Android 11 could let you double-tap the back of your Pixel to launch apps

(Image credit: Future)

The first Developer Preview of Android 11 continues to reveal new features that Google has in the pipeline for its mobile operating system – including a new gesture where you could double-tap the back of your Pixel phone to launch apps and actions.

The feature isn't properly enabled yet but has been spotted in the Android 11 code by XDA Developers. As with any feature in this Developer Preview, it may get tweaked or removed altogether before the software gets a full and official release.

Apparently "Columbus" is the codename for this new gesture, and a double-tap on the back of a compatible Google Pixel handset could, for example, launch the Google Assistant or the phone camera, or pause any audio that's currently playing.

Other references embedded in the code suggest this is indeed a Google Pixel exclusive, though it may roll out to other phones further down the line. We probably won't hear anything from Google about the double-tap feature until Google IO 2020 gets underway on May 12.

Tap, squeeze, wave

The new gesture system doesn't require any special hardware – it just uses the accelerometer and gyroscope sensors that can be found in every phone to judge when you're double-tapping the back of the handset.

According to XDA Developers, the double-tap can also dismiss timers, snooze alarms, unpin notifications, or trigger an action specified by the user. It looks as though you'll be able to configure this to do pretty much anything you like.

Google has form for this sort of Pixel-exclusive gesture: every Pixel since the Pixel 2 has supported Active Edge (squeeze the sides of the phone to carry out an action), while the latest Pixel 4 phones support Motion Sense (wave above the phone to skip media tracks, silence alarms and more).

There's likely to be plenty more from Android 11 in the coming weeks and months – Google is planning another two Developer Preview releases and then three Beta releases (which will be much easier to install for the average user).

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.