Google: Gesture control is faster than button navigation in Android

According to research by Google, gesture control in Android works faster than using a back or home button on the screen. The research also shows that users nevertheless find buttons more ergonomic.

On its Android developer blog, Google shows results of the research showing that controlling the back and home functions is faster with gesture control. In Android Q, those actions go left or right with a thumb swipe across the screen. Viewing recent apps or switching apps is not faster with gesture control, but according to Google, that action is used half as much.

Users find the gesture controls work slightly better than buttons when they operate the device with one hand, the study shows. However, the navigation method with three buttons scores the highest in terms of ergonomics. It is not known how many people Google conducted the survey among.

Google acknowledges that there are some issues with entering gesture controls. With some apps it is possible to open the hamburger menu with a swipe to the right. This is how it works with the Play Store, for example. So if users make the same movement when gesture control is active, it won’t work. Google states that only 3 to 7 percent of Android users make a swipe to open such a menu in Google apps. App developers should take this into account and adjust their apps if necessary to avoid confusion and disruption with the gestures.

Gesture control will be part of Android Q and Google will probably make it the default on its Pixel 4 smartphones. Other manufacturers of Android smartphones have already implemented gesture control themselves. Fragmentation arose because manufacturers do not all use the same gestures. Google has worked with partners including Samsung, Xiaomi, HMD, Oppo, OnePlus, LG and Motorola in the past year to standardize gesture controls.

Google wants to make the switch to gesture control, in its own words, because omitting the buttons at the bottom of the screen provides extra space for apps. Google recognizes that gesture control is not useful for all users, for example for people with limited physical dexterity. That is why in future Android versions there will always be a possibility to navigate with three buttons on the screen.