2023 Apple Watch Models Add Double Tap Gesture

Originally published at: 2023 Apple Watch Models Add Double Tap Gesture - TidBITS

The new Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 extend the wearable experience mostly through a double tap gesture that activates the primary button in an app. They also have brighter screens, on-device Siri, and Precision Finding for the iPhone 15.

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Do we know what the difference is between Double Tap and the accessibility setting that already exists? I’ve seen a lot of people claiming this already exists (which there is an accessibility gestures setting) and is not new at all. But Apple says it won’t be available until next month, so clearly they think something is new.

I’ve tried the Assistive Touch accessibility setting before and it seems a bit different - that is a full clench and unclench of your fist to select, and it adds other features that this does not. The pinch gesture is move the selector to the next item - that does not exist with what Apple demonstrated yesterday.

I know that I tried it for a few days a few years ago but had to turn it off.

There’s a bit about it here How to use Assistive Touch on the Apple Watch - The Verge

A post was merged into an existing topic: Incremental iPhone 15 Improvements Focus on Photography and Connectivity

I actually think the new Double Tap gesture will be widely embraced! I see it becoming a Shortcut in no time!

My Series 5 is still working fine for me. The battery in my wife’s watch (I think it’s a Series 6) was not lasting through the day. It only cost $75 (or maybe $95—definitely under a hundred) to have Apple replace the battery. I looked it up on Apple’s website and saw that price. She brought it to an Apple Store and was told it would be about $350. So she brought it back home and we did it through the website.

I’m almost certainly going to upgrade from my Series 4 to Series 9. There are enough small things that appeal. The always-on display for one. And yes - definitely the new finger tap too, for cancelling timers.

But I’m slightly worried that will be vulnerable to false triggering. Sitting at my desk, I’ve frequently got music playing in the background and I frequently find myself drumming my fingers on the desk or sometimes off each other. Fingers crossed that their isolation algorithms work well.

Unless they’ve reserved that gesture for “Restart Watch”. :wink:

An interesting comment comparing this new gesture feature with the Assistive Touch feature that has been in the Watch for many years:

It will be interesting to see how the new gesture compares against the old ones, given that the new one requires a series 9 watch, and the old ones have been around for many generations of Watch.

I have a Series 5 that sometimes has to be charged twice to make it through the day. Apple will replace for $89. They would also give me a $90 credit on a trade-in for a Series 9. Trying to decide what to do…

I’m still on an Apple Watch series 2. I got a Series 1 for free from a friend when she upgraded to a 4. I kept the 1 under warranty and when it broke Apple replaced it with a 2. For $2.49/month I’ve kept it under warranty. Time to upgrade?


I have a series 7. No compelling reason to upgrade. Plenty of battery left-91%. When the battery dies, I’ll get a new one.

I will be upgrading my Series 5 to the Ultra 2, which I have in the plan since last year.

While my Series 5 works well, have had the battery replaced recently and is still in pristine condition (being a ceramic model), the Ultra 2 has a blood oxygen sensor, fast charging, much longer battery life and improved GPS accuracy. These are all useful features for my upcoming trek in Nepal: charging opportunities can be scarce at times, and I will spend over two weeks above 10,000ft (3,000m) in elevation. The GPS feature may be less useful, as I imagine the watch will be living underneath layers of clothing for much of the time.

I tried on the (original) Ultra in person and the size is very manageable, certainly smaller and lighter than the G-Shock Rangeman. The alpine loop can be a bit tricky to remove and put on, which is a consideration when going through airport security screening.


The Ultra can use any Apple Watch band, so if you already have a favorite that works for you, you can just replace the band. I ordered my Ultra with the Alpine loop and kept using it, and after a year it looks a little bit worn. It can be a real pain to put on in the dark, since you can’t see any of the slots and they’re hard to detect by feel. I just tuck the clip in completely behind the band, and wait until I can see to put it on properly.

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I have worn the Watch with the Alpine loop for a few days, and thankfully the experience was better than I expected. I find it a bit difficult to put on and off, not because of the hook but there is little stretch to the fabric, so there is not much clearance over my hand. I am interested to see how the altimeter measures up (no pun intended) as you mentioned in another thread; it will be nice if the altimeter can be periodically re-calibrated with GPS and map data.

So far, the battery life of the Ultra 2 has been pretty unreal (for an Apple Watch). My Watch is not on a cellular plan, and the battery is draining at a rate of ~25% a day. Granted, I have not had hours of workout during those days, but still it is surreal that an Apple Watch can finally last more than a day without charging.

