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2023 Apple Watch Models Add Double Tap Gesture

At its Wonderlust event, Apple announced the latest models of the Apple Watch—the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2—with minor technical improvements but no industrial design changes. The technical improvements come from a new S9 SiP (“System in Package,” which bundles multiple chips into a single chip carrier package), a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip in the S9, and brighter display technology. Changes include:

  • Double tap gesture: The faster Neural Engine in the S9 can process data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart sensor with a machine learning algorithm to detect when your index finger and thumb perform a double tap. watchOS 10 interprets the double tap gesture as activating the primary button in an app, so it can be used to answer or end a phone call, stop a timer, play and pause music, or snooze an alarm. You can also use it to take a photo with the Camera Remote and open and scroll through the new watchOS 10 Smart Stack from the watch face. Apple says the double tap gesture will be available next month.
  • Brighter screens: The power efficiency of the S9 allowed Apple to increase the brightness of the displays, so the Apple Watch Series 9 can now display up to 2000 nits, and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 can go up to 3000 nits, making them more readable in bright sunlight. On the other end of the spectrum, they can drop to just 1 nit to avoid lighting up the room with the Always-On display. On the Apple Watch Ultra 2, rotating the Digital Crown lets the Flashlight app temporarily put out twice as much light.
  • On-device Siri: The more powerful S9 lets the Apple Watch locally process Siri requests that don’t require information from the Internet. That should make it easier to set a timer or start a workout when there’s no connectivity, something I experience regularly in areas of weak to nonexistent cellular coverage. I’ll be curious if it works to create reminders—that’s the main use case that stymies me whenever I remember something important while on a bike ride.
  • More capable and accurate Siri: The S9 also enables access to data stored in the Health app so that users can ask about sleep hours, Activity ring progress, and more. Plus, you can use Siri to log health data such as weight, period, or medications taken. These capabilities will be available later this year once the Siri speech models have been updated, which reportedly takes significant time. Apple also claims the Neural Engine makes dictation 25% more accurate than in the Apple Watch Series 8.
  • Precision Finding and HomePod integration: The second-generation Ultra Wideband chip in the S9 enables the Precision Finding feature that can direct you to a lost iPhone 15 (which also has the updated UWB chip) rather than just playing a sound. Also, when you get within 4 meters of a HomePod, the Apple Watch changes its display to provide media controls for what’s playing on the HomePod or offers media suggestions in the Smart Stack.
  • Modular Ultra watch face: The Apple Watch Ultra 2 gains a new Modular Ultra watch face that uses the outermost edge of the large display to present real-time data like seconds, altitude, or depth. On Mastodon, David Smith confirmed that the original Apple Watch Ultra also gets the new face.

Apple Watch Series 9 spec card Apple Watch Ultra 2 spec card

The Apple Watch Series 9 continues to start at $399 for a 41mm aluminum GPS-only model; 45mm models are $30 more, and cellular connectivity adds $100. It’s available in pink, midnight, starlight, silver, and PRODUCT(RED), the last of which only comes with a red Sport Band. In stainless steel, pricing starts at $699 for a 41mm model and includes cellular connectivity; the 45mm models are $50 more. Rubber bands are included at no extra cost; some textile and all stainless steel bands cost $50 to $300 more. Pricing remains unchanged for the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which costs $799 with your choice of a new Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, or Ocean Band.

Apple started accepting pre-orders for the new Apple Watch models on 15 September 2023; they’ll be available on 22 September 2023.

Upgrade Decisions

It’s hard to muster much new enthusiasm for upgrading to either of these models from an older but fully functional Apple Watch. The double tap gesture might be compelling if you often find yourself without a free hand to stop a timer or answer a phone call. I certainly wouldn’t argue with the other improvements, but they’re insufficiently attractive to compel an upgrade for most people.

However, if you’re ready to purchase an Apple Watch for the first time, or if you want to replace an ancient model or one whose battery can’t make it through the day, you won’t go wrong with either the Apple Watch Series 9 or the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The main question, besides price, is if you’re outdoorsy enough and have a large enough wrist to justify the beefy Apple Watch Ultra. Don’t forget that Apple still sells the second-generation Apple Watch SE, which lacks the Always-On display and ECG capabilities of the Series 9 but is $150 less expensive. If you’re unsure which model is for you, Apple’s comparison page can help.

Where are you when it comes to purchasing a new Apple Watch?

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Comments About 2023 Apple Watch Models Add Double Tap Gesture

Notable Replies

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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…

  9. 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?

    doug

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. 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!
  17. 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.

  18. The AW really needs a way to manually calibrate the altimeter and/or calibrate from an onboard digital elevation map and GPS coordinates. You can’t rely on a barometric altimeter otherwise.

  19. Ah, thanks so much @ddmiller for the tip - configuring the Action Button makes starting the workout so much easier! That would have saved me so much fiddling and frustration, but of course will be beneficial going forward :grin:

    Hear hear, and in fact I have been thinking about the thread you started. The G-Shock 9400 Rangeman and many other watches have the facility to calibrate the altitude and barometric pressure, so it is very unlikely that this capability is not possible in the Apple Watch.

  20. As I said in that thread, the Garmin watches I’ve owned all have multiple ways of calibration. Certainly Apple should be able to do it.

    Currently my Ultra is about 30 ft low, which is acceptable. It’s usually within acceptable bounds, but about once a month it loses the plot and can go hundreds of feet off. When that happens, there’s nothing I can do about it.

  21. Any altimeter based on air pressure must be calibrated or it wouldn’t work at all. So the question is what Apple is doing if they don’t provide a mechanism for you to do it manually.

    I’m guessing that they use your GPS coordinate in conjunction with a cloud-hosted weather database (to get the sea-level or ground-level barometric pressure). Which normally should work, but (like any cloud service) might fail if there are network or server-side problems.

    This is, for example, how they calibrate the compass for the Earth’s magnetic deviation from true north.

  22. Just as an update, I’m finding that this gesture is working with the timer far more reliably in the last few watchOS 10 releases. (To tl;dr, this is the Settings / Accessibility / Quick Actions double-tap gesture support available on any watch running watchOS 10, not the double-tap gesture specifically for the Series 9 and Ultra 2.)

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