Android Q beta 5 adds new gestures for screen unpinning and the Accessibility Menu
Google released the 5th Android Q beta earlier today for its Pixel smartphones, leaving one more beta left until the stable release next month. It’s been a month since the last beta release, so Google has had plenty of time to make small tweaks here and there. We’ve been digging into Android Q beta 5 to find all the major and minor changes, and we spotted the addition of two new gestures: a gesture to unpin the screen and a gesture to toggle the Accessibility Menu.
If you’ll recall, Android Q beta 3 introduced new “fully gestural navigation” controls, which are now referred to as simply “gesture navigation.” These gestures are reminiscent of Apple’s gestures in iOS. In fact, there’s a thin, long bar at the bottom that you can swipe left or right to switch apps, swipe up to go home, or swipe up and hold to open the recent apps overview. Since Android has always had a dedicated back button, Google has added an inward side swipe gesture to go back in Android Q. While these new gestures are a great improvement over the half-baked ones introduced in Android Pie, there’s still room for improvement, especially when it comes to replicating existing functionality provided by the 3-button navigation buttons.
Screen Unpinning Gesture
First, if you pin the screen using Android’s built-in screen pinning function, there’s no way to unpin the screen with gestures. In beta 3, you would simply get stuck in a pinned app if you did so, while in beta 4 Google just removed screen pinning altogether if you enabled the new gestures. Thankfully, Android Q beta 5 has added a new “swipe up and hold” to unpin apps.
Accessibility Menu Gesture
On every Pixel smartphone, there’s a pre-installed Accessibility Service called “Accessibility Menu.” This service provides access to common functions like calling the Google Assistant, toggling the power button, changing the volume, changing the brightness, and more. In order to access it pre-Android Q, you need to enable the Accessibility Service and then tap the dedicated button that appears in the navigation bar. Now in Android Q beta 5, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen with two fingers to open the Accessibility Menu. If you have multiple Accessibility Services enabled, you can also swipe up with two fingers and hold the screen to switch between services.
These tweaks to the navigation gestures show that Google is considering how their new gestures interact with all existing features. I’ve seen gestures from other OEMs simply disable screen pinning entirely when their version of gestures are enabled, so it’s nice to see that Google isn’t abandoning older features when designing their new navigation controls. In Android Q beta 5, Google has also recently added a new Assistant gesture hint and animation and tweaked the gesture behavior for navigation drawers, but they’ve also regressed a bit by blocking gesture navigation on third-party launchers. I’m excited to see how Android’s gestures evolve, but I’m not particularly happy about them if it comes at the cost of customizability via third-party launchers.