If you’re a fan of Android’s three-button navigation system, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL wave goodbye to the feature.
The phones come with the new gesture navigation out of the box, and there’s no way to switch back.
While we knew this was coming, it’s still unfortunate to see. One of the strongest aspects of Android is its freedom of choice. However, Pixel 3 owners won’t get to choose how they navigate their phone.
Google’s UX lead and manager for Pixel and Android, EK Chung, hinted at this back in August. She said that people, especially first-time Android users, found the three-button system more confusing.
Hi! Pixel 3 introduces a new pattern that will represent navigation on all Android phones going forward. While change & adapting to new patterns is hard, we believe it’s a better navigation pattern & makes app switching a faster experience.
— Made by Google (@madebygoogle) October 9, 2018
It seems Google is doubling down on that. The ‘Made by Google’ Twitter account (@madebygoogle) tweeted that it believes gesture navigation is a “better navigation pattern” that makes “app switching a faster experience.”
While app switching may be a faster experience, not everything is. Activating split screen, for example, is significantly slower with Android Pie. While this isn’t directly related to gesture navigation, it’s a factor of the new app switcher in Pie made for gesture navigation.
Users also flocked to the tweet to point out that navigation gestures are bugged. The ‘swipe right’ gesture that allows users to quickly switch between recent apps by flicking the navigation pill sometimes boots users to the second-to-last used app instead of the most recently used app.
The bug is often seen when using a third-party app, however it sometimes affects the Pixel Launcher as well. Developers marked it as fixed in a Google Issue Tracker thread, but users won’t see it until a future Android update.
Ultimately, it’s a sad scenario for those of us who don’t love gesture navigation. However, knowing Android enthusiasts, I give it a few weeks before someone releases an app that lets Pixel 3 users switch back to the three-button layout.