Common Android Gestures for Your Phone or Tablet

Knowing the basics will get you moving more quickly

Man swiping through pictures of his family on his smart phone.

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Android devices are capable of sensing a wide variety of gestures, and in most cases, Android devices are capable of sensing multiple touches at once, otherwise known as multi-touch. (The first Android phones did not have multi-touch capability.)

This is a list of some of the most common gestures you can use to interact with your phone. Not every program uses every type of touch, of course, but if you ever find yourself puzzled with how to proceed, here are a few gestures to try. 

All of the gestures below should be equally available no matter which company makes your Android phone, including Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Tap, Click, or Touch

Programmers may know this as a "click" rather than a tap because it's referred to within the code that way: "onClick()." However you refer to it, this is probably the most basic interaction. A light touch with your finger. Use this for pressing buttons, selecting things, and tapping keyboard keys. 

Double Touch or Double Tap

You could also call it "double-click." This is similar to the double clicking you do with a computer mouse. Rapidly touch the screen, lift your finger, and touch again. Double-taps are often used to zoom in on maps or select items. 

Long Click, Long Press, or Long Touch

The "long click" is a gesture used often on Android mobile devices, although not as often as the simple (short) tap or click. Long pressing is touching an item and pressing for a few seconds without sliding your finger.

Long presses on application icons in the system tray allow you to move them to the desktop, long presses on widgets allow you to move or adjust the size, and long touches on the old desktop clock allowed you to remove it. Generally, the long press is used to launch a contextual menu when the app supports it. 

Variation: Long press drag. This is a long press that allows you to move objects that would ordinarily be harder to move, such as to rearrange icons on your Home screen. 

Drag, Swipe, or Fling

You can slide your fingers along the screen to type or drag items from one screen location to another. You can also swipe between Home screens. The difference between a drag and a fling is generally in style. Drags are controlled, slow motions, where you're aiming to do something on the screen, while swipes and flings are just general flicking around the screen - such as the motion you'd use to turn a page in a book. 

Scrolls are really just swipes or flings that you do with an up and down motion rather than side-to-side. 

Drag from the top or bottom edge of the screen into the middle of the screen to open menus in a lot of programs. Pull downward (drag or fling) from within the top area of the screen to somewhere in the middle of the screen in order to refresh the contents in apps like Mail. 

Pinch Open and Pinch Closed

Using two fingers, you can either move your closer together in a pinching motion or spread them further apart in a spreading motion. This is a pretty universal way to adjust the size of something within apps, such as a photograph inside a web page. 

Twirl and Tilt

Using two fingers, you can twirl your fingers to spin selected objects in some programs, and a two-fingered drag often tilts 3-D objects within apps, such as Google Maps. 

Hard Buttons

Of course, many Android phones and tablets also have hard buttons. 

A common arrangement is a hard Home button in the center with a Menu and Back button on either side. The tricky part is that the Menu and Back buttons often don't show up unless you press them first, so you just have to memorize where they are.