Google tests new double tap gestures in Android 11 for taking screenshots and opening recent apps, possibly for the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4

Google tests new double tap gestures in Android 11 for taking screenshots and opening recent apps, possibly for the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4

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When Google released Android 11 Developer Preview 1 last month, we detailed a new set of gestures code-named “Columbus” that allows you to double tap the rear of your device to start the Assistant, open the camera app, and more. At the time, we strongly suspected the feature was intended for Pixel phones rather than all Android phones running Android 11, but we didn’t know if the feature would be exclusive to only newer Pixel devices. Now with the release of Android 11 Developer Preview 2, there are hints that the feature is being tested on the Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4 XL. Furthermore, Google has added two new actions to the set of “Columbus” gestures: taking a screenshot and opening the recent apps overview. Lastly, the company has also refined the implementation to reduce false positives. Here’s what we know so far.

The new “Columbus” gestures do not require any special hardware to work; instead, they use sensor data from the device’s accelerometer and gyroscope to determine if the user has double-tapped the rear of the device. To reduce power drain and/or unwanted triggers, these double tap gestures have “gates” that prevent them from working in certain conditions such as when the screen is off, the lock screen is visible, or the camera app is open. New in Android 11 Developer Preview 2 is code that reduces false positives by implementing high-pass and low-pass filters on the accelerometer and gyroscope data. Several new classes have been added to SystemUIGoogle to that effect: Highpass1C, Highpass3C, Lowpass1C, Lowpass3C, and more. Google has seemingly also optimized “Columbus” gestures for the Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4 XL, as we’ve spotted references to TensorFlow Lite machine learning models for these three devices.

In my previous post, I noted that the “Columbus” gestures could trigger the following actions:

  • 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”

I also embedded videos that showed us controlling media, launching the Google Assistant, and launching the Google Camera app using a double tap on the rear of the Pixel 2 XL.

Now, here are videos I recorded showing the two new gestures that have been added in Android 11 Developer Preview 2: taking a screenshot and opening the recent apps overview. Both videos show the gestures working on my Pixel 3a XL running Android 11 Developer Preview 2.



Note that although I enabled this feature on my Pixel 3a XL (and earlier, my Pixel 2 XL), there’s no evidence that either device will support these gestures when they’re made official. However, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3a have the necessary hardware to support these gestures, so we could see Google add support for them down the line.

Google Pixel 3 Forums ||| Google Pixel 3 XL Forums ||| Google Pixel 4 Forums ||| Google Pixel 4 XL Forums


Thanks to PNF Software for providing us a license to use JEB Decompiler, a professional-grade reverse engineering tool for Android applications.