We wrote about some strange additions and flags not long ago that caused us to believe the Chrome OS devs were up to some new navigation tricks for Chrome OS tablet mode. It all makes sense, really: take existing UI models and make them available across all platforms so users are less confused when they pick up a product. For instance, at this point when someone grabs a mouse, they generally know what to expect regardless of the hardware or underlying software OS. When a UI element becomes widely accepted, it only makes sense to go with the flow.
When Apple brought about gesture navigation in iOS with the iPhone X, it changed the way millions of users interacted with touch-based devices. This method was brought over to iPads and now, with Android 10, Google has basically copied these gestures in Android. With that being the case, the vast majority of users interacting with touch screens are building up habits and expectations that inform how they approach a device, and those expectations are that it works like all the other things they’ve previously used.
When we reported on these new, potential UI changes earlier this month, we were generally guessing what Google was up to. After all, the flags on offer at the time simply changed the shelf up in tablet mode in looks alone, not in function. Based on those looks, though, it was easy to infer where Google might be headed. Turns out, we were right, and Kyle Bradshaw over at 9to5Google has come across a few more nuggets of info that can inform what we expect to see from Chrome OS in tablet mode in the coming updates.
First up is the addition of a swipe gesture for going back, exactly like we see in Android 10. Sure, there is an existing method of using the touchscreen or trackpad to register a back gesture in a browsing window or web app, but it isn’t a system-wide gesture. Just try it out in an Android app and see how it works out. This new method being worked on will actually use the first 16 pixels of the left side of the screen to register the swipe-in gesture to make it a universal back button across the OS. Nice.
You can see here where the flag is being added and then check out the language you’ll see once it appears for users to begin trying out:
Swiping from the left edge of the display to go back to the previous page. Swiping from the restricted left area of the display with enough drag distance or fling velocity could go back to the previous page while in tablet mode. #ash-swiping-from-left-edge-to-go-back
Second up is the addition of a few gestures from the bottom of the screen where we saw the long, white bar in the earlier gesture article. Basically, from what we can tell, a gesture called homerview (home + overview) is being added. This gesture looks to be adding on top of what a swipe up currently does on Chrome OS in tablet mode. Right now, you simply get the app drawer. But there will be more.
Add homerview gesture feature flag, and bare bones gesture controller Adds ash::features::kHomerviewGesture that will guard implementation for swiping from home screen shelf to overview. Also, hooks up a simple homerview gesture controller to shelf layout manager that starts overview session with no animations (this will change as animation is hooked up).
This seems to indicate a better way to enter multitasking than the overview button down on the shelf or the swipe down from the top of the screen we currently have. It’s hard to tell all of what the homerview gesture set will do, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it behave very much like the swipe-up-and-hold gesture currently does on Android 10, iOS 13, or iPad OS 13. With this, navigating the tablet mode for a Chrome OS tablet or convertible in tablet mode will immediately feel natural and intuitive for all the consumers already getting used to gesture-based navigation.
Ultimately, this is all about making Chrome OS more approachable and user-friendly. That simply hasn’t been the case for Chrome OS tablet mode at all. Sure, the UI has come a long way in the last year, but more polish and familiar UI navigations will be key in making Chrome OS tablets into devices the general consumer will actually ever consider against the monolithic iPad.