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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Double tap: five killer Android features

Everyone has their own particular favorite Android features. Over the years there have been plenty. Some have stuck around, like a two-finger swipe to access Quick Settings, while others have disappeared, like lock screen widgets.
But when I started thinking about some of my all-time favorite Android features, I realized that, for me at least, they all had something in common: they were all based around a double tap.

Double tap to wake

Originally appearing on the LG G2, the first and last of the G series to not have big issues, Knock On – also known as double tap to wake – is easily one of my all-time favorite Android features. Frequently imitated, the feature is so convenient you frequently find yourself trying to do it on phones that don’t support it.
Using a knuckle to quickly activate the display is a great option when you’re eating and have messy fingers, don’t have easy access to the power button (especially useful considering the G2’s rear-mounted power button) or just generally feel like smacking your smartphone around a bit.
But not all knuckle gestures are equal: Huawei’s horrid knuckle gestures are a joke and even LG’s Knock Code was a bad idea. Sometimes the first idea is the best idea, and in the case of applying knuckles to your phone screen, this was it.

Quick app switching

Found only in devices running Android 7.0 Nougat and above, quick app switching is easily the most intuitive gesture I’ve ever come across. It takes moments to get used to and just minutes to become reliant on.
Switching back to a phone that doesn’t support quick app switching is one of the most painful Android experiences you’ll ever endure. Who would’ve thought that something as simple as double tapping the recent apps button would become such a cornerstone of the Android experience basically overnight?

Camera shortcut

This has been my favorite hardware shortcut since it first appeared. The Moto X may have been the first device (as I recall) to provide a quick camera shortcut, but that awkward wrist flick gesture was goofy and slow.
Then, HTC’s “press a button and raise the phone in landscape orientation” combination came a little closer to getting things right, but it wasn’t until the Galaxy S6 and Nexus 6P that all my dreams were fulfilled (I have bland nerd dreams, what can I tell you).


I personally prefer the power button shortcut to the home button version found on Samsung devices, mostly because I’m less likely to accidentally hit the power button twice whereas I found myself continually in the camera on the S6 when I didn’t want to be.
When I got the OnePlus 3 after that with the same functionality, I hoped it would quickly be adopted by all manufacturers. We’re not there yet but I can still hope. Some ideas are so good and so fundamental to the platform that they truly deserve to be gifted to all OEMs without any pesky patent claims to get in the way out our enjoyment.

Double tap to highlight words

If you do as much translating of foreign words as I do, or simply copy hashtags, URLs or other snippets of text on the regular, then being able to double tap to instantly highlight a word (or double tap and swipe to highlight phrases) is a godsend.
It’s far from the sexiest double tap shortcut on this list but its easily the one I use the (second) most, right up there with quick app switching.


Honorable mention: fingerprint scanner gestures

Now, this shortcut doesn’t rank as highly as the others because its only available on a couple of Huawei phones and the new Google Pixels, but being able to use the fingerprint scanner as a tool for bringing up the notification shade, navigating menus and swiping through image galleries is brilliant.
But the double tap functionality I’m talking about here is the double tap to clear all notifications gesture (which isn’t supported on Pixels). I have to admit that the use cases of some scanner gestures can get a little lost because you don’t typically have your index finger resting on the scanner for that moment your gallery app launches. In those cases it’s much simpler to just swipe with a fingertip on screen.
But for unlocking your phone, dragging down the navigation shade, reading your notifications and then clearing them all away, the fingerprint scanner gesture and double tap combo is a one-stop shop of fantastic. I’m not sure how far scanner gestures will ever spread, but Android 7.1 on the Nexuses doesn’t seem to support them (apparently due to a missing piece of scanner hardware).

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