Global Edge Swipes

John Gruber:

[Ubuntu for phones] looks OK aesthetically, but the purely swipe-and-gesture based UI is a loser. It’s confusing. Swipe from the right takes you to the next most recently used app, but swipe from the left does something completely different (show a list of favorite apps). I’ve said before: gestures are the touchscreen equivalent of keyboard shortcuts: a convenient alternative, but almost never a good choice for the primary interface for a task. Ubuntu has designed a phone interface consisting entirely of gestures; it’s like a desktop interface with nothing but keyboard shortcuts.

I agree in principle, but I think OS-level edge swipes are an exception. They work well for phone and tablet OSs. Android and iOS use them for notifications; Meego and PlayBook OS use them more widely, for switching applications and as a home button replacement. I’ve used Meego for a few weeks, and it took me only minutes to get used to its edge swipes. In fact, weeks after going back to iOS, I still found myself trying to use the edge swipes.

There’s only one downside: when playing games that require vigorous swiping, it’s easy to accidentally trigger the edge swipes. There’s an iOS game I can’t play without constantly activating the notifications drawer.

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