[Concept] Three reasons to keep the Pill in Android Q

Android Q navigation bar, modelled by Android Police

I've thought about navigation in Android before. Needless to say, I didn't get it right. But the problem still remains: gesture navigation in Android still doesn't feel right.

1 - It's buggy

And, yes, this will get better as Q comes out of beta testing, but it's still unlikely it will ever feel as fluid as iOS with it's head start.

2 - It's a RIP rip-off of iOS

Gesture navigation on iOS is well thought out and it's clear that Apple really thought about what they had to do to make it a delight to use - but just copying it, right down to the visual look of the navigation bar, just feels cheap. It's like admitting 'we don't know what we're doing, so we'll just follow you.' It's such a jarring change of direction from where Android has been heading for years and it's like they aren't even trying to hide it.

3 - It makes now-familiar gestures unfamiliar again and loses potential functionality

Google have been pushing the Assistant for years now - but Q gestures hides it somewhere between a swipe-up to go home and a slide-to-the-side to go back. It's a halfway house for Google's flagship technology. That's not good enough.

Well, I could do better than that

Instead of that navigation bar, Google need to stay with the pill. Sure, keep all the same gestures: swipe up to go home; swipe from the side to go back (even with the clash with the hamburger menu, it's better than a lop-sided back button on screen); swipe along the bottom to quick-switch apps; and everything else - but just keep the pill as the visual indicator for these gestures. This enables the pill to retain it's functionality as a button and also keeps a few more pixels at the bottom of the screen for some useful functions, not to mention making the side swipe target area larger.

1: Keeping the pill means there is more height for corner buttons.

Rotation lock has been popular, but there are also other accessibility features, like screen readers, that open up Android for those who need them, without having them overlap the rest of the screen. Keeping the added height of the pill over the bar means these features are not treated as second class citizens on Android and those who decide to use them are not restricted to old navigation methods or forced into compromises.

2: It gives space for Assistant Continuous Conversation

One of the most impressive demos at I/O 2019 was the Assistant continuous conversation. It allowed a user to navigate the OS and perform activities with minimal other input. It was fast and impressive and the way computing could well functionality in the future.
But it did take up a little space by the side of the pill.
If we lose the pill, we lose the natural place for that activity told happen. We would need a pop-up. That's just not as good if it is going to be a common way to interact with devices.
Google needs to keep the pill to keep Continuous Conversation from invading the rest of our screen.

3: It lets us use the pill as a button

Tapping to go home is familiar to us. Familiarity is good. Gestures are hidden. By all means keep swipe-up-to-go-home - it's a fun little gesture - but let us keep the old fashioned tap-to-go-home to help with the transition.
Keeping the pill as a button also retains the long-press to summon the Assistant and also allows other tapping functions like tapping again when on the home screen to bring up the search box and keyboard (rather than having to reach all the way up to the top of our six inch phones to open the search box on the home screen and then heading back down again to the bottom where the keyboard is.
Keeping the pill as a button also allows it to morph into a nice centralised indicator to drop down the keyboard when we're done with it.

But the biggest reason of all to keep the pill may just be because it creates the illusion that Google knew what they were doing last year when they introduced it. 

Google have a reputation from dropping things more frequently than consumers would like and this can cause problems when we are asked to trust new projects like Stadia; Google might SAY they are in it for the long term, but it might not FEEL that way to those of us who have been let down before. Keeping the design of the pill rather than mindlessly aping Apple's visual style might be small, but small things add up. If Google continue to give us a sense that they actually have a plan of where they are going, it might help us trust them just a little more when they come up with something new.


Popular posts