Google Might Add a Double Tap Feature to Pixel Phones

The squeezable devices might soon response to two taps on the back

Why This Matters: Google’s smartphones are among the few that react to physical actions like squeezes and waves. Tapping the back of the phone to quickly activate features like the camera and timer dismissals might make the product a more capable Samsung and Apple competitor.

Pixel 4
Pixel 4.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

A close look at the latest developer preview for the upcoming Android 11 by XDA Developers revealed a new function that will make Pixel phones respond to two taps on the back of the devices.

The big picture: Google is constantly working to enhance and improve the world’s most popular mobile operating system and should reveal major updates during the Google I/O developer conference in May. Even before then, however, Google’s offering tantalizing previews of what’s to come. The Android 11 Developer preview, which arrived this week, includes a function called “Columbus” that activates tap awareness for the back of Pixel phones.

This does what? Android developers who enabled Columbus found that a double tap on Pixels (going all the way back to Pixel 2 XL) can respond to a double tap and enable the camera, silence incoming calls, dismiss the timer, and play or pause media.

Yes, but… While Columbus clearly uses the device’s motion sensors to recognize taps, there is some concern that inadvertent phone taps could lead to unwanted activation. However, XDA Developer reports there are “gates” in the code, like setting the phone on a charging base, that will purposely not activate Columbus features.

Something more… If you’re worried that developers may have misinterpreted the code, most who found it were able to activate the feature on their Pixel phones and try out double tapping the back to, for example, launch the camera.

Coming later? This is not, by the way, a feature you’ll be able to try on your own Pixels anytime soon. After Google reveals the mobile OS update in May, it usually takes months for it to arrive on current and new Android handsets. It’s also worth remembering that these developer previews may not be fully-accurate indicators of future Android releases.

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