The back gesture sensitivity option in Android Q Beta 6 does nothing to solve Google’s gesture woes

Google decided to introduce a new version of gesture navigation in Android Q, which is an excellent idea. The 2-button gesture nav design from Pie was, let’s face it, terrible. The new full gesture navigation system in Q has some good ideas, but the back gesture is a mess. Google’s latest attempt to fix that in Beta 6 isn’t going to be enough.

As we reported when it rolled out, Google added a sensitivity slider to the settings for gesture navigation. The idea, supposedly, is that you can turn down the sensitivity to make it easier to perform gestures in apps (i.e. making back harder to trigger). Some have wondered if the slider is broken because it doesn’t seem to make slide-out nav drawers any easier to access. However, it does work, and that’s probably more troubling.

If you pull the sensitivity slider all the way down, you can still slide in from the edge of the screen to trigger the back action. However, you can touch and drag near the edge to access the nav menu or use sliders in an app—it essentially makes the peek action easier to trigger and back harder to trigger. Even knowing how this works, I’m only successful about 50% of the time attempting to open the Play Store’s nav drawer. The “hitbox” for missing the back gesture while grabbing edge UI elements in an app is so small as to be useless, so it’s possible Google intends this feature only to help with sliders and other elements that get near the edge.

Google has announced some changes for developers that will allegedly make edge gestures easier to use alongside the back gesture (above). I still foresee a long adjustment period ahead.

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