This Galaxy S21 how-to guide explains the options for Galaxy S21 navigation buttons and navigation gestures, shows you how to enable and use navigation buttons on Galaxy S21, and how to customize the Galaxy S21 navigation buttons layout.
The navigation system options on all Galaxy S21 phones are identical. So this guide applies to Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra.
Traditionally, Android adopts 3 navigation buttons. Google ditched the Overview (Recents) button and switched to navigation gestures for the stock Android since Android Pie (Android 9.0). And in Android 10, the Home button and Back button were removed, and navigation gestures fully replaced the buttons.
Samsung adopted a conservative approach. They offered both navigation buttons and two types of navigation gestures on Galaxy S21. So, all owners can own choices.
On Galaxy S21, you can choose one of the following three navigation types:
- Navigation buttons.
- Swiping from the bottom (Samsung style).
- Swiping from sides and bottom (similar to stock Android 10 and 11).
If you are a long-term Samsung phone user, you may still prefer the Galaxy S21 navigation buttons. Or, if you are teaching your grandma to use Galaxy S21, you may also choose to start from navigation buttons because the navigation gestures may not be intuitive to some people.
Anyway, using navigation buttons or navigation gestures is an option for personal preferences.
By default, Samsung enables Galaxy S21 navigation buttons on new phones.
You may check this guide on how to use navigation gestures on Galaxy S21.
As mentioned earlier, by default, navigation buttons are enabled on all new Galaxy S21 phones.
As shown below, there are 3 buttons in the navigation bar, which is shown on the bottom of the screen, by default.
You can use the Home button to return to the Galaxy S21 home screen from any app or any screen immediately.
If you are already on one of the Galaxy S21 Home screen panels/pages, you can use the Home button to return to the Home panel of the home screen.
Tapping the Home button does NOT close the app. Instead, the app is pushed to the background. The behaviour of such apps depends on the developer’s implementation.
You can also tap and hold (long tap) the Home button to launch the voice assistant. By default, it is Google Assistant on Galaxy S21. If you want, you can configure it to launch Bixby.
Galaxy S21 Recents button lets you manage previously opened apps. You can switch to any of them by tapping the corresponding thumbnails. Of course, you can close any of them or check detailed info on the app.
Another function of the Recents button is for you to launch apps in multiwindow mode (split-screen view or pop-up view). You may check this guide on how to use multiwindow on Galaxy S21, including new features in the Android 13 (One UI 5) update for Galaxy S22, S21, and S20.
You can use two gestures on the Recents button:
- Tap the Recents button once to access the Galaxy S21 Recents screen (list of recently used apps).
- Tap the Recents button twice to switch to the last opened app. Please note, you can only switch between the last two apps in the Recents screen with this gesture. If you need to switch to other opened apps, you have to use the Recents screen.
You can use the Back button to return to the “previous” screen. If you keep tapping the Back button, you will reach the Galaxy S21 Home screen.
When you are using an app, the Back button usually navigates you back to the previous screen until you exit the app.
Some apps do NOT support the “previous” screen. In this case, tapping the back button will exit the app and return to the Galaxy S21 Home screen.
Samsung removed most of the customization (e.g., background colour of the navigation bar or hiding navigation bar) of the navigation bar and navigation buttons in the Galaxy S21. You need to install Samsung’s NavStar (a module of Good Lock) if you need further customization, as explained in this guide.
Without installing Samsung’s Good Lock app, you can only customize the button layout of Galaxy S21 navigation buttons.
By default, the Galaxy S21 navigation button layout is Recents — Home —Back (from left to right), which matches the hardware button layout on old Galaxy phones.
But on most Android phones and stock Android, the navigation button layout is usually Back — Home — Recents (Overview).
If you just migrated to Galaxy S21 from Android phones with stock Android, you may prefer the button layout in the stock Android. In this case, you can customize the Galaxy S21 navigation button layout.
You can customize the layout of Galaxy S21 navigation buttons from Galaxy S21 Settings.
As shown in the screenshot below, tap Display in Galaxy S21 Settings.
In the Galaxy S21 Display settings page, scroll down a bit and then tap the Navigation bar, as shown above.
Please note, you can customize other display-related settings for Galaxy S21 on this page, for example, screen resolution.
In the Navigation bar page, as shown below, you can set the navigation type as Buttons or Swipe gesture.
When the Buttons is selected, you can then customize the button order.
For example, when the default button order is activated, you will see the real-time change of the order of the buttons, as shown in the screenshot below.
If you choose the Android-style navigation button layout, the button order changes immediately on the navigation bar, as shown in the screenshot above.
If you encounter any problems using or customizing Galaxy S21 navigation buttons and Galaxy S21 navigation bar on Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra, please let us know in the comments.
The community will help you.
You may also share your thoughts on Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra in the comment box.
If you have any questions on using Galaxy S21, you may check our detailed step-by-step Galaxy S21 guides:
- Galaxy S21 new features guides.
- Galaxy S21 how-to guides.
- Galaxy S21 camera guides.
- Galaxy S21 accessories guides.
You can also post questions or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.
The official Samsung Galaxy S21 user manual (PDF) in your local language can be read and download here.
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