Android 10

10 hidden tricks for making the most of Android 10's gestures

Get around your phone faster than ever with these easy-to-miss advanced shortcuts for Android 10's gesture system.

android 10 gestures
MartaCuesta/JR Raphael (CC0)

Android 10

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Look, Google's Android 10 gestures aren't perfect — no two ways about that. But for all the negative attention the new navigation system rightfully receives, it's actually come a long way since its painfully awkward debut in an early Android 10 beta.

And you know what? At this point, warts and all, the Android 10 gestures are actually pretty pleasant to use — once you give yourself the chance to get used to 'em.

Part of that simply boils down to a matter of adjustment, as a change like this is inevitably gonna be a bit of a shock at first. But part of it is also a matter of figuring out some subtle tricks to make the most of Android 10's gesture setup. Some of the tricks may seem obvious, once you consider them, while others seem almost like unintentional inclusions. But all of them go a long way in making the new gestures faster, smoother, and more effective to use.

I've been fiddling around obsessively with Android 10 gestures for far too long now. Here are 10 tricks I've uncovered that'll let you move around your phone like a pro.

1. Learn a new app menu gesture

One of the most glaring flaws with Android 10's gesture setup is the way the new Back gesture — where you swipe in from the left side of the screen — overlaps with other actions already present throughout the operating system.

The most common of those is the gesture for opening a drawer-style menu within an app, like you see within Gmail or Google Photos. Google created an awkward mechanism for differentiating between swipes meant for going back and swipes meant for opening an app menu, but it's clunky, inconsistent, and generally just too unpredictable to rely on.

Here's the better way: When you want to open an app's menu drawer, swipe in upward from the left side of the screen at a 45-degree angle. That'll consistently pull up the app's menu instead of activating the Back command, as frequently happens when you swipe in a more straight-across, horizontal line.

Android 10 Gestures: App Drawer JR

Another option worth remembering: You can also swipe in with two fingers to open an app's menu every time. Or, of course, you can simply tap the three-line menu icon in the app's upper-right corner instead of swiping at all.

2. Remember that the Back gesture actually works in two places

If you're anything like me, you probably think of the Android 10 Back gesture as living on the left side of your screen — but don't forget: You can swipe your finger in from the right side of the screen, too, and accomplish the exact same result.

Strange as that redundancy may seem on the surface, the idea was to make the Back gesture convenient and comfortable to access no matter how you like to hold your phone. So if you're more of a right-hand-holder, stop stretching and try swiping in from the right side of the screen for an easier and more natural-feeling experience.

3. Don't forget about the universal Assistant gestures

One of Android 10's most easily overlooked gestures is its Assistant-opening command, which actually works from anywhere in the operating system — regardless of whether you're on your home screen or using an app.

This gesture, too, works in two different ways: by swiping upward at a diagonal from the lower-left corner of the screen or by doing the same thing from the lower-right corner. The lower-left corner seems to be the spot I veer to by default, but I've found the Assistant-opening command is actually much more consistent and easy to access via the lower-right corner swipe-up option.

Unlike its left-living equivalent, the right-dwelling Assistant gesture doesn't overlap with other common system actions (like that pesky app-menu opening command) and is basically guaranteed to work on your first try every time.

4. Master the Overview-opening timing

Android 10's gestures make the Overview screen — that area of the software where you can see all of your recently used apps and move quickly between 'em — a little less accessible than it used to be. But the Overview screen is actually still pretty easy to pull up, if you take the time to practice and master the associated gesture.

The trick is to swipe up in a straight line from the bottom of the screen and then stop and lift your finger quickly after about an inch — right where the top of the shaded card with the search box and app suggestions appears.

Android 10 Gestures: Overview JR

If you do that enough times, you'll get a feel for exactly where you need to stop, and you'll be able to open your Overview area quickly and consistently, almost without fail.

5. Tap into Overview's hidden swipe option

Once you're in the Overview area, you can tap on any app's card to open it — or, in what I find to be a faster and more natural-feeling move, you can swipe down on the card to accomplish the same thing. That way, you go from a quick swipe up to open Overview (and perhaps a short swipe over to find the card you want) to another similar swipe-oriented gesture.

