Whether they are notch-y, slide-y, dual-screen, or simply with bezels trimmed to the maximum possible, “all-screen” phones have now become mainstream, forcing manufacturers and mobile OS providers to rethink navigation away from bottom-feeding buttons or virtual strips.
Navigation gestures have been around for a while, but there is a renewed focus on employing them at a system level, both on iOS and by Google. With Android phones, of course, manufacturers can freely add gestures on top of what Google has hard-coded as options resulting in a richer variety of options that we are now going to preview for you by platform and brand.
Apple – the ‘gestural’ iOS
Despite the giant protrusion at the top, Apple managed a nice screen-to-body ratio percentage by trimming the bottom bezel significantly, but that had one side effect – no home button. With the 2018 iPhone crop, Apple killed its iconic home key for good, carrying over the simple iPhone X gestures that were seemingly easy for people to adapt to.
- Navigation indicator can’t be customized
- Stretching all the way down on 6″+ inch iPhones gets uncomfortable with one hand
Samsung is a bit handicapped when it comes to navigation gestures, as the sides of its curved OLED displays are doing their People Edge or other duties, so busting a move from there is out of the question for now. It already has a pull-down and swipe-up gestures on an empty screen area to bring the notification shade from the clouds or open the app drawer, therefore the only side left for a new navigation party, is the very bottom.
- Stretching all the way down on large screens is even less comfortable than before
- Edge screen functionality essentially blocks using the sides for navigation gestures
Moreover, Huawei didn’t complicate things further by asking you to guestimate where does the home button gesture area end and the recent apps one begins like Samsung. It just did what Apple does with the notch-y iPhones, and incorporated one move for both home screen and recent apps calling by simply holding the swipe-up gestures a bit longer.
- There’s still no swipe down gesture to pull the notification side
Given that OnePlus has wiggled its way onto US carriers like T-Mobile, we are using its approach as an example, but Xiaomi and other smaller than Huawei Chinese makers have been having gesture navigation before it was a thing. They are now much more polished, though, given that Google has incorporated them in Android on a system basis.
- No side gestures to facilitate going back on a big screen phone without stretching
- Having both left and right swipe-ups act as a back key can be confusing
Swiping up from the pill brings the multitasking view with current app frames to swipe between, pick or flick away. Below them, you can now find the search field and a few often used apps for added convenience.
Google hasn’t given you the options to customize or bring back the navigation bar of yesteryear, so the learning curve might be steeper.
- The visuals still look like a retro bar with one action missing
- No opportunity to customize