Google introduced gesture navigation with Android 10 back in 2019. From the get-go, it was possible for app developers to make the navigation bar at the bottom transparent, showing app content behind the otherwise dead space. Fast forward to 2023, and you will still only find a handful of apps that have taken this step, leaving the best Android phones out there feeling less premium than they should. Google Chrome will soon join this handful of apps, as Chrome Beta 114 offers a flag that lets you turn your navigation bar transparent.
With Chrome Beta 114 installed, you can simply turn on the chrome:flags#DrawEdgeToEdge flag to get started, as spotted by Google News Telegram channel founder @Nail_Sadykov. Once you’ve restarted your browser, you’ll notice that web content is displayed behind the gesture navigation bar on supported Android versions. When you use three-button navigation, this flag doesn’t work, though, which is likely for the better to keep content and system navigation clearly separated.
The new look makes websites feel more immersive and more in line with how they look on iOS, with Chrome and Safari long offering transparent navigation bar backgrounds on that platform. Since the navigation bar isn’t a button, you can also interact with website elements positioned behind or just above the bar. The transparency effect is visible on websites, the tab switcher, the new tab page, and in custom tabs within apps, though it’s not available in Chrome’s settings.
Right now, it’s clear that work on this isn’t finished, though. When you activate the flag, some websites push their top bars a little too high, hiding parts of them under the address bar. The Chrome interface itself also suffers from this, with a gap showing up between the address bar and autocomplete suggestions.
In Android 14 Beta 2, Google also introduced a developer flag that makes it possible to force the navigation bar’s color to be transparent on all apps. This doesn’t magically make content appear behind the navigation bar, though. It only colors the background behind the navigation bar in the same color as the rest of the app.