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Your Pixel has an awesome shortcut — don't forget to use it
In the early smartphone years, devices used to have multiple buttons both below the display and around the sides. Modern minimalistic designs have done away with most of these physical buttons, thus reducing the opportunities to set up hardware-based shortcuts. The latest Pixels, though, have figured out a way to include a shortcut without adding any extra physical buttons. This hidden but awesome customizable shortcut isn’t enabled by default. The official name of the feature is Quick Tap and it’s a double-tap on the back of the phone.
What is Quick Tap and how do I activate it?
Google started testing the double-tap gesture on Pixels early in 2020, then made it officially available with the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G on Android 11. Since then, the feature has also made its way to the Pixel 5a, Pixel 6, and 6XL with Android 12.
Quick Tap lets you choose one of many potential actions to be executed when you double-tap the back of your Pixel. I think of it a bit like knocking on a door and something opening in response. You can set that to take a screenshot, launch Google Assistant, play/pause media, or open any app or action within that app — i.e. launcher app shortcuts, if you remember what those are. Its biggest limitation is that it only works when the device is in use, thus unlocked.
I think of Quick Tap a bit like knocking on a door and something opening in response.
To set up Quick Tap, you need to open your Pixel’s settings, then go to System > Gesture > Quick Tap. Enable the feature, then pick whichever option suits you best. You can also require stronger taps to trigger the shortcut. I recommend not turning that on at first, then paying attention to whether or not the action gets often activated accidentally. If that happens, toggle the stronger taps setting; otherwise, you don’t need to change a thing.
What are the best shortcut ideas for your Pixel?
The possibilities with Quick Tap are near endless. However, since it only works when the phone is already unlocked and in use, you have to think about it as more than just a regular shortcut. It’s a quick way to do something while you’re using other apps. (Otherwise it’d be the same thing as a homescreen shortcut.) So what would be the perfect use case for that?
Since there are various ways to launch Assistant or take a screenshot on a Pixel, I wouldn’t waste this extra shortcut on those. Media pause/play is a good choice, but only if you don’t use Bluetooth buds or headphones. With those choices dismissed, it’s time to delve into apps and in-app actions.
One of the best uses is to display my vaccination certificate or launch my two-factor authentication app.
My favorite use case is to make it display my vaccination certificate. This is possible because the French track-and-trace app (Google Play) offers an in-app shortcut for health passes. If your country’s app has similar functionality and you’re required to present your QR code everywhere you go, Quick Tap is a great way to get to it.
Another neat idea is to let it open your favorite password manager or two-factor authentication app. A double-tap certainly beats having to dig for the app when you’re trying to log into a service. If you often commute, setting Quick Tap to take you home or to work in Google Maps or CityMapper is an awesome time-saver too. For productivity lovers, adding a reminder or task in Google Calendar is a perfect fit. Workaholics might appreciate that it can be set to open any channel in Slack or any account’s inbox in Gmail, while social bees will love its deep integration with Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and others. Or you can be the boring person who assigns it to the calculator or clock — hey, I’m only partially judging.
What have you set up Quick Tap to do on your Pixel?
I personally love the versatility and simplicity of Quick Tap. My only problem with it is that it’s limited to a single double-tap shortcut. Google should allow us to activate triple and — why not — quadruple taps too. That’ll give so many more shortcut options for Pixel users, and the time-saving-hacks-lover in me would appreciate every single one of them.