Google killed the back button inside Android 12, so if you’re coming from an older Pixel phone it might catch you out. But there is a way of getting the back button back – read on…
Part of standing out from the crowd means doing things that might not be entirely popular. Never one to shy away from controversy, Google decided to remove the back button from its latest builds of Android for its Pixel phones. The result? Plenty of VERY unhappy Pixel users.
First, let’s establish why Google decided to remove the back button. According to Google itself, Android is best used with gesture-based navigation. You know, just like iPhone. Thing is, most Pixel users don’t seem to agree. There are reams of posts and op-ed pieces online dedicated purely to this subject alone (including this one).
So why, if it wasn’t broken in the first place, did Google attempt to “fix” it? According to Google, including the back button in its latest builds of Android – Android 11 and Android 12 – messed with how the app drawer worked. People were accidentally opening the app drawer when they meant to press the back button, and vice versa.
Google’s solution? Kill the back button off once and for all. But Google says its new method for “going back” in Android 11 and Android 12, a swipe gesture from right to left across the screen, is just better. Not only that but, according to Google’s tests, it only takes “1 to 3 days to adopt” to the new way of selecting BACK in Android 11 and Android 12.
And this isn’t just a Pixel issue either. Google said that ALL of its Android partners, including Samsung, OPPO, HMD Global (Nokia), Xiaomi, LG, and Motorola will soon adopt Android 12’s new gesture-based method for selecting back. And if that sounds terrifying to you, fret not – there is a way to bring the back button BACK in Android 12.
How To Get The Back Button Back In Android 12
If you don’t like Google’s new gesture-based navigation, you don’t have to struggle with it. There’s a really simple method for bringing back the back button in Android. Just follow these steps:
- Go To Settings > System
- Inside System, Locate The 3 Button Navigation Switch To Turn on Android’s Standard Navigation Buttons
- Once Selected, Your Phone Will Revert Back To The Standard Android Configuration With A Trio of Buttons From Left to Right That Include: Back (Triangle), Home (Circle), and Square Icons (App Drawer)
- And If You Want To Go Back To Google’s New Gesture System, Simply Open Settings > System > Gestures > System Navigation > Toggle “Gesture Navigation” On
Pretty simple, right? You now have two options for switching between classic Android navigation (with buttons) to the newer, more modern Android navigation (gesture-based, without buttons).
Personally, I don’t mind gesture-based navigation. It did take a while to get used to it but once I had I actually now find it easier to use than the old method.
So much so that when I test non-Pixel phones or Android phones running on Android 11, it often takes me a few hours to get used to using Android’s button-based navigation again.
Whatever your feelings on Android’s new gesture-based navigation, just keep in mind that at least you have the option to switch back to buttons. In iOS on iPhone, users were just forced to adopt gesture-based navigation.
And if you want to experience the full potential of Android 12, including all of its exclusive features, you’ll need to get yourself a Pixel phone. And if you’re interested in a Pixel phone, make sure you check out my guide to buying and living with Google’s Pixel phones – I’ve owned and used all of them.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.