Apple (AAPL) debuted its Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 during a press event at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters on Tuesday, rolling out a series of upgrades focused on making the wearables more convenient to use. The star of the show, though, was the new Double Tap feature that allows you to interact with apps using just one hand.
I spent a few fleeting minutes with the new watches to see how well the function works, and was genuinely surprised with its accuracy and how many different apps it works with. Double Tap is meant for use when you're doing things like cooking and need to turn off a timer but don't have a free hand or when you're working out and can't reach your watch, among scenarios.
To use it, you simply raise your watch to wake it up, and tap your index finger and thumb together twice. It worked each time I tapped my fingers together, and didn't activate if I didn't raise and wake the watch.
I also only used the feature across a handful of apps, including the timer and while receiving phone calls, but it passed those tests flawlessly. Double tapping your fingers when on the watch's home screen brings up watchOS 9's new Smart Stack, which provides you with context sensitive widgets for items including like flight information, weather, your calendar, and more. Double tapping with Smart Stack allows you to scroll from widget to widget.
So how does Double Tap work? Apple says it's powered by a new machine-learning algorithm that takes into account the watch's accelerometer, gyroscope, and heart-rate sensor to pick up on the movement of your wrist and changes in blood flow.
Apple says Double Tap will be available for the Series 9 and Ultra 2 as a software update next month.
Beyond Double Tap, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 both get the company's new S9 chip, which features an improved neural engine that processes Siri requests on the device.
That means you no longer have to wait a frustrating amount of time for Siri to pull up a workout or timer when you have a poor Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Instead, the Series 9 and Ultra 2 will perform the tasks on their own, ensuring you can control your device with Siri more easily.
On-device Siri also means you can perform requests for health data from your watch, including logging things like your weight, whether you took your medication, and checking your activity rings.
I, unfortunately, didn't get a chance to try out Siri, since the hands-on area was filled with journalists and analysts, making it difficult for the devices to hear individual commands.
I did, however, get to check out the brighter displays on the Series 9 and Ultra 2, which are now 2,000 nits and 3,000 nits, respectively. I've got the Apple Watch Series 8, and the brightness boost is clearly apparent when you compare it to the Series 9 and Ultra 2.
The Series 9 and Ultra 2 hit store shelves Sept. 22.