6. Swipe through apps in Overview the secret way

Another hidden Overview trick: While looking at your list of recently used apps, in addition to swiping directly along the cards themselves, you can swipe on the bottom navigation bar to move through your apps and find the one you want. A gentle, short swipe will move left or right one app at a time while a harder, longer swipe (ooh, baby) will quickly move you from the start of the list to the end.

Android 10 Gestures: Overview Swipe JR

7. Head home from Overview in a hurry

If you open your Overview screen and then decide not to move to another app, there's a hidden shortcut for going back to your home screen in a jiff: Just swipe down on the shaded card with the search bar and suggested apps.

If you're in more of a tapping sort of mood, a quick tap of the upward-facing arrow in that same shaded area will accomplish the same thing.

8. Swipe between apps in a non-blind manner

One of Android 10's most frustrating gestures, if you ask me, is the command to swipe in either direction on that bottom-of-screen bar and move backwards or forwards in some sort of hypothetical "app continuum." It's a concept borrowed directly from iOS, and it's one of the worst parts of Google's setup.

The problem is that no normal person is ever going to remember exactly what order their recently opened apps appear in — and so more often than not, you end up flipping blindly and hoping you eventually land on the app you want. It just isn't an effective way of getting around, and it usually ends up requiring you to go through several recent programs before actually stumbling onto the right one.

Here's a smarter way to use that gesture: Instead of just swiping left or right on that bottom bar, swipe and move your finger up at the same time. That'll let you see previews of the apps in either direction and then intelligently decide if the one you want is there before just automatically opening it — kind of like a hybrid of fast-swiping and going into Overview. The higher you move your finger, the smaller the previews will appear and the move of them you can see at once.

Android 10 Gestures: App Swipe JR

When you find the app you want in the list, just slide your finger back down to the bottom of the screen, in a single motion, to open it.

9. Embrace the new 'Alt-Tab' shortcut

The one time that bottom-bar-swiping gesture can be handy is when you want to jump directly back to the last app you used — something that, unlike an entire continuum, typically is pretty easy to remember. And Android 10 has a useful function built in for that very purpose.

Just like in the Pie gesture setup (and similar to the old double-tap-the-Overview-key command in earlier Android versions), you can quickly flick the bottom-of-screen bar to the right to open your most recently used app — whether you're in another app or on your home screen.

Here's where things get slightly funky, though: You'd think you could then flick the bar to the left to go back to where you came from, right? Kind of like a back-and-forward sort of command? Well, you can — but only for a very limited amount of time. If you fast-flip to your most recently app and then want to go back where you came from within about five seconds, you can flick the bottom-of-screen bar to the left to go back.

Android 10 Gestures: App Swipe JR

After about five seconds, though, that app will change positions in that confusing-as-hell continuum and move from the right of your current app to its left — meaning that if more than five seconds have passed, you'll need to flick the bottom-of-screen bar to the right to go back.

Like I said, this bar-swiping system in general is by far the worst and most ineffective part of the Android 10 gesture setup. But once you figure out that little distinction, this part of it is reasonably easy to get around.

10. Don't overlook universal access to your app drawer

Perhaps the best part of Android 10's gestures is also a part that's all too easy to forget about: the way the setup makes it possible for you to access your entire app drawer from anywhere in the operating system. That means you can easily open any app without having to first return to your home screen, thus saving yourself extra steps and making the act meaningfully more efficient.

To get to your app drawer from anywhere, first swipe up once from the bottom of the screen — using that same one-inch-stop rule we talked about in item #5 — then lift your finger off the screen and swipe up a second time.

Android 10 Gestures: App Drawer JR

Android 10 doesn't have a similar sort of gesture for opening the notification panel from anywhere, unfortunately — but if you have a phone with a physical fingerprint scanner, you may be able to set your phone up to open both the Quick Settings panel and the full notification panel with one or two swipes on the sensor. Look for the "Gestures" menu within the System section of your system settings to see if the option is available for your device.

Android 10 Gestures: Fingerprint JR

And with that, my friend, congratulations are in order: You're officially now an Android 10 gesture master. Well-done, you nimble little mammal. You deserve a swipe on the back.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

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