Google’s giving Android the iPhone X treatment
Get ready to re-learn how to use Android.
That’s because, after two years of very boring updates, Google’s making major changes to its Android operating system, and one in particular may take a lot of getting used to: switching between apps.
With Android P, app switching (what Google officially calls “Overview”) is unlike any previous version of Android.
Instead of having its own dedicated button, you now swipe up from the bottom of the screen. And the list of apps is displayed horizontally, instead of stacked vertically.
In short: It’s now almost identical to the iPhone X.
There are some differences; Google’s added a slider that lets you quickly navigate between apps, so flipping through your apps is still a bit quicker than on iOS. There’s also a new tool that makes it easier to select text while in Overview.
But it’s remarkably similar to the iPhone X. And, more importantly, it’s a completely new gesture for Android users — and one that will likely take time to get used to. Having just switched to an iPhone X a few months ago, the app-switching gesture is the one I still struggle with the most. Even after several weeks, the need to swipe up and then pause just feels unnatural (and yes, there are shortcuts, but these are far from intuitive either).
And, having spent some time with a beta version of Android P, I can say the new multitasking gesture feels just as awkward as it does with the iPhone X, even though it is much faster. What once required a single tap, now requires a a swipe. More specifically half a swipe, because if you keep dragging your finger up you’ll pull up the app launcher.
If that sounds awkward, that’s because it is. I definitely fumbled with it, and you likely will too, though I’m sure it will start to feel more natural with time.
Why is this happening?
But this raises the question, if it’s so much more awkward, why would Google do it in the first place? The short answer: It had to.
Back in December, my colleague, Raymond Wong, wrote about how smartphones are getting fun again. Thanks to features like dual cameras, barely-there bezels, and new materials, the past six months have seen some of the most interesting advancements in smartphone design in years.
So, it’s only natural that software has to catch up, too. You can bemoan the loss of hardware buttons, and ugly display notches all you want, but these trends need to be addressed at the software level if you want a good experience.
So annoying though it may seem, changing a core feature like multitasking was probably more necessary than you may think. Displays are only going to get bigger and bezels will keep getting smaller. Having dedicated navigational buttons is only going to become less and less feasible.
So, in a way, it’s completely fair to blame Apple for some of Android’s latest change. The iPhone X has without a doubt been the most influential handset purely from a design standpoint. But that means as more and more phone-makers copy it, it’s only natural Google would opt to follow suit with some of its software changes.