Google Pixel 5 getting this surprise feature to fight Samsung Galaxy S20

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Android 11's packing a great new feature that could further help the Pixels —including the upcoming Pixel 5 — stand out. 

Code-named 'Columbus', the Android 11 preview code shows proof of a new double-tap gesture for the back of the phone. The double tap activates one of a series of features that include triggering Google Assistant, opening the camera app and playing and pausing media.

This news comes from XDA-Developers, where they poked around on the Android 11 developer preview code. Inside of the "SystemUIGoogle APK, the app responsible for the SystemUI component on Google Pixel phones," they found proof of the Columbus feature, which worked on their Pixel 4 XL and Pixel 2XL. 

Will Google allow the final version to be used on older Pixels, or keep it an exclusive for the Pixel 5 and/or Pixel 4a. XDA Developers also shared footage of the feature in action, activating the camera:

Oh, and don't expect this feature to come to regular Android phones; instead this will be an exclusive that likely helps them stay in our best phones list. The code uses a "" term, rather than "," which they've done in the past for previous Pixel-first features: Active Edge and Motion Sense. Still, though, Columbus only needs an accelerometer and gyroscope, in order to work. 

Worried about accidental activations? XDA says Google's got a prevent-defense already in place with "gates."

Columbus back-tap feature list:

  • 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”

For that Play/Pause feature, there's one caveat: XDA found that it isn't working on apps in the background, including Google's own Play Music and YouTube.

Columbus fits in perfectly with another Android feature, Flip to Shhh, which silences your phone when you place it face-down on a table.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.