Google Lab Adds Gesture Control in Android Web Browser

We have been spending a fair bit of time discussing the Android Web Browser experience on the Android 4 tablet platform, courtesy of the Transformer Prime. We even had a chance to check out the Chrome for Android Beta browser.

The fundamental issue here is that even though the stock Android web browser and the Chrome browser are great examples of browser environments and functionality, they don’t address the issue of how touch screen interfaces differ incredibly from standard desktop environments.

The stock Android web browser on Ice Cream Sandwich tablets gives a little insight into what they are developing over at the Google labs. It’s a great example of innovative gesture design.

(note:  one of our readers @Diesel, has kindly pointed out that this Labs feature is actually also available on Honeycomb Tablets, which is terrific news for owners of Android 3.2 tablets.)

If you own a tablet that happens to have been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, then simply select the stock browser, press the menu button on the upper right hand corner, and go to settings. The last option you’ll then see on the left hand side is the Labs button. Select Labs then tick the Quick Controls box.

When you return to the browser, you’ll be able to see the entire page with no top or bottom area compromise. Sliding your thumb in from either the left of or the right presents a semi circle with icons denoting certain functions. These provide instant access to common commands, such as bookmarks, deleting current tab, adding  a new tab, back, forward, and refresh.

Menu options on Android Web Browser

Using the left hand thumb, hovering over each icon will display the relevant options.

The tab select button is an interesting space to flick through currently open tabs vertically, easily navigating to your open page of choice. Even though this is a hidden little gem in the software, it also gives an indication of what functions may appear on progressive releases, and perhaps eventually on Chrome for Android web browser.

Tab Control on Android Web Browser

The right hand thumb has the same options in mirror image. Here the Tabs are selected vertically.

After using this “Easter Egg” feature on the ICS Android web browser, it becomes pretty clear that there has been a fair bit of thought into making it useful for both left and right-handed people. The browser has also been made more efficient by placing commands in the natural areas where hands would be holding the tablet.

For Chrome to really take the lead in mobile browsing, adding an option to control the online navigation could position Chrome for Android into the ultimate mobile internet browser.

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Here’s the Ritchie’s Room video showing some of the cool features of the experimental Lab Android web browser.



Would you shift your mobile browser to Chrome if it included gesture functionality similar to what we’ve shown, or is it still too clunky to be a real feature? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Great write up, but I would just like to add that the stock browser on ICS (aka Galaxy Nexus) has the same feature under the labs menu, so you can enable this on your phone not just your tablet.

  2. I’ve been using the quick controls since I got my Transformer Prime and definitely think it should be part of the Chrome browser. The other thing I like is being able to quickly select to request desktop site as those look better than most mobile sites on a 10.1″ tablet.

  3. If you like the thumb gestures control you should also try out Thumb Keyboard 4 which always you to easily type using your thumbs and hold your tablet, and is highly customisable.

  4. Your info is inaccurate again …I have the original transformer and it has the gesture functionality in labs and i’m using gingerbread….research before you assume that only ics has this feature….

    • Hi Diesel,
      Thanks for your feedback. We were really focusing on the Lab functionality than which version of Android it was on. We had the same comment on YouTube and the feedback is appreciated.
      I’ll adjust the article above to reflect the Honeycomb inclusion so our readers can try it out on their 3.2 machines.
      Cheers, Ritchie

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