How to use double-tap on older Apple Watches

The fancy double-tap feature on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 got lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” at Apple’s latest launch event. It’s a convenient feature that makes it easy to control things on your watch one-handed. Whether you’re walking the dog and holding a leash in the other hand or holding a hot cup of coffee in one and need to take a phone call, this feature can make this all easier.

The double-tap feature lets you use the thumb and index finger on your watch hand and tap them together to trigger the most logical function based on the app you’re in. But did you know it’s sort of already available on older Apple Watches? The pinch gesture is buried in the Accessibility menu as a part of Apple’s AssistiveTouch, and it works similarly, albeit with some limitations. Here’s how you can use it, along with three other hand gestures.

How to use double-tap on older Apple Watches

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Under the My Watch tab, go to Accessibility.
  3. Select AssistiveTouch and turn it on if it isn’t already on.
  4. Select Hand Gestures.
  5. Tap to the right to turn it on.
  6. You’ll see Pinch, Double Pinch, Clench, and Double Clench. These are four gestures you can set to perform one function each. Tap Double Pinch to program this one.
  7. Here, you’ll see a list of functions you can have this gesture perform. Select the one you want.
  8. Repeat these steps for each of the four gestures if desired.
  9. There’s one important last step. There’s an Activation Gesture you must perform before being able to use pinch, double pinch, clench, and double clench. It’s set to Double Clench by default, but you can change it. Select Activation Gesture.
  10. You can change this to double pinch or turn off the activation gesture entirely by selecting None. This way, the pinching function works immediately without needing to be triggered first.

How does the new double tap gesture differ from double pinch?

Apple Watch 9 with the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Apple Watch 9 with the iPhone 15 Pro Max

As noted, the double-tap feature isn’t technically new. A similar one has been part of Apple Watch’s Accessibility menu for some time, available with all the best Apple Watches. But there are differences between pinch and double tap worth highlighting.

First, the new double tap gesture, which is baked into the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 as part of the new watchOS 10 update, intuitively works based on whatever app you’re in. If you’re in the camera app, for example, you can double-tap to take a photo. If you’re listening to tunes in Apple Music, you can play and pause. Additionally, the gesture can launch the new Smart Stack, scroll through widgets, and more.

By contrast, double pinch only allows you to set each gesture to perform a singular action. It doesn’t intelligently switch to different functions depending on the app. That said, if you set it to perform functions like Forwards, Backwards, or simply tap, you will be able to navigate a bit more freely through various apps and Apple Watch screens using it. But it’s still much more limited. Nonetheless, you can play around with the pinch hand gesture feature until you find the four (or fewer) functions that make the most sense for you.

The upgraded double-tap gesture function will also be standard without you having to turn it on from the Accessibility menu. It works by detecting the movements and changes in your blood flow when you tap those two fingers together or, when using the clench gesture, when you make a fist (the pinching feature works the same way). Once detected, the Watch’s neural engine will process data from its sensors, like the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart sensor, to complete the requested action.

Does the pinch feature on older Apple Watches actually work?

I’ve been using double pinch on my Apple Watch Series 8 for the past few weeks, and all the gestures work very well. So, for owners of older model Apple Watches, rest assured that you can use double-tap, or at least a simpler version of it, on other models using this simple workaround.

One of the reasons the Apple Watch is one of the best smartwatches is because of the heavy focus on accessibility features that make it a watch anybody can wear. While the new double tap is designed more so for convenience than accessibility, it’s still a feature that every Apple Watch user will love.