Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2 'Double Tap' gesture controls could land next week

Apple Watch Series 9 gesture
(Image credit: Apple)

During our time with the Apple Watch 9 we found ourselves really impressed with the new Double Tap gesture that lets you control what's on the watch screen with a tap of the fingers – and it seems the feature will go live for beta users next week.

This comes from tech reviewer Marques Brownlee (via MacRumors), who certainly has the connections and the inside information to know what he's talking about. Brownlee says Double Tap will be enabled in watchOS 10.1: a beta version of that update is due next week, before it rolls out to everyone next month.

In his review of the Apple Watch 9, Brownlee is using a special preview version of watchOS, and we're assuming the same software was running on the wearable we had some hands-on time with at Apple's big launch event last week.

This isn't the same software that will be on units now shipping out to customers – the Apple Watch 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 go on sale today – so don't panic if you can't get Double Tap working immediately.

How it works

Apple Watch Series 9 double tap

(Image credit: Future)

The way that Double Tap works is very simple: you raise up your smartwatch, and you bring the ends of your thumb and index finger together twice in quick succession. The Apple Watch 9 recognizes what you're doing and responds accordingly.

You can have the gesture select the primary button on screen (so picking up a call for example, if a call is coming in), pause and play music, or scroll through widgets on screen. It's really handy for those times when your other hand isn't free.

Should your other hand be busy holding on to a dog lead or stirring a pan of soup, for instance, Double Tap will let you interact with the Apple Watch 9 or the Apple Watch Ultra 2 using one hand only.

This is only for the new, 2023 Apple Watch models though, even though older devices will get watchOS 10.1 as well. Apple says the advanced algorithms required to recognize a double tap need the S9 processor that's inside the latest smartwatches.

Analysis: How is this different from AssistiveTouch?

Apple Watch Ultra 2 on a hand

(Image credit: Apple)

As you might be aware, on the Apple Watch 4 and later you can use a feature called AssistiveTouch to control the wearable with one hand. It's designed for people who physically can't use their other hand, for whatever reason.

From information we've received from Apple and comments made by Marques Brownlee in his video review, we know this feature isn't going away – but you can't have AssistiveTouch and Double Tap enabled at the same time. It's one or the other.

AssistiveTouch is the more comprehensive solution, letting you do everything on an Apple Watch with one hand. It includes single and double 'pinches', and hand clenches, but it seems to require a more deliberate, exaggerated set of actions than Double Tap does. It also isn't as tightly integrated with Apple Watch apps.

The idea with Double Tap – which will be enabled by default, unlike AssistiveTouch – is that it's a fast and convenient extra that has minimal impact on battery life (so we're told). But if you use the existing accessibility features, they'll continue to be available.

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David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.