Every Google Pixel 2 XL owner should try the compact navigation bar from the OnePlus 5T
For several few years now, smartphones have been getting bigger and bigger. With many smartphones featuring a 6″ display, it’s almost hard to believe that the first commercially available Android phone, the HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1, had a measly 3.2″ screen.
Today, even budget smartphones have large 5.5-inch displays, and last year, taller 18:9 displays have become more popular. Coupled with smaller bezels, manufacturers could pull off bigger displays with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The problem with these ever growing displays are their impact on one handed usability. Reaching the opposite side of the display can be a challenge for many people.
Huawei, Samsung, Xiaomi, and other device makers solved this by introducing a one handed mode feature, which shrinks the screen down into a more usable window. While OnePlus phones do not have such a feature, the company made a small, but very simple tweak to the OnePlus 5T’s navigation bar to combat this issue: making the nav bar more compact.
The difference isn’t easily discernible from a computer monitor, but if you’ve ever held both phones at some point in time, it’s something you would immediately recognize. The navigation bar on the Google Pixel 2 XL, when compared with that of the OnePlus 5T, is wider. While the Pixel 2 XL can be easily held with one hand, using it with one hand is a bit tougher. Right-handed users may have trouble reaching the back button, and left-handed users may be unable to reach the recent apps button.
Thankfully, there’s a simple solution for this: just make the navigation bar buttons closer together! Anyone can do this without paying a single penny or going through the effort of rooting your device—just a simple ADB command and you’re on your way. If you find yourself struggling to reach your nav bar buttons on the Pixel 2 XL, we recommend giving this simple tweak a shot.
How to make the navigation bar buttons closer together
Android has had a hidden navigation bar customization menu since Android Nougat, and by using the free Custom Navigation Bar app, you can customize the navigation bar on the Pixel 2 XL and other devices running Android 7.0+. It allows you to add custom buttons to the navigation bar, switch manually between custom navigation bar layouts, and even use Tasker integration to change layouts on the fly. Best of all, it doesn’t require root access or Xposed.
You just need to download the app from the Play Store link below, and go through the setup process (it’ll walk you through everything).
In order to change the navigation bar’s settings, head into the settings menu of the Custom Navigation Bar app, where you can change its layout (by choosing from Normal, Left-leaning, Right-leaning, Compact, Tablet, and Center), choose whether to normalize button size, and choose to invert the back and recent app list buttons.
The ability to bring the navigation bar buttons closer isn’t a ground-breaking feature, but it’s one which shows attention to detail. It adds convenience over the long run, and leads to better one-handed usability. We hope that OEMs adopt similar solutions unless something better can be found for the long term with respect to one-hand usability of smartphones with 18:9 displays.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, that extra nav bar button shown on the Pixel 2 XL screenshots is XDA’s One Handed Mode app. The Custom Navigation Bar app allows you to create a nav bar button to toggle One Handed Mode.
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