Gestures aren’t entirely new. We’ve been seeing smartphone manufacturers try them out in some way or another for years now. Whether it’s gestures on the display itself for navigation, or waving your hand above the phone to get something done, there have been plenty of options. And now Google is giving it a shot with its flagship Pixel smartphones with a feature called Quick Gestures (powered by Motion Sense).
Now, to be fair here, Motion Sense handles a lot of different elements and not just gestures, but for this article we’re focusing on the gestures that the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL (and other phones out there) feature.
The reason I’m focusing on the gestures is because it’s funny to see them making a “comeback” of sorts, even if I can’t help but think most Pixel 4 owners will probably use them once and then forget about them. That isn’t to say they don’t seem helpful at face value (they typically always have), but these types of gestures have always felt to me a bit more gimmicky than anything else.
I don’t even have anything against gimmicks like this. As long as the feature works the way the manufacturer intended and it doesn’t lead to more frustration than anything else, than I’m all for a good gimmick or two. But it always comes down to execution.
Several years ago Samsung was trying out the air gestures game, and, just like now, it seemed like a good idea. I can remember the commercials that Samsung ran during that time trying to promote the feature, showing how someone who is trying to get something else done (like changing their kid’s diaper) can simply wave a hand over their phone to answer a call or pause a video. In that context it really does seem helpful.
And Google’s implementation of the same idea seems great, too. And indeed the reviews I’ve seen that talk about the feature say it works pretty well! Which is great. Except that sometimes the feature doesn’t work at all, and, as a result, frustration ensues. I’m a firm believer that a newly implemented feature needs to work every time, but also a realist and know that sometimes that’s not the case. But that doesn’t mean people trying to make it work can’t be frustrated when it doesn’t, especially if it’s a feature they were looking forward to.
The question is, of course, why is now a good time to bring these types of gestures back? Or give them another boost, anyway. I’m pretty sure that Samsung’s newest smartphones still feature the air gestures feature, so could Google’s own effort give a boost to Samsung’s implementation? With Google adopting the feature for its flagship smartphones, is now the time for air gestures to get the attention they deserve and ultimately jump up in popularity?
For me, in situations where my hands are busy doing something else, I typically lean into voice controls. Getting Siri to answer a call (or ignore it), adjust the volume, or whatever else I might need has become super helpful. I’m not sure that I actually need or want the ability to control my phone with a wave of my hand thanks to digital assistants.
But what about you? Are you excited about the Motion Sense gestures in the Pixel 4? If you own a Samsung (or other manufacturer’s) phone that has air gesture support, do you use the feature in your handset? Or do you think it’s a gimmick as well and never use it? Let me know!