There are no sensors on the back of your iPhone for your finger to fiddle with â€” unlike, say, a Google Pixel, which does have a fingerprint sensor on the back â€” but a new feature debuting in iOS 14 allows you to tap the back of your iPhone to launch different iOS actions all the same. This â€œdigital burpingâ€ gesture seems like magic, because youâ€™d need a crystal ball (or this article) to even know the feature is there.
Youâ€™ll need to have iOS 14 to play with Back Taps right now. Thereâ€™s no word on whether Apple is planning to include the feature in other versions of iOS before, or even after, iOS 14 launches to the public this fall. If youâ€™re curious, install the iOS 14 developer beta now or wait for next monthâ€™s public beta to give Back Taps a shot; I think itâ€™s worth it either way.
Once youâ€™ve done that, pull up the Settings appÂ and tap on Accessibility â€” where youâ€™ll find some of the most interesting and unmentioned iOS features. Tap on Touch, and then scroll to the very bottom of the screen to find the buried â€œBack Tapâ€ option. Tap it and youâ€™ll be able to assign various actions to a double- or triple-tap to the back of your phone.
â€œBut wait,â€ you say. â€œI use a case to protect my iPhone when it goes flying out of my hands from time to time!â€ That shouldnâ€™t be a problem â€” Back Tap should still work, provided you arenâ€™t using a super-thicc case that could probably help your phone survive a fall from atop a small building.
While you canâ€™t double- or triple-tap to launch apps â€” if only â€” you can perform a variety of standard system actions. The list includes:
The list continues on from there, including â€œscroll downâ€ and â€œscroll upâ€ gestures and a variety of accessibility functions â€” Zoom, VoiceOver, Magnifier, etc.
I found it useful to assign the App Switcher to one of the tap gestures; since I take a lot of them, I assigned the screenshot action to the other. Now, for everyday use, I donâ€™t have to move my thumb around to swipe up and launch the App Switcher; provided Iâ€™m holding the phone with all my fingers, I can maintain my grip and just give a gentle tap-tap on its rear.
About that: You donâ€™t need to thwack thwack your iPhone for the taps to register. Two or three regular taps at a reasonably rapid succession should be enough. Youâ€™ll probably have to play around with Back Tap a few times to really get a sense for the lightest possible touch that can activate your action, but youâ€™ll get the hang of it.
While I wish you could do more with Back Taps â€” such as activating the flashlight or launching a routine â€” the feature is still useful enough that everyone should give it a go. You donâ€™t get that many opportunities to customise how you interact with your iPhone beyond Appleâ€™s default gestures, after all.