While many Nexus fans laud Google's software navigation button initiative, it's always been a bit irksome that they take up valuable screen real estate at times when they're not really needed. If you're reading a book, watching a movie, or playing a game, the software nav buttons are more a distraction than anything. In fact, until now, only the YouTube app (and perhaps a couple other system apps in certain circumstances) was able to hide those buttons. With Android 4.4, that finally changes.


Full-screen immersive mode is a new feature in KitKat that allows any app to go truly full-screen, hiding both the navigation and status bars. Google also gave the process of getting them back some thought, and has come up with a new gesture for that purpose. In any app in full-screen mode, simply swipe down from the top of the screen or up from the bottom and the status / nav bars will reappear. Tap in the content area (or wait a few seconds), and they'll vanish again.


Considering that wasted screen space has long been a point of software nav button detractors, this comes as welcome news. App developers will have to specifically enable support for the feature, of course, so don't expect the change to happen overnight (e.g., the Kindle app will get it in 2 years).

This is just one of our many KitKat feature spotlight posts today, but if you want a broader overview of the newest version of Google's mobile OS, be sure to check out our Android 4.4 announcement.

Android Developers

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Simon Belmont

    Finally. This has been something I've taken advantage of in CM for years now.

    Thanks, Google. Yay.

    • atlouiedog

      Me too. I use expand desktop all the time.

  • vwbeetlvr

    Google also gave the process of getting them back some though. Should be thought

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      It should.

      • vwbeetlvr

        Thanks for the rep :)

  • EH101

    This is the thing I hate most when it comes to my Note 2 and apps. Not only is notification bar hiding inconsistent but apps that shouldn't do it, do it. Simple apps like, say, Candy Crush shouldn't hide the notification bar.

    I sometimes find myself wishing there was a global switch to disable notification bar hiding... Maybe something toggle-able in the quick settings pull down. I don't know, it might just be me but I feel like the whole point of a notification bar is that it's always there.

    A better solution would be fading it out a bit so it doesn't draw attention, in my opinion.

    Edit: I know this isn't specifically what this post is about, but it is related in a way.

    • Harsha

      In Samsung latest ROMs, you can do a swipe gesture on top of the screen to display the notification bar. That's much better i guess.

      • EH101

        That works in their 4.1 based ROMs too, but it's unreliable most the time in my experience. Considering Samsung makes a toggle somewhere for practically everything, you would think they'd have a toggle for this too. Lol.

  • Silellak

    As a new Nexus 7 owner, I am really excited for this. It's been one of my few complaints with the device.

  • Random

    Some normal applications have been able to hide the nav bar, even on stock. Moon+ reader, for example.

    • cabbiebot

      Play Books too, IIRC

    • Pamela Hill

      Yes, and Nook reader app can hide the notification bar, but not the navigation.

  • infogulch

    I wonder if keyboards could do this to get more screen real-estate for keys and to avoid hitting home when you meant spacebar. If they added their own button to hide the keyboard and show the nav buttons again I'd like it.

    • shonangreg

      Hear. Hear. About every twentieth message I'll miss the spacebar or other key and my message disappears . . .

      On a more general but slightly related point, most of the buttons on android are horizontal and thin. My finger tip is round. Again, about five to ten percent of the time I miss my intended button.

      Notifications moving whole I'm trying to strike a button sure don't help either. When a set of menu buttons is about to change, due to a new message coming in or whathaveyou, the area should flash for the 200 or so milliseconds it takes me to move my finger to the button. That feedback alone would allow me to pause and wait for the new button layout.

  • Whyzor

    I still prefer using LMT Pie app that swipes from edge towards center, release to activate. Basically freeing up the navbar space but still fast, consistent, & convenient to use. Also have to add the line "qemu.hw.mainkeys=1" to the end of /etc/build.prop. Must have root access to write to that file.

  • h_f_m

    I've hated the hardware buttons ever since they ditched them with the introduction to Ice Cream. This is just Icing on the KitKat!

  • jfedor

    It is absolutely untrue that only YouTube (or system apps) was able to hide the on-screen navigation buttons previously. Any app could do that, but the buttons came back automatically if you touched anywhere on the screen, so it was really only useful for things like video playback, not games.

    • Primalxconvoy

      What? Almost every vane I've played in full screen never shored the notification bar unless I pleaded via multiple downward swipes to see it.

      • jfedor

        The notification bar could be hidden since forever. I'm talking about the on-screen buttons (back, home, etc.). Those could be hidden since 4.0, but they came back on when you touched anywhere on the screen.

  • WhyWai

    nice.. been waiting for this feature..

  • Crispin Swickard

    This is probably the reason for removing swipe from the bottom to initiate Google Now. Makes sense since the gesture is being used a different way now.

    • Alex Constantinides

      Wait, they removed that ? Is there another gesture to get to Google Now ?

      • Crispin Swickard

        It appears that way at least for the N5 according to the documentation. swiping up from the bottom is to show the navigation buttons when full screen. The gesture for Google Now is at least when on the homescreen is scrolling to the left. Although there are still plenty other ways to access it like just saying OK Google. Not sure looking through things if you still access it from a lock state the same way, or not as before.

        • Alex Constantinides

          Hmm, wonder what it will be like for the Nexus 4 then, I use Aviate as well which changes the home screen completely, so wonder how Google Now would work with that.

          • Crispin Swickard

            Looks like some of the navigation changes will be one of the things that have to be played around with to get the hang of, although the change to get to Google now seemed to be N5 only. Though that doesn't explain how to show the navigation buttons without initiating now since they are both swipe up gestures. Unless you would have to swipe up again after the navigation buttons are made visible.

        • Michigan Guy

          They didn't remove that. You can do it either way- swipe from bottom anywhere, swipe right or from bottom on the home screen.

  • http://aurielle.cz/ Aurielle

    I don't know, but MX Player seems to be hiding navigation bar fairly well on stock Xperia L rom with Android 4.1…

  • Nathan Fernandes

    does this work in games too?

  • KrisDiss

    Is it just me or does Sergei look like Al Pacino from scarface in this image

  • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

    This is great news for gamers. One of the biggest problems I have with my N4 is that I'll be playing a game, only to be accidentally interrupted by Google Now. Does anyone else have this problem? I've wondered if it's possible just to disable GN while playing a game, but this seems to be the right workaround as well.

    • JayQ330

      2 of my games here have the navigation buttons minimize out of site until you sweetie upwards its cool because most of the time you play a have you mostly go against towers the edge so it's a good way to hide & summon if needed.

  • Pete Tandon

    This is SOOOO broken on kitkat devices with more than one user : https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=62366

  • Richard Lawrence

    Well I don't see this, is this only for the Nexus 5???

    I might as well go back to JellyBAM, at least this feature was there on all devices.

    The only thing that has changed is the Boot up screen being 4 circles. I can't get any Apps or Games, or anything on this Immersive Mode. I swear Google are just messing with me.

    Guess I'll be installing Custom Roms again. Thanks for nothing Google, I lost all my data Updating to this and for what? A new boot up screen, yipee..

    • JayQ330

      I just downloaded 2 apps that use the immersive ui & it looks great, & gives a better experience because of the fact that the bag bar & notification bar are present but it off the way; but there when you need then also. One asp is called "evolve sms" & the other is called "notes reborn" it's up to the developers to either update their app's ui, or use the new api protozoa that Google has set to take advantage of the new capabilities that kitkat has to offer, I truly hope that dev's update the ui on there apps & hope it isn't that they think it's good the way it is.

  • arangopar

    I got it In my Moto x but does not work, anyone knows why?