The new double-tap gesture is one of the biggest changes brought on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2.
The feature wasn’t available at launch but is now available as part of a watchOS update.
The gesture enables Apple Watch users to control their smartwatch “hands-free” with a double tap of thumb and forefinger.
If you’ve ever tried to take a call or dismiss a timer, while holding a dog lead/baby/bag of shopping/anaconda/all of the above, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
It can be frustrating when something is buzzing on your wrist to quickly dismiss it when your hands are full. So the new double-tap gesture is here to help. Here's how to enable it and use it.
Which devices support double tap?
The S9's Neural Engine will look for minute movements in the arm, as well as changes in blood flow, to identify when the gesture has been activated.
Experienced Apple Watch experts will recall that the Apple Watch already supported gestures before the latest Series 9/Ultra 2.
While all Apple Watch models support AssistiveTouch gestures, the implementation is different from the new Double Tap – as we explain below. But it does mean everyone can get a feel for hands-free control.
How to use the Apple Watch Double Tap gesture
To activate the gesture, you need to pull off a little sequence of movements, which does have a small learning curve. Let’s call it a knack.
You need to look at the watch and perform a standard wrist raise, and then when the screen illuminates, you perform the ‘double tap’ by deliberately pinching your thumb and forefinger (on the watch hand) together twice.
You'll the the blue gesture icon appear at the top of the watch face, which shows you that the gesture has been detected.
It’s really easy but can take a couple of goes to get right the first time, as the timing of the wrist turn and double tap has to be right.
The Double Tap gesture isn't working?
At the time of writing, Double Tap is only available in watchOS 10.1 (not 10.01). So check for an update. You can check which version you're running by going to Settings > General > About.
You will also need to have the latest version of iOS on your iPhone as well.
If that's still not working, it's most likely that it's turned off in the settings. Double Tap should be enabled by default, but head to Settings > Gesture on the Apple Watch itself to check that it's toggled on.
Which apps does it work with?
The double-tap gesture works with stock Apple apps (alarms, timer, Music, etc) which have a primary function.
The gesture controls that primary function. For example, dismissing a timer, pausing or playing music, or accepting a phone call.
It's perhaps most effective to summon the new SmartStack widget feature in watchOS 10. You can double tap from the main watch face to reveal SmartStack, and then keep tapping to cycle through each card.
We found this elevated the SmartStack feature and has quickly become our preferred way of using these glances.
How to customize Double Tap gesture
There are just two customization options, which are available on the Apple Watch itself.
You have to go to Settings > Gestures, and you can make some minor changes.
For music playback, you can choose between pause/play or skip track.
And for Smart Stack, you can choose whether to keep tapping to advance through the stack, or whether a tap selects a stack item.
That’s it for now – although we’re sure that users will be clamoring for more customization as soon as the feature goes live.
Enable gestures for any Apple Watch
Gestures have been around on Apple Watch for several years, but as part of the AssistiveTouch suite of features. These are aimed at those with physical differences who may struggle to use their smartwatch.
You can head to Settings > Accessibility > Assistive Touch turn on a Double Tap gesture and assign it to a function. It’s not quite as adaptive or contextual as the Series 9/Ultra 2 integration, but it gives you some of the functionality on older Apple Watch models.
You can also take things further by assigning other gestures including a single pinch, clench, and double clench, and have them all assigned to different features.
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