Google likes to throw in some interesting physical gestures for its phones—see the "squeeze" function the older Pixels inherited from HTC, or the short-lived Soli gestures in the Pixel 4. There's another one the company has been brewing for a while, at least on the Pixel 5: double-tapping the back of the phone for some frequently-used actions.

This tool has been present on the Pixel 5 since the first Android 12 Developer Preview, but as of DP2 it still isn't actually available to use. The settings menu is accessible but non-functional (or at least we haven't heard from anyone who's gotten it to work), though we can see what Google intends to let you use by default. Standard hardware button-type actions are available: open the Google Assistant, take a screenshot, play/pause music or videos, open the recent apps view, or drop down the notification bar. One more granular setting lets you specify harder taps, presumably to keep it from accidentally activating.

Google often tweaks these kind of tools in Developer Preview builds, sometimes keeping them for the full Android release in the fall, sometimes dropping them off the edge of the software world. At the moment the settings are only appearing on the Pixel 5 and are hard-coded to be excluded on others in the existing Gestures settings screen. But there's nothing in terms of hardware that would stop it from coming to other Pixels, or other Android devices in general—detecting a short bump that doesn't interact with the touchscreen is not difficult.

Note that this tap-the-back gesture is separate from the fingerprint swipe for notifications gesture. With the former not enabled, it's impossible to tell whether it will interfere with similar Pixel gestures, like tapping the screen to quickly power it on.

For more about Android 12, check out our ongoing series coverage here, or bookmark our regularly updated changelog and check back in later. If you want to install the developer preview on your own device, find out how in our Android 12 download guide.

  • Thanks:
  • Nick Cipriani