Google is mimicking Apple's iPhone X with the next version of Android

Key Points
  • Android P is adding gestures to Android phones.
  • It's currently in beta and may take a while to hit your phone, but it would make Android more like the iPhone X.
  • You'll swipe a lot to access different parts of Android, where previously you used on-screen buttons.
The Android P home screen.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Google has a new version of Android coming to your phone with features that will make it act more like an iPhone X.

Right now, most Android phones have three software buttons on the bottom of the screen. One returns users to the previous screen, one takes you back to the home screen and a third brings up a menu.

Here's what it looks like on my Galaxy S9+, for example:

The current Android buttons
Todd Haselton | CNBC

That's going to change. Android P removes two of the buttons — the back and the menu button — so that you can use gestures and a single home button to interact with Android. I started testing it on Google's Pixel 2 XL with a beta version of the software, and it works really well.

Here are the Android P gestures:

Gestures on Android P make Android phones similar to the iPhone X
Todd Haselton | CNBC
  • If you tap and hold the pill icon, you'll activate Google Assistant (Google's version of Siri.)
  • If you slide the icon along the bottom of the screen, you'll see all of your open apps, allowing you to quickly switch between them.
  • If you swipe up from the middle of the screen, you'll see your most-used apps, the Google Search bar and all of your open applications.
  • If you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, you'll see all of your installed Android apps.
  • Swiping down still shows your notification screen.
  • A swipe right across the screen displays your Google Assistant interests, such as upcoming appointments, bills and news stories.
  • Of note: The "return" button at the bottom of the screen appears for some of these gestures, so it isn't completely gone.

That's similar to how an iPhone X works.

The iPhone X doesn't have a home button but also relies on gestures:

Gestures on the iPhone X
Todd Haselton | CNBC
  • If you swipe up while you're inside an app, you'll return to the home screen.
  • If you swipe up and hold for a second, you'll see all of your open apps.
  • A swipe down from top-right of the display shows Control Center for managing Wi-Fi and other functions.
  • A swipe from the top-left of the display shows all of your notifications.
  • A swipe right across the display shows your calendar, Siri app suggestions and other app widgets.

It'll take time until you see this change

I really like the new gestures. It took some getting used to on the iPhone X but after six months, I find it much more seamless to use than a home button. Android users who rely on the current layout might also need to adjust, but it works really well and makes it much quicker to switch apps and move around the phone's user interface.

Keep in mind that, unlike Apple, Google doesn't really force its user experience on Android phone makers. That means Samsung and LG and other Google partners might not necessarily make you rely on this — or might simply make it an option in settings. Also, Google's new Android updates can take months or even more than a year to hit existing phones, so it might not be a change you see immediately, but rather one that you'll see later this year or on your next Android phone.

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