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Home / Features / Apple Watch Double Tap: how to use it and what it does

Apple Watch Double Tap: how to use it and what it does

Double Tap launched as part of the watchOS 10.1 software update - here's what it can do

Apple Watch Double Tap

When it launched the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches, Apple trailed a new feature exclusive to those devices: Double Tap. It means that you can use your watch with a single hand should your other hand be busy carrying something or be unable to be used to control your watch for any reason.

The feature was part of the watchOS 10.1 software update that appeared in October 2023. I’ve been using it for some time now, which you can see in the images below. In order to get watchOS 10.1 you will need to first install iOS 17.1 update on your iPhone but again this rolled out last October so you’ll most likely have it already.

If you have an older model of Apple Watch, you can still use double tap, just in a slightly different way. Double Tap was previously available as an accessibility feature. See here: How to get the Apple Watch Series 9 Double Tap feature on older models.

Read more: Apple Watch Series 9 vs Ultra 2: what’s the difference?

What Apple Watch Double tap is like to use

I’ve been using Apple Watch Double Tap for a few weeks in beta. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s actually really useful for one-handed operation. It will flick through the watchOS 10 Smart Stack from the home screen, answer calls and pause your media. But as you can see below, it doesn’t work with every app and screen, so sometimes you find yourself using the gesture and it doesn’t do anything which is a little frustrating. We get why it has been excluded from some apps – such as Workout when you’ve got a session going, but that’s an example of a time when we’ve really wanted to use it. Equally Double Tap snoozes an alarm but we thought it would stop the alarm. So in my experience, you’ll get used to a few situations where it works well and stick with that.

What Apple Watch Double Tap does

Apple Watch Double Tap Smart Stack

Double Tap is a the key new gesture available in watchOS 10.1. The gesture means you can interact with certain screens on your Apple Watch without needing to use your other hand (in other words, without needing to touch the screen).

It’s arguably the most exciting thing about the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2. And yes, it’s only native on those two devices as it relies on the S9 hardware and, specifically, the Neural Engine. This processes data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and optical heart sensor alongside machine learning algorithm. These inputs work together to detect “the unique signature of tiny wrist movements and changes in blood flow when the index finger and thumb perform a double tap” says Apple.

Douple Tap works any time the display is awake, and Apple adds there is “minimal impact” on battery life. It’s enabled by default but you can disable it in Settings.

The feature will automatically select the primary action in most apps and notifications. You can choose from two actions in two different situations. Either you can use Double Tap to scroll through widgets in the Smart Stack or you can choose to select the first available widget. Equally, you can choose from playing or pausing media or skipping to the next track instead.

How to use Double Tap on your Apple Watch

Apple Watch Double Tap music

To use it, you raise your hand with the watch angled towards you (as if you’re looking at it) and then pinch your thumb and finger together twice in quick succession. A logo appears at the top of the Apple Watch display to show that the gesture has been registered. It doesn’t affect any of the other gestures that Apple Watch can do like tap, swipe, raise to wake, and cover.

Where you can use Apple Watch Double Tap

Apple Watch Double Tap timer

The Double Tap feature is available in the following situations:

  • Opening the Smart Stack (new in watchOS 10) from any watch face and scrolling through widgets in the stack.
  • Answering and ending phone calls.
  • Viewing a message from a notification, scrolling through longer notifications with an additional double tap, replying using dictation, and sending a message.
  • Pausing, resuming, and ending a timer.
  • Stopping and resuming a stopwatch.
  • Snoozing an alarm.
  • Playing and pausing music, podcasts, and audiobooks.
  • Switching to the new Elevation view in the Compass app.
  • Taking an iPhone photo with the Camera Remote in the Camera app.
  • Starting or stopping automatic Workout reminders.
  • Performing the primary action from notifications, such as replying to an incoming message from a messaging app and snoozing reminders. This includes support for third party apps, not just Apple’s.

Where you can’t use Double Tap

Apple Watch Double Tap workout fail

Despite the above long list, there are a bunch of situations and/or apps where you can’t use Double Tap. These are ECG, Heart Rate, Blood Oxygen, Sleep Focus, Walkie-Talkie, Maps (during navigation), Mindfulness (during an active session), SOS features (Emergency SOS, Fall Detection, Crash Detection) and Workout (during an active session).

If it can’t be used but you do the gesture, the symbol on the display moves from side to side to indicate nothing has been done.

Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home