Automatic workout tracking is one of those Apple Watch features I’ve relied on for several years. When I forget to launch a workout (which happens more often than not), my smartwatch buzzes me a few minutes into exercising, prompting me to start tracking and supplying me with retroactive activity data.
For walks and runs, tapping my Apple Watch display to accept the automatic workout tracking notification is simple enough. But there are certain exercises where it’s not easy — and perhaps even dangerous — to reach the fingers from my non-watch hand to my watch screen. Take rowing, for example.
I recently attended a group rowing class at Peloton Studios in New York. Peloton Studios, a destination for training live with your favorite Peloton coaches, just introduced in-person classes for the rowing modality using the Peloton Row machine.
The Peloton Row, like many other rowers, is a substantial machine. While Peloton makes it easy enough to get situated for a session, there are still several things you need to keep in mind to use the unit safely. If you know how to use a rowing machine, you’d know this includes strapping your feet onto the foot pedals and holding a firm grip on the retractable handle.
Possibly one of the worst things that could happen on a rowing machine is for you to lose grasp of the handle while moving. For most machines, the handle will fling back to the base of the flywheel. Depending on the release angle, the handle could hit your legs and feet as it snaps back into position. So not only would it disrupt others in a group class like the one I attended at Peloton Studios, it could cause injury, too.
So when I failed to start a rowing workout on my Apple Watch before my class began, I knew that tapping the automatic workout tracking notification with my right hand (I wear my watch on my left one) wasn’t an option. Luckily, I was wearing the new Apple Watch Series 9. Both that model and the new Apple Watch Ultra 2 have a feature called double tap that came in clutch for my exact situation.
Powered by a proprietary algorithm and Apple’s upgraded S9 smartwatch processor, double tap lets you carry out certain Apple Watch functions by tapping together the index finger and thumb of your watch hand twice. Double tap can be used to answer phone calls, dismiss timers and — as I had the chance to experience — accept an automatic workout tracking notification.
I stopped moving on the row machine when I got the notification. But instead of haphazardly tucking the handle under my arms to free up my hands to tap the watch screen, I moved my non-watch hand to the center of the handle and clawed it tight. When I knew I had a good grip, I quickly lifted my watch hand and tapped my index finger and thumb together twice as fast as I could before replacing my hand on the handle. Sure enough, the watch detected the gesture and launched tracking for the row workout.
This all took less than 10 seconds, meaning it didn’t distract from the class or disrupt my workout. For all everyone else in the class knew, I just needed to catch my breath for a moment — rowing is an intense full-body workout, after all. Double tap for Apple Watch is that discreet.
Unfortunately, double tap is limited to only the latest generation of Apple Watch devices. I would consider it an upgrade-worthy feature, but if you're not sure whether the time is right to buy an Apple Watch Series 9 for yourself, check out my thoughts on buying an Apple Watch 9 during Black Friday deals.