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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?


  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.

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