One of the more understated features introduced with iOS 14 is the ability to input commands by physically tapping the back of your iPhone. Here’s the full lowdown on Back Tap, including why we think it’s so handy, as well as a rundown of how to activate it.

What is Back Tap?

Back Tap is an Accessibility feature that Apple introduced with iOS 14. While it is intended to help those who might be physically inhibited when using their iPhone, it has potential applications for pretty much everyone.

With Back Tap you can assign favored apps, UI commands, or Shortcuts to physical taps – either double or triple – on the back of the phone.

How to activate and use Back Tap

To set Back Tap up, head into Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap.

You’ll be confronted by two options: Double Tap and Triple Tap, both of which will be set to None by default.

Tap either one of these options and scroll through all of the System, Accessibility, Scroll Gestures, and Shortcuts available to you. Select one of these, and the function will be bound to that tap command.

Now exit the menu and do the same for the other Back Tap shortcut. From now on, simply double or triple tap on the back of your phone to initiate your chosen commands.

What is Back Tap useful for?

Using a Back Tap command is potentially much quicker and more intuitive than unlocking your iPhone and identifying the appropriate function in the usual manner. It can also replicate common gestures and inputs that you find fiddly, awkward, or even impossible to execute.

For example, you might find it difficult to use the swipe up commands to go home or to bring up the App Switcher. Assign them to a double and triple tap respectively, and let your holding forefinger do all the work.

Taking screenshots the normal way can be a tricky business, especially if you’ve limited dexterity. Assign Take Screenshot to a double tap, and mitigate those troubles forever. But watch out for accidental taps triggering the function – you may start finding random screenshots in your camera library from accidental snaps.

You’ll also find that any shortcuts you’ve set up in the Shortcuts app are available for the Back Tap treatment. We’ve attributed the Shazam shortcut to a double tap, so we can quickly and discretely find out what’s playing on a TV show or in a shop.

Using Shortcuts alone, Back Tap has the potential to initiate a frankly dizzying range of command combinations. Our advice is to experiment!