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New double-tap controls could be coming to Pixel phones

Developers have been busy combing over the recently released preview of Android 11, and they’ve just discovered some nifty new gesture controls, which involve tapping the back of your device. Activating this option allows users to mute calls, dismiss alarms, and launch the Google Assistant.

The folks at XDA Developers stumbled across this new gesture system while unpacking the code in the latest version of Android. Nicknamed ‘Columbus’, the system is buried in the SystemUIGoogle APK – and it looks like it’s only available for Pixel users, rather than the general Android-using public.

Read our review of the Google Pixel 4

The good news is that the rear double-tap controls work on both older and newer versions of Pixel phones. You don’t need to have any snazzy hardware on your phone to operate the rear tap gestures either, as it looks like the controls rely on your handset’s gyroscope and accelerometer for feedback.

When activated, the Columbus controls allows Pixel owners to dismiss timers and alarms, launch the camera and Google Assistant, play and pause media, silence calls, unpin notifications and collapse the status bar.

There’s also an option to perform a “user selected action”, suggesting that you can modify the controls as well. This would definitely be a welcome addition, as not everyone is going to want to launch Google Assistant every time they drum their fingers on the back of the phone.

That said, accidental triggering shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as XDA Developers reports that there are measures in place to make sure you don’t trip the controls by mistake.

Related: Here are the key new features in Android 11

At present, it’s too early to confirm if Google will include the update in the stable roll-out of Android 11. And if it does, the company may still decide to restrict the option to certain Pixel models.