There might have been a few silent murmurs of discontent when Apple unveiled the Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 at its annual September event. There is always — and come what may there will always be — a section of people out there who feel Apple hasn’t done anything ‘new’ with one or the other product. This year it was the Watch models. On the face of it, a lot has changed but because it ends up looking similar, people often feel little has changed. The one thing, however, that has changed drastically is the use of gestures on the Apple Watch. The double tap feature is a testament to that.
The new double tap gesture for the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 is available today with watchOS 10.1. It changes the way people interact and use their Apple Watch. For instance, users can tap the index finger and thumb of their watch hand together twice to quickly perform many of the most common actions.
While it certainly looks cool, there is a sense of skepticism on how reliable it is. In our case, we have been playing around with the feature since it was in the beta stage. There are times when it works very well — though people might look at weirdly — as you tap your thumb and index finger together. But there were occasions when the double tap gesture just didn’t respond.
David Clark, Senior Director of Apple Watch Software Engineering, explains how Apple has ensured that it remains reliable. “We have ensured that the gesture is triggered when people actually double tap their thumb and index finger.” There was a sense of curiosity on why Apple chose the index finger and thumb. Clark says that the company tested the gesture in many scenarios before deciding on it.
“We thought a lot about the need to make sure with this sensor data we are able to make this work for a diverse set of users wearing Apple Watch,” says Clark. What Apple had to keep in mind — and it’s no easy task getting it accurate — was capturing data internally from thousands of different gestures, from hundreds of different people including different variations in wrist size, limb length, subtle ways people perform gestures making sure that double tap worked for a wide variety of people. Think about it. Every wrist is different as are the limb lengths, Apple really must have had to test it rigorously to ensure that it works for users across the world.
Apple’s heart rate sensor has evolved a lot over the years and plays a crucial role in the double tap as well. “We’ve done work to get the most accurate and reliable heart rate readings while the reality is that when you move throughout the day, there are brief moments in time when you get gaps in the signal while moving your wrist,” says Clark. These gaps are precisely the signals we are looking for to feed into double tap gesture recognition, he adds.
The introduction of the double tap gesture is a significant step forward in the evolution of Apple Watch’s user interface. It reflects Apple’s commitment to refining and enhancing the user experience. While some may still harbor doubts about its reliability, it’s clear that Apple has invested considerable effort and technology to ensure that it works across a wide range of users and scenarios. As with many innovations, it may take some time for users to fully adapt and appreciate the convenience it offers.
In the end, Apple’s relentless pursuit of innovation and user-centric design is what sets the company apart. The double tap gesture is just one example of how they continue to push the boundaries of what a smartwatch can do. As Apple Watch users embrace this new way of interacting with their devices, it’s safe to say that this feature will become an integral part of their daily routines, making their Apple Watch even more indispensable than ever before.