Apple Watch Series 9/ Ultra 2 first review: A fingertip art that changed the way I use WeChat

One rainy day eight years ago, I was walking on the road holding an umbrella, and the rapid vibration of my Apple Watch reminded me of an incoming phone call. I glanced at my watch, and after 3 seconds of mental struggle, I decided to take out my phone from my trouser pocket.

Is Apple Watch a device that liberates mobile phones?

This was the proposition when I reviewed the original Apple Watch.

Over the past eight years, I have come to a firm conclusion: Apple Watch is not an iPhone on the wrist. It can share the functions of a mobile phone in specific situations: telling the time, checking the weather, receiving WeChat notifications, taking calls while exercising or going to the toilet. The limitation of input capabilities makes it more like a receiver in terms of social attributes.

However, a familiar yet unfamiliar gesture at the press conference made my eyes light up.

In the past week, I have been wearing this new Apple Watch Series 9 on business trips, work and life. I was surprised to find that this watch, which looked the same as its predecessor, had changed me as much as any previous generation.

▲ Apple Watch Series 9 new pink color and Ultra 2, both equipped with new S9 chip

Replying to WeChat with one hand is the killer feature of "tap each other twice with two fingers"

Double-tapping with two fingers is an exclusive feature of this year’s Apple Watch Series 9/Ultra 2. You can use gestures to operate the screen from a distance.

When you perform this gesture, there will be a small change in the blood flow in the wrist. Apple uses the accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate sensor, combined with a machine learning algorithm to identify this small movement.

With the beta version of watchOS 10.1, I used this feature in advance, which may be slightly different from the official version in October.

Double-tapping with two fingers can only be activated when the screen is on. The moment two fingers touch each other, your wrist will receive a vibration feedback. At the same time, a gesture icon will appear at the top of the screen, and the default clicked control will be highlighted. There is no delay, but if the gesture amplitude is too small, it is not easy to activate successfully.

After a week of experience, I think its greatest use is to reply to WeChat.

In the past, when using WeChat on Apple Watch, my operation was usually to click reply directly in the notification and select the preset message.

If the preset content does not meet your needs, you have three options:

Use a full keyboard on a small screen.

Practice calligraphy on your fingertips.

Or wait a few seconds to enter the WeChat app and use voice-to-text.

As long as you have used one of these three methods, you will return to your mobile phone obediently.

The reason is simple: On the surface, the Apple Watch is bound to one of your wrists, but the other hand is often not free. As long as you are holding a cup of coffee, holding an umbrella, or holding on to the subway handrail, you cannot operate it.

On Series 9, the process has completely changed: receive a WeChat vibration notification on your wrist, raise your wrist, tap two fingers together twice to activate voice recognition, dictate, tap again with two fingers to send a message, all in one go.

It frees your right hand and eliminates the need to worry about your mobile phone.

iOS 17 has greatly improved the accuracy of speech recognition. After several days of use, its Chinese recognition is quite reliable, and it also supports mixed input of Chinese and English.

The entire interaction process is completed in the notification system and does not require entering the WeChat app. However, if the other party sends messages in a row, Apple Watch can only display the latest one, and you have to go back to your phone to understand the context.

When I push my suitcase and walk through the airport, I only need to raise my wrist and move my fingers and mouth from time to time to communicate with my colleagues. When I left my phone in the locker while running at the gym and my family called me, I didn’t have to rush through my bag to find it.

Apple Watch Series 9 is like a screen on your wrist that only alerts you when you need it, and your fingers and voice are the remote.

As a working person who lives with to-do lists and WeChat notifications every day, WeChat is the first and most frequently opened application after I unlock my phone, and it has undoubtedly topped the list of “screen time” on my phone.

I often reflect on myself: How much time is really spent on valuable communication? Just a few simple comments, but how many times do you need to unlock your phone frequently?

During the week of wearing Apple Watch Series 9, the watch relieved my WeChat anxiety. I also tried to change the habit of never leaving my phone. As a result, the battery life of my iPhone became longer. Some friends even reported that my reply speed to WeChat has become faster.

For photographers, travelers and other people who don’t often work in front of a computer, Apple Watch Series 9/Ultra 2 may save you from many moments of confusion.

So, is tapping each other twice a great interaction?

Apple has a strong insight into interaction design: the keyboard and mouse driven GUI, the two-finger zoom brought by multi-touch, the Taptic Engine bringing a gear-like delicate vibration to the digital crown, the Pinch and Hold in Vision Pro… Even illiterate children can easily get started.

