Google testing new double-tap gesture on the back of phones in Android 11

Google Pixel 4
Google Pixel 4 (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • A new gesture code-named "Columbus" has been discovered in the Android 11 Developer Preview.
  • "Columbus" allows you to double-tap the rear of the phone to perform actions such as, snoozing alarms, dismissing timers, playing/pausing media, and more.
  • According to the code, it would be a Pixel exclusive feature.

In the past, we've seen different ways to interact with our phones physically using either gestures or specialized hardware. These have come in various forms, such as squeezable frames, dedicated buttons, double-tapping the display, motion sensors, and more. Now, with the release of the first developer preview of Android 11, a new gesture has been uncovered hidden in the code.

During their digging, XDA-Developers came across the new gesture code-named "Columbus," which allows you to double-tap the back of the phone to perform an action. So far, they have confirmed it works for dismissing timers, launching the camera, summoning Google Assistant, playing/pausing media, silencing calls, snoozing alarms, and more.

Columbus Doubel Tap Gesture

Source: XDA-Developers (Image credit: Source: XDA-Developers)

One of the most exciting is "Performing a user selected action," which makes it sound like Google will allow you to customize the gesture to do almost any action. What makes this gesture even better is the fact that it doesn't require any specialized hardware. Technically, this could be enabled on any phone with a gyroscope and accelerometer.

As you can imagine, your phone experiences several taps and bumps throughout the day. That's why Google has some safeguards in place that will prevent the phone from misinterpreting these as the new double-tap shortcut. Some of these include camera visibility, charging status, keyguard, and more.

Unfortunately, according to the code, Google appears to want to keep this as a Pixel exclusive. It's possible we could see the "Columbus" gesture debut at Google I/O 2020 or in a future Pixel Feature Drop. However, that doesn't mean that it couldn't also make its way onto more Android phones in the future.

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Jason England