Ever since Apple switched to a gesture-based navigation system for its iPhones, Android phone makers have raced to come up with their own derivations of it. Not everyone, however, managed to figure it out. Some forgot why Apple’s implementation works so well, some overlooked why navigation gestures exist in the first place, you get the idea. Android’s flag bearer — stock Android Pie, unfortunately, belonged in the second category.
There were a handful of hits too, though and one of those is Xiaomi’s MIUI.
The custom skin easily has the most adept and refined set of navigation gestures among all Android offshoots. Swipe up to return home, swipe and hold for multitasking which is, yes, similar to nearly every other implementation. But what sets MIUI apart is the swipe inwards from the left or right edges to go back. You can even hold while performing the back gesture to quickly switch to the last app. It’s simple, makes sense, and others should really just give up and imitate it for their skins instead of trying complicated combinations (I’m looking at you, Google).
Fortunately, while Google didn’t ace navigation gestures on its first try, it has made Android customizable enough that third-party developers can step up without worrying about compatibility hurdles. And that’s exactly what has happened.
Courtesy of a free app called Fluid Navigation Gestures, it’s now possible for you to replace the navigation gestures your phone shipped with a better MIUI-style set which is both customizable and will fit more naturally in your workflow.
Fluid Navigation Gestures lets you configure nearly every permutation of navigation gestures but by default, it functions and looks a lot like what MIUI offers which is certainly not a bad start. Swipe up from the middle to return home, swipe and hold for multitasking, and swipe from the left or right edges to go back. All of these actions are coupled with subtle, satisfying animations and haptic feedback you won’t be able to get enough of.
The app’s biggest highlight, though, is just how deftly it lives up to its name — fluid. Unlike other third-party apps, Fluid Navigation Gestures is responsive and works exactly how you would expect it to. In addition, it can precisely be tweaked as per your preferences. You can adjust the triggers points, personalize what happens when you swipe from the bottom left or right, link an app like the camera to it, and more. And yes, it can hide the navigation bar your phone already has.
What’s more, Fluid Navigation Gestures is even compatible with swipe and hold gestures which allows you to assign two actions to a single trigger point. For instance, you can bring down the notification by swiping up from the bottom left and launch the Google Assistant by swiping and holding. The app supports a host of core Android functions too such as toggle split-screen and it has the ability to link a specific activity from a third-party app like opening a new document on Google Docs as well. My personal favorite action, however, is the “previous app” shortcut which lets you quickly switch to the last app you were using.
Since Fluid Navigation Gestures integrates so well, it does has a few extra steps in its setup process. But thankfully, you don’t need root access. For starters, make sure your computer has adb tools installed. If not, you can easily get them by following this LifeHacker guide. Next, enable USB debugging on your phone by heading into the Developer Options. Once done, plug your phone in your computer, fire up Terminal/Cmd, and execute the following command.
adb shell pm grant com.fb.fluid android.permission.WRITE_SECURE_SETTINGS
All set. You can now launch the Fluid Navigation Gestures app and switch it on. While the app is free to use, you can unlock a few additional features such as themes for hundred bucks (INR) which to be honest, isn’t much. They’re clearly the most pragmatic and pleasant set of navigation gestures you can have on an Android phone today. Even if you have a Xiaomi phone, you should try it solely because of its sheer personalization options.
Download: Fluid Navigation Gestures