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You can already use the Apple Watch's double-tap feature. Here's how

The new double-tap feature is nothing short of impressive, but what is even more impressive is that it's already available in older Apple Watch models -- sort of.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
Apple Watch Series 7

This is how I use the double-pinch feature on my Apple Watch Series 7.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Apple just launched a lineup of the new iPhone 15 and two new versions of the Apple Watch, the Series 9 and the Ultra 2. Both Apple Watches wowed Apple's Wonderlust event viewers with one feature: double-tap

Our collective jaws dropped as we watched how someone could snooze an alarm and navigate their Apple Watch by just making a pinching motion twice, with no need to touch the Watch's display. 

Also: Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2: Which watch is your best buy?

But even with how impressive the S9 SiP in the new Apple Watch is, the truth is that the hand gesture control is already available in older Apple Watch models, as far back as the Apple Watch Series 4 -- it just works differently. 

Known as AssistiveTouch, the ability to control your Apple Watch with hand gestures has been an accessibility feature since its birth in WatchOS 8. 

How to use Hand Gestures on Apple Watch

High-speed view of navigating the Apple Watch Series 7 with gestures.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

What you'll need: Apple Watch Series 4 or newer, Apple Watch SE, or Apple Watch Ultra, or newer running on the latest version of WatchOS. 

1. Go to your Watch Settings

On your Apple Watch, open the Settings app. 

AW Settings

Open the Apple Watch Settings app on your wearable.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

2. Tap on Accessibility

Scroll down until you find Accessibility and tap on that. 

Right now, hand gestures are an accessibility feature built into WatchOS, so you have to enable it. 

Tap on Accessibility

Select Accessibility within the Settings app.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

3. Go to AssistiveTouch

Within Accessibility, tap on AssistiveTouch and enable it. 

Tap on AssistiveTouch

Scroll down through the Accessibility features until you find AssistiveTouch.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

4. Enable Hand Gestures

Find Hand Gestures and enable it to turn on the feature. You'll see a list of four hand gestures that the Apple Watch recognizes and have the option to customize what action the Watch will perform when you make the gesture.

Also: Apple Watch Series 9: Top 4 features we're excited about

Here are the four hand gestures that the AssistiveTouch capability recognizes:

  • Pinch.
  • Double-pinch.
  • Clench.
  • Double clench.
Hand Gestures

Make sure Hand Gestures is enabled.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

5. Test it out

Start making the hand gestures shown in the AssistiveTouch options to test out your new ways to navigate your Apple Watch.

Options for Hand Gestures

The different gestures that can trigger an action in your Apple Watch.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET


How is AssistiveTouch different from the double-tap feature on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2? 

AssistiveTouch was born as an accessibility feature. It gives people who can't always touch the screen of their Apple Watch the ability to control the wearable with the same hand wearing it. As a result, it can also leverage other hand gestures to control the Watch, like one tap of the pointer finger and thumb and fist clenching once or twice in quick succession, not just double tap.

Also: How to preorder the iPhone 15 series, Apple Watch Series 9, Apple Watch Ultra 2, and get the best deals

The double-tap gesture from the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 lets users control the primary button in an app, open the Smart Stack from the watch face, and scroll through widgets; the last action would require a different gesture with AssistiveTouch. We'll learn more about the double-tap feature when it becomes available in a software update next month, especially how responsive it is and what other capabilities it offers.

Is double-tap on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 an Accessibility feature?

The double-tap gesture isn't built as an Accessibility feature like AssistiveTouch is, though it can act as one. Instead, the double-tap gesture is built to easily and intuitively navigate the Apple Watch, similar to the Apple Vision Pro's experience

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