Android 11’s hidden double-tap gesture lets you take screenshots (Updated)

Android 11’s hidden double-tap gesture lets you take screenshots (Updated) thumbnail

Before face unlocking technology became the security metric of choice for OEMs, Pixel phones boasted a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor that also supported swipe gestures. When the Pixel 4 opted to remove that sensor, rear-mounted gesture support went with it. Luckily, the Android team has a new way to make the back of your phone great again with a double-tap gesture in Android 11 Developer Preview 1.

Codenamed “Columbus” — a nod to any Zombieland fans in the audience — the double-tap gesture allows users to carry out a number of actions simply by tapping twice on the rear panel of their phones. In this quick clip, you can see Google Assistant being activated using this feature.

According to XDA Developers, the double-tap gesture can be enabled to:

  • Dismiss timer
  • Launch camera
  • Launch Google Assistant
  • Play/pause media
  • Collapse status bar
  • Silence incoming phone calls
  • Snooze alarms
  • Unpin notifications
  • Perform a “user selected action”

That last one is particularly handy, because it would presumably allow Pixel owners to customize what happens when the gesture is invoked, unlocking myriad functionality.

Columbus uses a combination of the phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to decipher user inputs, so most phone skins and cases shouldn’t hinder performance. This feature is currently not a user-facing setting and had to be activated manually within the first Developer Preview of Android 11. Although XDA Developers was able to get Columbus up and running on a Pixel 2 XL, there is no word on which Pixels (or other Android handsets) will officially support double-tap when Android 11 stable launches later this year.

New functions in Developer Preview 2

Following the release of Developer Preview 2, Columbus has gained a few more capabilities. According to 9to5Google, you can now additionally double tap to take screenshots or to quickly open the multitasking ‘recents’ overview. The feature also seems to have been fine-tuned to avoid false positives.

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