The back gesture on Android can do a variety of expected or unexpected things depending on the app you’re using. To prevent unintentionally closing your app, Google is working to make the back gesture’s location more predictable in Android 13.

Right now, using the back gesture on Android 12 could result in any number of different outcomes. Your keyboard will close if it is open. To return to the previous page in a web browser, click the back arrow. You usually go back one page if you are a few menus into an app. Back will occasionally completely close an app if you are on the homepage.

This may not be too difficult to keep straight if you have some familiarity with your phone’s apps and how they operate, but for many others it may be a source of frustration. Knowing what the back button will do in advance is a crucial feature of Android 13, which was introduced today during the What’s New in Android session (about 10:12 in the video).

To give you a signal that you’ll return to your home screen, for instance, if going back would close out your present program, the app will shrink back to expose your wallpaper. This offers you the opportunity to withdraw the back gesture before accidentally closing out.

For the time being, developers must choose to use this predictive back gesture by telling the Android operating system whether or not their app will handle the back motion on their behalf. This new method of handling back gestures will be standard in the release of the Android 14 SDK in the following year.

In a forthcoming Back to the basics of System Back lecture at Google I/O, more information regarding this predicted back gesture will be revealed.
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