Android Q: How to ditch the back button for full, customizable navigation gesture controls
The leaked build of Android Q that I obtained in the middle of January revealed a lot of major changes in the next Android version. The system-wide dark mode, privacy and permission revamp, and new desktop mode were the highlights, but then I found out that Google is prototyping revamped navigation gesture controls that do away with the back button. The new Android Q beta for all three Pixel smartphone generations still has Google’s experimental changes to gesture navigation, and you can enable them right now thanks to a few hidden settings.
If you want to see how Android Q’s new gestures compare to Android Pie‘s gestures, here’s a video I did last month. Note, however, that I’ve since discovered there’s much more to Android Q’s gestures, including the fact that they’re (partially) customizable!
Google probably won’t let you actually customize the navigation gestures in the final Android Q release. What I found is just their prototyping feature which they probably use to test different gesture control setups to see which ones are the best. Still, since the feature is there, we might as well take advantage of it to improve upon Android Pie’s gestures.
How to get rid of the back button for full navigation gestures in Android Q
Before I show you any commands, let me explain how this works. There’s a hidden Settings.Global preference called “quickstepcontroller_gesture_match_map” which takes a 6 digit or more integer value. The preference accepts digits from 1-7 (0, 1, and 8 are ignored), and the order in which you put the digits determines what actions the pill swipe gestures will take.
Here are the possible actions:
- QuickStep (enter the recent apps overview)
- QuickScrub (cycle through recent apps by moving your finger left and right on the pill while holding it down)
- Back (go back)
- QuickSwitch (quickly switch to the previous app)
- Null (do nothing)
- Assistant (launch the default assistant app)
- NotificationPanel (pull down the notification panel)
Here is the order in which the gestures are mapped:
- Swipe Up
- Swipe Down
- Swipe Left
- Swipe Right
I haven’t yet figured out what the 5th and 6th gestures are. No matter what I tried, I was unable to alter the single tap of the home button and long-press of the home button actions. I’ll update this article if I find out how to remap those actions.
So, here are some example ADB commands you can send to change up Android Q’s gestures for the better. (For the following ADB commands, if you’re using PowerShell on Windows, precede the command with a .”\” (no quotes). If you’re using macOS or Linux, precede the command with a “./” (no quotes).)
Example 1: New Back Gesture, Swipe Down for Notifications, Old QuickSwitch Animation
This is my preferred setup right now, because the new transition animation for switching between recent apps, as shown in the video earlier, is a bit buggy. This ADB command will make it so you can swipe the pill to the left to go back (making the back button redundant), swipe down to pull down the notification panel (super useful!), and lastly retain the Android Pie recent apps scrolling.
- Open up a command prompt or terminal window in the directory where you stored the ADB binary.
- Plug in your Pixel phone to your PC.
- To get rid of the back button, enter this command:
adb shell settings put global quickstepcontroller_hideback 1
- Run the following command to change the gesture pill behavior:
adb shell settings put global quickstepcontroller_gesture_match_map 173255
Example 2: New Back Gesture, Swipe Down for Notifications, New QuickSwitch Animation
If you want to try out Android Q’s new transition animation for the last app action, you can do so by substituting the 2 in the fourth position with a 1. Be warned that the transition is a little funky looking since it’s still a work-in-progress, and that you can’t swipe right on the pill when on the home screen. At least it looks nice, I guess.
- Follow steps 1-3 from the previous section.
- Run this command:
adb shell settings put global quickstepcontroller_gesture_match_map 173155
Help! My Phone Keeps Crashing! I Want The Old Gestures Back!
Remember when I said the preference takes a value that’s 6 digits or more? Well, I meant it. If you put any integer that’s 5 digits or less, the method can’t handle it and SystemUI will just crash repeatedly. Fortunately, this is trivial to fix. You can either re-enter one of the above commands, this time using a 6 digit value, or you can reset the gestures by issuing the following commands:
adb shell settings put global quickstepcontroller_hideback 0 adb shell settings delete global quickstepcontroller_gesture_match_map
Have fun playing around with the new gestures in Android Q! This article only gives you a tiny slice of the work that Google is doing behind-the-scenes to improve gesture controls in Q. There are at least 6 other hidden Settings.Global values I haven’t shared here as well as other experiments that can’t be enabled via ADB. I’ll mess around with the Android Q beta on the Google Pixel 3 XL some more to see if there’s anything more I can share. More Android Q tips and tricks:
- How to toggle Android Q’s hidden system-wide dark theme
- Android Q’s Desktop Mode is real, here’s your first look
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