Apple’s ‘new’ Gesture – it’s actually over 2 years old
Earlier this week I was surprised to see Apple hyping its ‘new’ finger/thumb gesture control for one-handed usage of Watch Series 9. The reason I was surprised was that I did a bit of research and wrote about pretty much the exact same feature on the watchOS 8.3 in July 2021. Here we go…
Proof, once again, that most of the stuff we read in the mainstream media is simply rehashed press statements with zero original research or thought behind it.
Exactly What is Apple Now Claiming?
This week Apple hyped up the ability to double-tap your index finger and thumb to activate the main button on any (all?) screens which gives functionality like answering calls and stopping alarms.
What I found in 2021
The full range of accessibility controls was/is pretty good and it all seemed to work based on tiny movements sensed by the onboard accelerometer. Theoretically with a double tap or fist clench a sports app could be controlled in a way to start/pause/stop a workout and add a lap or progress to the next set in the gym.
However, this fell down on three fronts
- Virtually no Watch Apps could be configured so that the LAP/SET feature could be automated with gesture control. That would be the most important sports feature to automate.
- I didn’t quantify it but even now I do remember that using gesture control seemed to significantly eat into battery life.
- Whilst the gestures worked pretty well they were not perfect.
The reality of what Apple might have done in 2023
Apple appears to have added a new ‘bit’ to its S9 chip. this new bit processes Siri, where previously that was done on the iPhone or web (LTE), plus it also takes control of the new double tap.
Apple suggests that microscopic blood flow changes are now taken into account alongside the accelerometer to determine a double tap. That sounds plausible and it also sounds to be a more battery-efficient approach than what I found in 2021.
We might also suspect that the entire suite of accessibility gestures might also find its way to be controlled on the S9 chip. Furthermore the finger/thumb tap just so happens t be one of the key gestures that Apple vision recognises, so you can bet your bottom dollar that Apple thinks about gestures holistically across its entire ecosystem.
Back in 2021, I thought that a double tap type gesture was potentially a superior means of controlling workouts on Apple Watch than a button. I still think that is the case.
Apple is clearly taking gesture control beyond the marketing limits of just an ‘accessibility’ feature. Perhaps it has grandiose plans to leverage the new abilities of the S9 chip and this is just the start?
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