The Apple Watch 9’s Double Tap lets you control the watch hands-free (2024)

Apple Watch users know the “nose-tap.” For me, it happens when I am wheeling my grocery cart in one hand and holding a bag full of food in the other. With both hands full, my Apple Watch asks me if I would like to start an outdoor walk on my way home. Being an absolute stats nerd, my answer is always yes. So, raising my grocery-bag-holding arm, I try to tap the “start” button with my nose. Yes, it takes multiple tries. Yes, it is deeply embarrassing. Yes, it is more difficult than stopping and freeing a hand and pressing the button normally.

The Apple Watch Series 9 solves this hands-full problem, making it a notable upgrade over its predecessors. Its new hands-free gesture, plus a suite of software improvements, make it my favorite smartwatch yet.

SKIP AHEAD How I tried the Apple Watch Series 9 | Why I love the Apple Watch Series 9 | What I don’t love about the Apple Watch Series 9 | What’s Apple’s return policy?

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What to know about the Apple Watch Series 9

Apple Watch Series 9

The Apple Watch Series 9 replaces last year’s Series 8 model, one of our favorite smartwatches and fitness trackers.

On the outside, the new Series 9 looks virtually unchanged from last year’s model. It starts at the same $399 price tag, comes in the same two display sizes (41mm and 45mm), and has all the features found in the Series 8. It comes in five colors, the new addition being pink, and dozens of watch band options.

The bigger changes are internal. The Series 9 has a new chip (the S9 SiP) that has 60% more transistors than the S8 chip, leading to faster all-around performance, according to the brand. Inside is also a new Neutral Engine that enables new gestures and speeds up machine learning tasks like Siri, according to Apple.

One of these new gestures is called Double Tap. With your wrist raised, you can answer calls, open an incoming notification, play and pause music, stop timers and more by pinching your index finger and your thumb together twice. The gesture can only be used on Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watch models.

The Series 9 screen is also much brighter, with a maximum brightness of 2000 nits, up from 1000 in the Series 8.

Display size(s): 41mm, 45mm | Display type: Always-on touchscreen | Weight: 31.9g (41mm), 38.7g (45mm) | Battery life: Up to 18 hours, fast charging | Built-in GPS: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes | Heart-rate monitor: Yes, with ECG | Water resistance: Yes, up to 50 meters | Compatible with: Apple iPhone

How I tried the Apple Watch Series 9
The Apple Watch 9’s Double Tap lets you control the watch hands-free (3)

I’ve been wearing the Apple Watch Series 9 with a sport loop band since it launched in September of 2023. Previously, I wore the Series 8 for months and the Watch SE for over two years. I have also tried smartwatches and fitness trackers from Garmin, Samsung, Google, Fitbit and Whoop.

I wear the Series 9 everywhere, occasionally taking it off in the mornings to charge when I get ready for the day. I use it to track my sleep and fitness activities including outdoor runs, indoor strength training and outdoor cycling. I’ve used Siri and the on-screen keyboard to respond to text messages. During my initial month of testing, I wore the Series 9 at the same time as a few other smartwatches to compare comfort, battery life, software and fitness data metrics.

What I like about the Apple Watch Series 9

Like its predecessors, the Apple Watch Series 9 is very easy to use. The layout, settings, and interface are all very familiar and intuitive for an iPhone user like myself. The always-on display and narrow frame make it easy to read information and swipe through notifications, even while running or with gloved hands. It syncs easily with Apple’s Health and Fitness apps to provide useful data that keeps me better informed about my workouts and sleep quality.

But all of that can also be said about the previous Series 8. The new features in the Series 9 are what make it my go-to smartwatch.

Double Tap is incredibly useful
The Apple Watch 9’s Double Tap lets you control the watch hands-free (4)

As described earlier, Double Tap is incredibly useful for starting and stopping workouts without having to tap anything on the watch’s screen. I use Double Tap to start and stop outdoor runs when I am wearing gloves and long-sleeves — pinching my fingers is much easier than pulling back sleeves or gloves to physically tap the screen.

I’ve also used Double Tap to answer calls, start and stop music and more, but interacting with workout notifications has been the most valuable.

Siri is more functional than ever

I use Siri to send texts when my hands are full, namely when I am running, cycling or carrying groceries (things I do often). One of the main reasons I wear an Apple Watch over something like a Garmin Forerunner is because of this voice-to-text feature.

With the new internal components, I find that Siri is more functional than ever. It’s faster: the Series 9 completes long voice-to-text messages 2 to 3 seconds faster than my Apple Watch SE. Siri is also up to 25% more accurate in its dictation, according to Apple. Sending a variety of long, mumble-speaking or sing-songy texts to my partner, I also found about a 25% accuracy improvement over an older Watch model like the SE.

Precision Finding with iPhone 15
The Apple Watch 9’s Double Tap lets you control the watch hands-free (5)

The Series 9 can use Apple’s Precision Finding to point you to the exact direction of your iPhone 15, similar to using an iPhone to track down an AirTag. As someone who constantly forgets his phone around the house, this feature has been a major time-saver.

Precision Finding only works if you have an iPhone 15 paired with an Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2 — these devices all have Apple’s second-generation ultra wideband internal chip.

