Accessibility for Everyone: How to Use Back Tap on Your iPhone in iOS 14

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With a new iOS 14 accessibility feature, tap the back of your phone to perform a range of actions.

We tend to treat accessibility features in operating systems as afterthoughts, but every user could benefit from checking out what’s available. Apple’s iOS 14 adds several such capabilities, including VoiceOver AI recognition for photos and apps that don’t include built-in accessibility options, sound recognition for things like fire alarms and doorbells, and sign language recognition in FaceTime.

One new capability in particular has received a lot of attention: Back Tap.


What Is Back Tap?

Back Tap is just what it sounds like: it lets you tap the back of your iPhone to perform an action. The intended use case is to turn on another accessibility feature, such as VoiceOver or to perform an action on a hardware Switch Control. But the feature is extremely versatile: it can be set up for accessibility features as well as basic system actions and custom Shortcuts.


Setting Up Back Tap in iOS 14

The new accessibility feature works on the following iPhone models:

  • iPhone 8, 8 Plus

  • iPhone X

  • iPhone XS, XS Max

  • iPhone XR

  • iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max.

I was tickled to see that my iPhone X was included in the list, since I expected it to be a newer-phone only feature. Here are the steps:

Set up Back Tap in iOS 14Shortcuts app, and even create custom ones—say, for opening an app, sending a message to a particular contact, playing a podcast, creating a tweet, or getting directions home. The options are virtually limitless. Any Shortcut you add will be available for use with Back Tap.

I was curious to see whether the trick would work with my thick iPhone case on, and unfortunately, it did not, probably because I have a metal car plate for a magnetic holder on my dashboard. A normal case would probably offer no hindrance. Once I removed the case, the feature worked as advertised, and it didn’t require a very hard tap. It even worked with a rugged Speck case (without the metal magnetic plate).

Look for our full iOS 14 review in the coming days.

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About the Author

September 20, 2020
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