Apple Watch Series 9 introduces a new gesture, but it’s not a novelty

The Apple Watch Series 9 and the Watch Ultra 2 were announced at the Wonderlust event on September 17, 2023, and they came with a new feature that caught everyone’s attention: the Double Tap gesture. This gesture allows users to control their smartwatches by tapping their index finger and thumb together on the same hand that wears the watch. The gesture can be used to perform various actions, such as accepting or ending a call, switching between apps, or scrolling through menus.

The Double Tap gesture is powered by the new S9 processor, which has a dedicated Neural Engine for machine learning tasks. Apple claims that this gesture is exclusive to the Series 9 and Ultra 2 models, and that it cannot work on older Apple Watches.

Apple Watch Series 9 introduces a new gesture, but it’s not a novelty
Apple Watch Series 9 introduces a new gesture, but it’s not a novelty

How is the Double Tap gesture different from previous gestures?

The Apple Watch has supported some gestures for a long time, such as raising or twisting the wrist to wake up the display, or covering the screen with the palm to mute notifications. However, these gestures are limited in functionality and often unreliable.

The Double Tap gesture is more advanced and versatile, as it can be mapped to different actions depending on the context. For example, in the Phone app, it can be used to answer or hang up a call, while in the Music app, it can be used to play or pause a song. The gesture can also be customized by the user to suit their preferences.

Moreover, the Double Tap gesture is integrated with the new Smart Stack feature in watchOS 10, which enables users to quickly access their favorite apps. By double tapping, users can switch between apps without touching the screen or using the Digital Crown.

Why is the Double Tap gesture important for smartwatch users?

The Double Tap gesture is designed to make using the Apple Watch more convenient and intuitive, especially in situations where the other hand is occupied or touching the screen is difficult. For instance, users can double tap to accept a call while driving, or to dismiss an alarm while holding a baby. The gesture can also be useful for people with disabilities or special needs, who may find it hard to use the touchscreen or the buttons.

The Double Tap gesture is also a way of enhancing the user experience and making it more engaging. By using gestures, users can interact with their smartwatches in a more natural and fun way, rather than relying on traditional inputs. The gesture can also create a sense of connection and personalization between the user and the device.

Is Apple the first to introduce hand gestures for smartwatches?

While Apple may have made a big deal out of the Double Tap gesture at its event, hand gestures for smartwatches are not a new concept. In fact, Apple itself has been experimenting with gestures for its accessibility features for years.

The Assistive Touch option in watchOS allows users to control their smartwatches using hand gestures such as clenching or tapping their fingers. This option was introduced in watchOS 8 in 2021, and it works on older Apple Watch models as well.

Other companies have also explored gestures for smartwatches in the past. For example, Google and LG collaborated on a project called Soli, which used a radar chip inside a Wear OS smartwatch to detect hand movements. This project was announced in 2016, but it never became commercially available.

Another example is Huawei, which launched its Watch 3 in China in 2021 with gesture control features. Users could swipe their hand over the watch to scroll through menus, or pinch their fingers to zoom in or out.

What does the future hold for gestures and smartwatches?

The Double Tap gesture is just one of the many ways that smartwatches can be controlled using gestures. As technology advances and sensors become more accurate and responsive, we can expect to see more gestures being added to smartwatches in the future.

Gestures can offer more possibilities and flexibility for smartwatch users, as they can enable new functions and interactions that are not possible with traditional inputs. Gestures can also make smartwatches more accessible and inclusive for people with different abilities and preferences.

However, gestures also have some challenges and limitations that need to be addressed. For instance, gestures may not always be recognized correctly by the device, or they may interfere with other actions or devices nearby. Gestures may also require some learning and adaptation from users, as they may not be intuitive or familiar for everyone.

Therefore, gestures should not replace other inputs entirely, but rather complement them and offer more choices for users. Gestures should also be designed carefully and thoughtfully, taking into account user feedback and preferences.

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