Android Intelligence Advice

A better way to snap between apps on Android

Ergonomic efficiency can be yours with this easy-to-implement Android power-up.

Snap Apps Android
alan9187 (CC0)

One of my favorite Android shortcuts is the Nougat-introduced ability to snap between apps. Much like Alt-Tab for Windows, you simply double-tap your device's Overview key, and bam: You're zapped back and forth between your two most recently used processes in the blink of an eye.

It's one of Android's most useful hidden features — but with the soon-to-be-released Android P update, it's a whole new ballgame. Thanks to P's new gesture navigation system, the Overview key is no more. So instead of having the handy ol' double-tap-to-snap shortcut, you get a new flick-the-Home-button-to-the-right equivalent.

The shortcut's inconsistent and less-than-snappy performance in early P builds — noticeable even when the gesture nav system was disabled and the traditional Overview key was restored — led me to seek out alternatives. And even now, with the shortcut's speed and reliability significantly improved over the past few Android P previews, I've found myself actually preferring the third-party setup I found.

It comes by way of a clever tool called Edge Gestures, which costs a mere two buckaroos to buy. I highlighted Edge Gestures as part of my recent efficiency-enhancing apps roundup, but I didn't have a chance to get into its app-snapping capability there. And you know what? Even if you don't take advantage of anything else Edge Gestures has to offer, that capability alone could make it worth your while.

Here's how it works: First, you decide where exactly you want your hot zone — the area of your screen that'll recognize your custom app-snapping gesture — to reside. You can pick any area along the left, right, or bottom edge of your display.

I'd think about how you tend to hold your phone and base your decision around that: If you usually hold your phone in your left hand, go with the left side of the screen. If you hold it in your right, go with the right. Then find the sweet spot along that edge where your thumb naturally lands, and set up the hot zone so it'll be right along that area.

Why? Simple: The real advantage of this setup revolves around ergonomics and convenience — double-tapping the Overview key or flicking the Home button both take place in the lower-right corner of the screen, which is generally tough to reach with a single hand (without doing some serious palm shifting and/or finger yoga, that is) — so you want to pick an area that'll be effortless to touch, no matter what you're doing.

Snap Apps Android - Edge Gestures Hotzone JR

Once you've set up your hot zone, it's time to create your app-snapping gesture. Edge Gestures has a bunch of different gestures enabled by default, so you may want to go through all of them and select "Clear" to make sure only the one you actually want is actively assigned.

So which gesture to use, then? It's really just a matter of personal preference, and it won't take long to figure out what feels right to you. I might start by trying the "Swipe to the right" option. To do so, just select that line within Edge Gestures' settings, then select "Switch to the previous app" from the list of commands that appears.

After that, all that's left to do is give it a whirl: Starting from the edge of your screen, where your hot zone is located, quickly swipe your thumb outward and let go. That should cause your phone to snap between your two most recently used apps or processes faster than you can say "gesture conjecture."

Android - Direct Share JR

(If that doesn't work for you, by the way, look in the "Common" tab of Edge Gestures' settings and try the option labeled "Force switch apps." I haven't had to activate that myself, but it's apparently required for some devices.)

And there you have it: speedy Android app switching, custom-tailored to the way you hold your device. Ergonomics and efficiency are now at your fingertips, my friend — and you'll be snapping between apps like the smartphone superhero we all know you can be.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

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