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If you want to use just the double tap gesture, have a look at Settings > Accessibility > Quick Actions instead of the more full-featured AssistiveTouch.

For details, see “Use quick actions” on the Use AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch page in the User Guide. (Oddly enough, for that setting, the gesture is called “double pinch,” but it’s the exact same finger motion.)

That feature is surprisingly reliably, even though I have a now-older series 6 watch. There is one exception, though: the gesture consistently fails to dismiss alarms from the Alarms and Timer applications.

The UI does show the highlight outline around the respective button, and the little Quick Action info panel appears at the top of the screen. That little panel disappears right after performing the double tap/pinch, so the device must register the gesture. And yet, the alarm just keeps going, no matter how often I double tap/pinch…

Does anyone else here notice this issue?

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Excellent; I didn’t know about this. (The setting is also in the Watch app on iPhone, Accessibility / Quick Actions.)

I didn’t try it with the alarm, but it worked for me with the timer. It did take a few tries with the gesture, though. That said: this will be helpful I think. Thanks for the heads-up about it.

Some thoughts and observations after using the Apple Watch Ultra 2 along the Annapurna Circuit for 29 days:

  • The bright display makes reading the display easy, especially during sunny day on exposed snowfields.
  • The GPS feature seems to work really well. I have the iPhone and Watch on flight mode but with Bluetooth turned on, and I was able to log the tracks accurately whether the Watch is exposed or under layers of clothing (including mountaineering mitts).
  • Altitude measurement seems to work fairly well, but I think it is better to treat the measurement as “ballpark figure” than accurate, to-the-meter/feet measurement. I reviewed the altitude of villages I stayed, and they are generally accurate to within 10m or so; pretty good considering the fact that the villages are generally uneven and located on slopes, so the place of measurement matters. On the highest point of the trek (Thorong La), the Watch measured 5,403m whereas the reference altitude is 5,416m. Again, probably not to be used for accurate mapping but great for tracking general progress.
  • There is no facility to enter backpack weight into the Workout app, and that matters greatly especially at higher altitude. I am taking the performance measurements (cardiac health, etc.) with a generous pinch of salt.
  • Battery life is generally adequate (and even great), even on 10-12 hour trekking days. The charge level never dropped below 20%, but generally would drop below 50%. This includes wearing the Watch during sleep. Daily charging is necessary.
  • It is impossible to operate (or even read) the Watch while wearing mitts, but that is to be expected. That means the Watch is probably not suitable for use when climbing 6,000+m peaks, despite Apple’s allusion that it can be used for ‘extreme activities’.
  • However, it is infuriating that I cannot start a workout by tapping the display while wearing liner gloves, even when I can interact with the screen normally when using other functions while wearing the same pair of gloves. I have to remove the gloves (and mitts, when I wear them) and trekking poles, just to be able to tap that one button. Nonetheless, it worked fine subsequently with another pair of gloves; this might be an issue specific to that pair of gloves.
  • After completing the trek, there was once when the Watch was suddenly not responsive to touch input, and seems to be afflicted by ‘phantom input’ where the display receives ‘random input’ when there was none. At one point, I removed the Watch from my wrist, the display promptly receives a bunch of passcode attempts, and I was locked out of the Watch. I solved the problem by unpairing then pairing the Watch again to the iPhone, and the problem has not recurred since. I suspect it is a software bug rather than a hardware issue.
  • The lesson of the story is that while Apple Watch is great, do not rely on it (or any electronic device) as a sole method of navigation; paper maps, compass and navigation skills are still the best!

Great post!

“Hey siri, start a hiking workout”. I don’t have an Ultra 2, so I don’t know for sure, but I thought that the 2 allowed onboard Siri even if the watch has no internet connectivity. (I’d have the issue using Siri with my Ultra in that situation.)

Also, if you know that you are going on a particular workout, open the watch app, tap “action button”, change it to workout, start a workout, and choose the workout you want to start. Then when you are out with gloves on you can use the action button to start the workout without tapping the start button.

That said, even if you don’t want that, watch app, tap “workout”, and turn on “precision start”. Then you can open the workout and use the action button to start it. Ending a workout is tough - you can use Siri for that, but you can also turn on “press to pause” and then press any two of the buttons at the same time (on the ultra watches it’s easiest to squeeze the action button and side button for this) and pause the workout, then end it later when you have a chance to take off your gloves.