If rumors are true, there's going to be a major change in the way users navigate through apps on Android.
XDA Developers has done some digging and found a leaked early set of code for the next version of Android, tentatively called Android Q.
One of the discoveries suggests that the "back" button, as users know it, could be going away for good, and in place of it would be a new swiping gesture.
Gestures On Android
The current version of Android, called Android Pie, already employs gesture-based navigation, but only to a certain extent. The user interface mainly uses buttons, still. On the Google Pixel 3, for instance, there's a home "pill" button on the bottom navigation bar and a back button only appears only when it's needed. To multitask, users simply have to swipe up.
That configuration is reserved for the Pixel 3, however. Other phones running Android Pie have a more traditional three-button menu. Some others, however, teach users custom gestures to get rid of the bottom bar altogether a la iPhone X.
Speaking of iPhones, the most recent ones have a somewhat similar set of gesture-based navigation, with a back gesture that works by sliding in from the left of the screen. What this says is that gestures might soon be the bread and butter of mobile user interfaces.
Google's Gestures Are Confusing
The only problem is that Google's implementation is messy at the moment, if not totally convoluted. Gestures in and of themselves already involve a degree of learning curve, but perhaps even more so when Google sets them up in a way where it's hard to differentiate the gesture for going "back" and the one for swiping between apps.
To make matters worse, manufacturers are inevitably going to force their own individual approaches to gestures to users, which only stands to bring the Android audience further away from a universally understood navigation system.
But there's no way to know for sure if Google plans to implement this new "back" gesture on Android Q. Moreover, if Google does implement it on the Pixel, there's no telling that the rest of the Android community will get it, too. After all, certain features are locked to the Pixel 3, such as the infamous Night Sight mode, even if they can technically work on most modern Android devices.
A more important question to ask is whether gestures will — and can — ultimately replace buttons when it comes to navigation.