Update: March 18, 2020 at 5:55 p.m. ET: It looks like Google is expanding the functionality of this crazy double-tap feature with Android 11 Developer Preview 2. According to 9to5Google, Android 11 DP2 brings the ability to quickly open the app switcher (sometimes called “overview”) with a double-tap of the phone’s back. The ability to take screenshots has also been added.
Looking for even more Android 11 feature updates? Head here.
Original article: February 21, 2020 at 3:14 a.m. ET: Google already offers fingerprint gestures on its older Pixel phones and Motion Sense gestures on its Pixel 4 series. But it looks like the firm is testing another gesture-related feature on its Pixel series.
XDA-Developers has spotted and enabled a new gesture system code-named “Columbus” in the Android 11 developer preview for Pixel phones. The system allows you to make a double-tap gesture on the back of a Pixel phone to control various functions.
According to the outlet, the double-tap gesture allows you to dismiss timers, snooze alarms, launch the camera/Google Assistant, play or pause media, collapse the status bar, silence incoming calls, unpin notifications, and start a “user selected action.” Check out a GIF of the feature below, courtesy of XDA.
Best of all, the double-tap gesture is confirmed to work on older Pixels in addition to the Pixel 4 series. So Google is likely using the accelerometer and gyroscope to enable this feature rather than exotic hardware like Motion Sense. This theoretically means Google could bring the finished feature to other Android phones in general, but it’s probably a Pixel-exclusive capability for now.
We’re glad to see another shortcut system come to Android phones in any event, following in the footsteps of fingerprint scanner gestures, Active Edge squeezes, and the standard hardware button (e.g. Google Assistant key). But we hope Google follows through with allowing users to remap the feature.