system-wide gesture controls. Interestingly enough, Android may be making a major change as well—a pre-release build of Android Q suggests the back button may go the way of the dodo bird, in favor of gestures.
Android is not without gesture controls already, of course. In Android 9 Pie, Google replaced the three-button navigation system with a two-button scheme, with the recent apps button getting the axe. It also introduced new navigation controls as a whole, such as the long press of the pill to launch Google Assistant and long swiping up to open the App drawer.
Incidentally, it's that long swipe up that can conflict with the dedicated back button, as some people find that it gets in the way. In Android Q, however, that may no longer be a problem.
The folks at XDA Developers have been playing around with a pre-release version of Android Q that was created in January. It is an experimental build and so the features are not necessarily indicative what will end up in the final release. That said, Google is experimenting with two big changes—replacing the back button with a gesture (tapping the pill and swiping left), and no longer allowing users to disable gestures and return to the vertical card recent apps overview with the three-button system.
In a sense, kicking the back button to the curb would represent a major evolution to Android. The back button has been a staple feature of Android, and survived an upgrade to Android Pie when Google could have gotten rid of it then. The timing may not have been ideal, though, with Pixel/Pixel XL and Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL owners having grown accustomed to using it.
Why would it make more sense to do it now? Android 9 Pie has groomed users on gesture navigation, so getting rid of the back button and replacing it with another gesture would not be as big of a shock to the system. No doubt there would be users who would miss the back button, but it seems inevitable that eventually it will be a part of Android's past, not its future.
If you're an Android user, would you embrace a gesture in place of a dedicated back button, or do you think Google should leave it as-is? Sound off in the comments section below!
Top Image Source: YouTube via XDA Developers