WatchOS 10

Apple launched a huge software update, watchOS 10, when the Series 9 hit store shelves. This comprehensive update isn’t specific to the Series 9, but it made the watch more enjoyable to use compared to previous software iterations.

Changes include a new skin for some familiar apps like weather, cycling workouts creating a pseudo bike computer out of your iPhone, the compass app showing 3D elevation views and trail information, the ability to download Apple maps for offline use, and more.

What I don’t love about the Apple Watch Series 9

Out of the box, the Apple Watch has always been smart, notifying me about everything — my group texts, multiple email inboxes, reminders to stand up and more. If you are not intentional about your settings, the Apple Watch can quickly become too helpful, an annoying square screen that won’t stop buzzing trying to make sure I am up-to-date on all my things.

This is not unique to the Apple Watch, and it is easily solved by going into the settings menu and customizing your notifications (and anything else) to your liking. For me, turning off email alerts and a few other reminders helped my Apple Watch feel more like a watch and less like a second phone incessantly buzzing on my wrist.

Blood Oxygen Readings

Due to a patent lawsuit, Apple Watch Series 9 models purchased from Apple after January 18th no longer have the ability to measure blood oxygen levels. I have used this feature once or twice in my months of wear — I just haven’t found a reason to use it more frequently, especially since Apple states that the readings are not intended for medical use. If a blood oxygen sensor is important to you, maybe consider one of our other favorite fitness trackers.

What’s Apple’s return policy?

Apple offers a 14-day standard return policy on all its products. Only products purchased directly from Apple, either online or at an Apple store, can be returned to Apple — an Apple Watch purchased through Amazon follows Amazon’s return policy.

Why trust Select?

Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at NBC Select who covers technology and fitness including fitness trackers, running shoes, earbuds and new product launches. For this piece, he wore the Apple Watch Series 9 for three weeks after the brand sent him one to try.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

Harry Rabinowitz

Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter for Select on NBC News.

The Apple Watch 9’s Double Tap lets you control the watch hands-free (2024)

FAQs

What can I use a double tap for on an Apple Watch? ›

You can choose what a double tap does when playing media or navigating your Smart Stack. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch Series 9. Tap Gestures, tap Double Tap, then choose from among these options: Playback: Choose Play/Pause or Skip.

Is The Apple Watch hands free? ›

With the new double tap gesture, users can easily control Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 using just one hand and without touching the display.

What can the Apple Watch 9 do? ›

These are the main health features of Series 9:
  • ECG App.
  • Sleep Tracking.
  • Cycle Tracking.
  • Mindfulness - this I haven't yet explored, as I do offline meditation every day.
  • High and Low Heart Rate Notifications.
  • Irregular Rhythm Notifications.
  • Low Cardio Fitness Notifications.
  • Temperature Sensing.
Feb 8, 2024

Why does my Apple Watch 9 not have double tap? ›

To check, open the Settings app on your watch, then tap Gestures > Double Tap. Double tap can't be turned on when any of the following accessibility settings are on: AssistiveTouch, Quick Actions, Zoom with Hand Gestures, or VoiceOver with Hand Gestures.

Can you control Apple Watch with hand gestures? ›

With the default actions, you can navigate your Apple Watch with these hand gestures: Move to the next item: Tap (Tap your pointer finger to your thumb) Move back one item: Double tap (Tap your pointer finger to your thumb twice quickly) Tap an item: Clench (Close your hand into a fist)

Can you answer calls on an Apple Watch without a phone? ›

If your cellular carrier offers Wi-Fi calling, you can use your Apple Watch to make and receive calls over Wi-Fi instead of the cellular network—even when your paired iPhone isn't with you or is turned off. Your Apple Watch just has to be within range of a Wi-Fi network that your iPhone has connected to in the past.

What is the difference between double tap and assistive touch on Apple Watch? ›

I go into it in-depth here, but the gist is Assistive Touch is a full navigational system designed for people with limb differences, whereas double tap is more like double clicking on your computer mouse. You use it to perform the “primary” action of an app at a given moment.

What is the red ring on an Apple Watch? ›

The Activity app displays three rings. The red Move ring shows how many active calories you've burned. The green Exercise ring shows how many minutes of brisk activity you've done. The blue Stand ring shows how many times in the day you've stood and moved for at least one minute per hour.

Why do people palm their Apple Watch? ›

Use Your Palm to turn Off the Display

But did you know that you can use your palm to turn off the display of your Apple Watch? Here is our first Apple Watch tip: Just place the palm of your hand over the watch and it turns off the display and also, mutes incoming calls.

How do you tap to answer on Apple Watch 9? ›

Meet 'Double Tap': The new Apple Watch lets you answer calls and silence alarms by tapping your thumb and pointer finger together twice.

What does double clicking the crown on Apple Watch do? ›

Here's how to interact with the Digital Crown and side button with watchOS 9 and earlier. Press or turn the Digital Crown: Press to see the watch face or Home screen. Double-click to return to the last app.

What is double tap to activate? ›

If you have ever used Android and Talkback, I'm sure you have heard the “Double tap to activate” instruction before. It is an indication that a control is clickable.

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