Google is considering including new rear-panel double-tap gestures in Android 11 for its own Pixel handsets. That's according to a recent report from XDA Developers after tearing into the SystemUIGoogle APK. Under a gesture system dubbed "Columbus," code was discovered to turn on a double-tap gesture for the back panel of the device.
Those double-taps are linked to a variety of actions and appear to be Pixel-specific. The code expressly marks them with the Google-phone implicit "com.google" preface. That's as compared to the standard "com.android" preface used for new features that will stretch across all of Android.
That means that Google will likely not make double-tap gestures available on every handset running Android 11.
Setting that aside, the company also appears to be moving forward rapidly with the new feature. Not only are some of the double-tap actions gated off. That includes actions for camera visibility, charging status, and keyguard, among others.
Google also has already put in place a gesture training class for double-taps on the back of the device. The training is currently not linked to any actual content. But the associated code will likely be a part of the initial setup process.
What exactly can be controlled via double-tap gestures in Android 11?
Overall, there are nine actions currently shown in the APK for the new gestures. Some of those have been tested working on devices as old as Pixel 2 series handsets. So it wouldn't be surprising to see the feature eventually find its way backward through the ranks via updates. It's also not immediately clear why this is being kept Pixel-exclusive since there's no specialty hardware involved.
Setting that aside, the source tested the new feature on three different uses. Those were to launch Google Assistant, the Google Camera app, and to pause and play media. On the latter front, the feature doesn't appear to be as complete as might be hoped just yet. It only works in some applications that are still utilizing a specific internal 'key event'.
The other tools work as expected but it's not readily apparent whether the action that launches will be contextual. Google may utilize AI to allow different gestures to distinguish between actions. Conversely, those may be chosen automatically depending on a user's current position in the system or an app.
Regardless of the specifics for launching a given action, Google's double-tap works across several other purposes. It can be used to dismiss a timer or collapse the status bar, for instance. Or users can silence incoming calls, snooze alarms, or unpin notifications. Finally, the code points to a bit more freedom for users, allowing for a "user selected action" on a double-tap at the back of the phone.
Since this is just for Pixel, it may not arrive soon
The new double-tap gestures appear to be part of the Android 11 update for Pixel handsets. But that doesn't mean it will be arriving soon. The first of three 'Developer Previews' for Android 11 has already been launched but that will be followed by three public betas too.
If Google follows its tradition of launching new versions of Android with a new device, the feature may arrive later than expected. It could land alongside the budget-friendly Pixel 4 variants — the Google Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a XL. Or it could arrive much later with the Google Pixel 5. From there, a slower rollout would likely bring the feature to older Pixel gadgets with the exception of the original handset — which won't be receiving Android 11.