The key is that these operations are simple and intuitive. Drag, scroll, pinch… the one-to-one mapping with real experience makes the interaction logical. Even in different apps and scenarios, the interaction logic remains consistent. For example, in any secondary interface, sliding right from the edge of the screen means returning.

The gesture naming of Double Tap also exists in the interaction of Vision Pro, which is equivalent to opening apps and controls. But on Apple Watch, the operation object of two-finger tapping is not directional – you don’t know under what circumstances you can tap each other with two fingers, and you don’t know what tapping with two fingers can bring.

This uncertainty will cause some trouble for beginners. Apple has obviously considered this problem. If the gesture fails to work, the screen will have a motion effect of the gesture shaking left and right, as if shaking its head to indicate to you: This will not work.

After many attempts, I summarized the scenarios, notifications and applications currently supported by two-finger mutual point.

In the notification scene, tapping each other twice with two fingers is equivalent to executing the default action button. For example, when receiving a text message notification, tapping each other twice with two fingers is equivalent to pressing the reply button.

In the same way, when the alarm clock sounds, double-tapping with two fingers will default to skipping the alarm clock. This is very insightful of human nature, but I do hope that Apple provides one more option.

In the incoming call notification, pressing two fingers together means answering, and pressing two fingers together again means hanging up. I also hope that Apple can change the setting to hang up harassing calls on the watch, which I believe is a more frequent scenario than answering.

Raise your wrist and tap each other twice on the home screen to automatically scroll and stack the widgets that are important at the moment. However, I customized it in the settings to open the first widget "Now Playing" to achieve the effect of controlling music from the air.

In-app gesture operations currently only support a few built-in apps:

Music: Pause/play, or switch to the next song.

Timer: tentative/resume, end

Stopwatch: Stop/Resume. Because of the latency, this feature doesn't do much.

Podcasts/Audiobooks: Play/Pause

Compass: Switch to altitude scale

Flashlight: Switch between three brightness modes

Camera remote control: With the camera app on your phone, you only need to move your fingertips to control the shutter.

To sum up, compared with gestures inside the application, real-time gesture feedback for notifications is more practical, especially in high-frequency application scenarios such as phone calls and WeChat. The former is just the icing on the cake, while the latter is a timely help.

I also look forward to developers optimizing application notifications for the Apple Watch and adapting the two-finger double-tap gesture. Currently, I can think of two scenarios:

  • Intelligent stacking of WeChat and Alipay allows users to call out payment QR codes with one hand without taking out their mobile phones.
  • When the taxi-hailing app arrives at the pick-up point, the user can directly respond with gestures to the preset content, such as: I will be there soon, please wait a moment, driver.

The niche functions derived from accessibility ultimately benefit you and me.

As early as watchOS 8, Apple introduced the Assistive Touch accessibility feature, opening the door for people with disabilities to control Apple Watch. This feature has been developed into Assistive Touch with Quick Actions in watchOS9. Since then, gesture operations such as mutual tapping and pinching have become increasingly perfect.

Without these technological explorations for a small number of people, there would be no "two-finger tap" this year.

In the past, whenever people heard the word "barrier-free", they would instinctively think of people with disabilities and feel that it had nothing to do with them. But there are often moments when we are at a loss in life, and we also enjoy the convenience of "barrier-free" all the time:

When you are driving and looking ahead, it is not safe to look at the navigation on your mobile phone frequently. Accepting navigation information by listening is a more barrier-free interaction. And when you are walking on the road, voice is also a safer way than keyboard input.

We all get older one day, our eyesight declines and our hands and feet become inconvenient one day. We all may become the so-called minority group and push ourselves to others. Accessibility is not an exclusive label for people with disabilities, and technological improvements and simplifications are not the icing on the cake.

In my opinion, tapping each other with two fingers is like art on the fingertips. It makes a huge difference in a way that allows tens of millions of users to enjoy barrier-free convenience.

▲With the help of the second-generation ultra-wideband technology chip, the watch can display distance and direction when looking for a mobile phone

After WWDC in June this year, I had the opportunity to communicate with Kevin Lynch , the technical lead of Apple Watch software. I tried to pry out some clues about the new Apple Watch from him, and asked him what the direction and principles of Apple Watch iteration are. ?

Kevin thought for a moment and said he often asked himself three questions. One of the questions is:

How can we help make it easier to connect with others?

Eight years later, on the same rainy day, there was the same rapid vibration on my wrist. I suddenly remembered Kevin’s words, and then instinctively raised my fingertips.

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