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Google killed the back button in 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 to find out how. 


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 devices are best used with gesture-based navigation. You know, just like the iPhone. The 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, including 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.

How To Get The Back Button BACK in Android 12Pin

Google’s solution? Kill the classic 3-button system once and for all. But Google says its new method for “going back” or returning to the previous screen in Android 11 and Android 12 is just better. This new method involves a swipe gesture from right to left across the screen. Not only that, but according to Google’s tests, it only takes “1 to 3 days to adopt” the new way of selecting BACK in Android 11 and Android 12.

And this isn’t just a Pixel issue, either. All Android partners, including Samsung, OPPO, HMD Global (Nokia), Xiaomi, LG, and Motorola, have adopted Android 12’s new gesture-based method for selecting back in newer models. And if that sounds terrifying to you, fret not – there is a way to bring the back button back in Android 12.

Let’s find out how.

How To Get The Back Button Back In Android 12: A Step By Step Guide

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 to the standard android configuration with a trio of buttons from left to right that includes Back (Triangle), Home (Circle), and Square Icons (App Drawer). 
  • 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 options for switching between the different navigation systems: the classic Android three-button navigation (with buttons) and the newer, more modern Android gesture navigation (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 found 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 controls again.

Whatever your feelings on Android’s new gesture-based navigation layout, 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.