The best part of the iPhone X is not its display, it’s not its camera, and it’s not its price. (Okay, fine, the price is the worst part of the iPhone X.) Nope, the best part of the iPhone X isn’t found in its hardware or spec sheet at all: it’s the gesture-based interface.
The iPhone X’s gestures, which replace the functions of the home button found on every prior iPhone, are the most intuitive, natural, and, frankly, fun interactions I’ve ever had using a smartphone. They are so useful that it takes merely a day using the iPhone X to never want to go back to a home button.
Switching from the iPhone X to another phone, whether that’s another iPhone or an Android device, is frustrating simply because I constantly want to swipe up to go home or left and right to switch between apps I’m using. I even do it on the iPad, which then throws me into the iPad’s terrible dock-slash-app-switcher-slash-control-center interface instead of the fluid multitasking system on the iPhone X.
I want the iPhone X’s gestures on every touchscreen device I use. I want every Android phone maker to copy what Apple’s done and implement it on their devices. It’s very obvious that we’re moving towards a world of devices that have no borders and are entirely screen, and gestures are by far the best way to navigate this new world.
Yesterday’s release of iPhone X-style gestures for the OnePlus 5T only solidifies my opinion. I installed the latest Oxygen OS beta on a 5T, enabled them, and I instantly knew this was the right way to go. Swipe up in the middle to go home. Swipe up and hold to enter the recent apps switcher. Swipe up on the left or right side to go back one screen. Show me all of my content on that giant 18:9 display all of the time, with no virtual home or back button ever getting in the way. You can see a demo of how the gestures work in this video from Droid Life.
The 5T’s gestures and accompanying animations are not as smooth as Apple’s, and there are some definite kinks to work out. I haven’t encountered any deal-breaking issues with the gestures in my time using them, but there’s likely some sort of Android incompatibility that will pop up somewhere. But this is just an initial release as an optional toggle in beta software. There’s lots of room and opportunity for improvement and refinement before these gestures are shipped to all of OnePlus’ customers. This first effort is shockingly great.
Hardware buttons on the front of Android phones are basically all but dead at this point, and any company releasing a phone with a 16:9 display in 2018 will surely be met with scorn and ridicule. Which means that now is the best time for Android device makers to implement gesture-based navigation. Hell, even Google could force everyone’s hands by integrating it directly into Android. The improved user experience for millions of phone users will be worth the few headlines calling out Android makers for copying Apple’s design (which, to be fair, Apple itself appropriated from webOS and Nokia phones from years ago).
I don’t care how, but make it happen, Android makers. I’ll swipe right if you do.