MIUI 12, the incoming next-gen Android OS overlay from Xiaomi, could include support for back panel gestures on select smartphones. That's based on code that was recently discovered and activated in the skin's beta by XDA Developers. It's not immediately clear what devices might receive associated features or when. But the feature is fairly well laid already in the beta code.
The feature will, if the UI remains the same through to release, be found in the Button shortcuts section of the Settings app. It's found under a new "Custom Gestures" subheading under the title "Back Tap," and it does exactly what's implied. It would allow users of MIUI 12 Xiaomi and sub-branded devices to initiate tap gestures on the back panel to perform certain actions.
What are the options for back panel taps?
Now, there are plenty of questions left open by the appearance of Back Tap gestures. For instance, it's not clear exactly how this will work from a technical standpoint. It may be the case that any Xiaomi phone can take advantage of the feature if it utilizes standard accelerometers and related hardware.
Or Xiaomi could have some specialized hardware planned to allow the feature. For example, the company has multiple patents for wrap-around and dual-screen devices. And this feature may be intended for use on a standard capacitive screen but with that screen out of sight when the gestures are used. Regardless, the options users have in terms of what the gestures do, for now, are limited. And so are the gestures themselves.
The menu in question shows two tap gestures that can be used, in total. Those are a "Double back tap" and a "Triple back tap." So users will be able to quickly tap twice or three times. There are only presently 6 options for how the system responds to those taps too. Users can set the taps to do nothing, of course. But they can also take a screenshot, access the control center, interact with the notification shade, launch the camera, or turn on the flashlight.
Xiaomi might include more features, app shortcuts, or interactions in the future but that's not guaranteed at this point.
Back panel gestures have been seen before but not for MIUI
This isn't the first time back panel gestures have been spotted in development. iOS 14 is an obvious example. But Google is also working on something similar.
It's unclear how the search giant intends the feature to work. It could intend it to work with all of Android or just with Pixel-branded phones. But its appearance in Xiaomi's OS overlay indicates that it's something plenty of Android OEMs are interested in incorporating. And it seems to be fairly well developed there too. So this is a feature that users should expect to see sooner than later.