Updated October 2nd, 2020.
My favorite new feature in iOS 14 is the Back Tap. The Back Tap lets you trigger an action by double-tapping on the back of the iPhone, and it lets you trigger another action by triple-tapping on the back of the phone. And it works even if your iPhone is in a case, because it’s all about the vibration.
Note: the Back Tap feature requires an iPhone 8 or newer. And it doesn’t work on iPads at all. Sorry about that, Mom.
A double-tap (or triple-tap) can take a screenshot, open the Control Center, raise or lower the volume (or mute it completely). Apple provides several more standard actions that you can choose from.
If you want to really leverage the Back Tap, set it up to trigger a Shortcut. I’ll show you how to do that later in this article, but first, let’s learn how to set up a simple Back Tap action.
How to set up a simple Back Tap action
The Back Tap settings are in the Accessibility section of the Settings app. Go to Settings, then Accessibility, then Touch.
You’ll see your current double-tap and triple-tap settings, and if you tap those, you can choose whichever action you’d like.
You don’t have to choose actions for both double-tap and triple-tap. You can leave one of them on “none.” It’s up to you.
You can trigger your double-tap and triple-tap Back Tap actions from any app. That is, you can be in Mail, or in Messages, or just on the Home Screen– when you double-tap (or triple-tap), your action is performed.
I think this will be very handy. You just have to figure out which actions work best for you.
How to set up a custom Back Tap action via Shortcuts
If you want to do something fancier you can use the Back Tap to trigger a Shortcut from the Shortcut app. The Shortcuts app is standard, on everyone’s iPhone since iOS 13, so I know you have it (unless you deleted it– in that case, go the the App Store and get it again.)
Still in the Back Tap settings, scroll down to see the Shortcuts you can trigger.
You can choose one of the Shortcuts Apple provides, or you can use one of your own. They all show up in the list when you’re choosing an action for double-tap and triple-tap. The list below includes my own custom Shortcuts as well as Apple’s– they’re all in the same list.
Let’s see about putting more Shortcuts into your list– maybe one of Apple’s, maybe one your make yourself.
Leave the Back Tap settings, and open up the Shortcuts app. Have a look around. We’ll come back to the Back Tap settings in a minute.
Unless you’ve already made some Shortcuts, all you’ll see in the Shortcuts app are the so-called “Starter Shortcuts.” These give you an idea of what a Shortcut can do; tap one to trigger it.
The white circle with the dots opens up the Editor for the Shortcut, which is also interesting. It lets you see the steps.
You’ll find many more Shortcuts, ready to use or modify, by tapping the Gallery button.
At the top of the Gallery you’ll see shortcuts based on things you’ve done by hand recently. If you think you might like to trigger one of those actions with a Shortcut, tap the plus sign next to it, and the iPhone will try to help you create a Shortcut that does what you would have done by hand.
Scrolling down in the Shortcuts Gallery you’ll find categories of Shortcuts, and within those categories many more Shortcuts. Below are some of the categories.
Here’s the Essentials category, after tapping “See All.”
Hopefully, one of the Shortcuts will catch your eye. When you tap one, you’ll see more info. In some cases, you’ll be given some customization options. Here I’ve tapped the very first Shortcut, Reading Mode.
Tapping “Add Shortcut” might be all there is to it, but in the case we get to configure the Shortcut so it plays the playlist I want to hear (George Strait), and opens the app I want to read with (Kindle).
With some Shortcuts, including this one, you have to give the Shortcuts app permission to do what it wants to do– access your music, in this case. But you only have to do that the first time you run it, and once that’s done, and once we go back to Settings/Accessibility/Touch and connect our Reading Mode Shortcut to the Back Tap double-tap…
… we are only a double-tap away from having our phone go to Dark Mode, start playing my George Straight playlist, and bring up the Kindle app. The shortcut asks along the way how long I’d like to read, so there’s some interaction there, but this could be set permanently to one hour, or 45 minutes, or whatever you’d like.
Note that the Shortcuts in the Gallery are just the tip of the iceberg. You can make your own Shortcuts entirely from scratch if you’d like. The sky’s the limit with Shortcuts.
Apple provides a very good Shortcuts User Guide. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time. The time you spend will come back to you many times over. Shortcuts give you great gobs of power and those who use them are able to get more done, in less time, than everyone else. Be one who uses them!