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What is Google's New Predictive Back Gesture in Android 13

Back gestures on Android have been a cause of annoyance for many users. When all they wanted to do was swipe left or right, it often took them back a page, through menus, or to the home screen. Google has been working on this for a while and may finally have a solution that app developers can adopt to make this action less of a hassle for app users.

android 13 predictive back gesture

One of the events at Google I/O 2022, which starts on Wednesday, May 11th and finishes the next day, is "Back to the basics of System Back," which will take place on Thursday, May 12th at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET. "Discover how the future of Android will help you design predictive back navigation coupled with appealing animations," Google noted in the event announcement.

Android 13 Beta 1 was released this week, giving us a new peek at what Google is working on for this year's release. While it may not have as many major changes as Android 12, all of the tiny improvements add up to something quite sweet. At Google I/O in a couple of weeks, we'll get a better idea of what Android 13 is shaping up to be, and one of the scheduled events worth attending has us confused and excited about the back gesture.

To put it another way, Google looks to be working on "predictive back navigation," which sounds like a feature that would fit right in with Google's AI and Machine Learning efforts. Based on previous usage of the navigation, Android may understand what your goal is when you perform the back gesture over time. This appears to be quite promising, and we will undoubtedly learn more about it during the I/O developer conference.

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The event, dubbed "Back to the Basics of System Back," promises "predictive back navigation with pleasant animations," which has many of us wondering what this means for how Android's back gesture currently works. Thankfully, the ever-reliable Mishaal Rahman over at conducted some research. He's progressively piecing together what "predictive back navigation" might truly mean, despite the fact that he can only make educated estimates at the moment due to the lack of the feature in current Android 13 releases.

When Android 10 introduced complete gesture navigation, some users were so unhappy with the back gesture that they switched to the three-button navigation instead.

By heading to Settings > System > Gestures > System Navigation, users can still return to three-button navigation. Gesture navigation or 3-button navigation are the two options available to you. If you're having trouble with the back gesture right now and can't wait for Google to fix it, you can modify the sensitivity of the back navigation to make it work properly.

android 13 predictive back gesture how to use

You can experiment with the sliding scale to see if you can find a position that suits you. Keep in mind that the back gesture is less sensitive if you have it. Drag the slider toward low if you're mistakenly activating the back gesture when all you intended to do was swipe left or right. Separate sliders for the left and right edges are available on Pixel models, allowing you to alter the sensitivity of slide out menus that appear from the left or right edge.

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This all seems fantastic until you consider the devastation it may have on third-party launchers. With Android 10's switch to gesture-based navigation, many users were compelled to abandon launchers or revert to the old three-button navigation system. Google and other OEMs gradually restored phone compatibility, although it took months, if not years, in some cases. It might get ugly again if Google decides to fully rethink the back gesture — especially in such a complicated fashion as this.

In any case, we should find out a lot more at Google I/O in a few weeks. Even if it doesn't make it into the main keynote, it's an event not to be missed.

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