Apple just launched a lineup of the new iPhone 15 and two new versions of the Apple Watch, the Series 9 and the Ultra 2. Both Apple Watches wowed Apple’s Wonderlust event viewers with one feature: double-tap.
Our collective jaws dropped as we watched how someone could snooze an alarm and navigate their Apple Watch by just making a pinching motion twice, with no need to touch the Watch’s display.
But even with how impressive the S9 SiP in the new Apple Watch is, the truth is that the hand gesture control is already available in older Apple Watch models, as far back as the Apple Watch Series 4 — it just works differently.
Known as AssistiveTouch, the ability to control your Apple Watch with hand gestures has been an accessibility feature since its birth in WatchOS 8.
How to use Hand Gestures on Apple Watch
How is AssistiveTouch different from the double-tap feature on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2?
AssistiveTouch was born as an accessibility feature. It gives people who can’t always touch the screen of their Apple Watch the ability to control the wearable with the same hand wearing it. As a result, it can also leverage other hand gestures to control the Watch, like one tap of the pointer finger and thumb and fist clenching once or twice in quick succession, not just double tap.
The double-tap gesture from the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 lets users control the primary button in an app, open the Smart Stack from the watch face, and scroll through widgets; the last action would require a different gesture with AssistiveTouch. We’ll learn more about the double-tap feature when it becomes available in a software update next month, especially how responsive it is and what other capabilities it offers.
Is double-tap on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 an Accessibility feature?
The double-tap gesture isn’t built as an Accessibility feature like AssistiveTouch is, though it can act as one. Instead, the double-tap gesture is built to easily and intuitively navigate the Apple Watch, similar to the Apple Vision Pro’s experience.