Update, August 7, 2018 at 4:13 p.m. ET: Android Central has updated the wording on its original article to reflect that Google didn’t confirm the Pixel 3 would only ship with gesture controls. Google only confirmed that the default navigation method for Android Pie is by using gestures.
Original article, August 6, 2018 at 5:16 p.m. ET: In a recent interview Android Central conducted with Google’s E.K. Chung — who is the Lead Android Mobile OS & Pixel Software Experience manager — Google is going all-in on gesture navigation.
Right now, if you are using Android 9.0 Pie on a Google Pixel device, you have the option of using gesture navigation — like the iPhone X’s controls — or the traditional navigation bar with a back button, home button, and recent apps button. But according to Chung, future Google devices might not have that function.
Instead, future Google devices like the upcoming Google Pixel 3 will exclusively use gesture navigation, with no option to switch back to “normal” controls.
This is what Chung said on the topic:
Google is making this its primary navigation system going forward. While Pixel devices that are updated from Oreo will still see their three-button navigation by default with an option to switch to gestures, future Google phones (and any other manufacturer that wants it) will ship with only gesture navigation.
In other words, if using gesture navigation is a deal breaker for you, it seems very likely that you won’t be buying the Google Pixel 3. But your Pixel 2 and original Pixel devices will continue to have traditional controls for the time being.
This appears to only be a Google initiative at the moment and the company will not force other OEMs to implement similar rules on their devices. So future phones you buy that ship with Android 9.0 Pie will likely have the option to switch to the type of navigation controls you prefer.
Customizing the navigation controls is a fairly common feature with custom Android ROMs, so it likely won’t take long for developers to figure out a way to get a traditional nav bar onto a Google Pixel 3. But it seems that the days of a three-button navigation system are nearly over, because if Google feels strongly enough about this feature to make it the law of the land for its Pixel line, it’s probably only a matter of time before it’s the only navigation option in Android proper.
You can read the full interview with Chung here.