Your Apple Watch can detect your fall and get emergency assistance for you, but the feature isn’t enabled by default. So when do you decide to activate fall detection, and are there any reasons not to?
How does Apple Watch fall detection work?
Fall detection is available on Apple Watch Series 4 and Apple Watch SE or later. The feature works by detecting sudden impacts that suggest a fall. Once the watch detects an impact, it taps you on the wrist, triggers an alarm, and displays an alert on the screen.
If the watch detects that you are moving, it will wait for you to respond to the on-screen alert and no further action will be taken. If the watch detects that you haven’t moved for a minute, an emergency call will be made after another 30 seconds. During this time, an alert will sound louder and louder.
You’ll have the option to press “Cancel” to prevent the call, but if you don’t answer, the call will go through and an automated message will begin. This message tells responders that you have taken a fall and includes your location in the form of latitude and longitude coordinates.
Your Medical ID may also be shared with emergency services if you have enabled the “Share during emergency call” setting and services in your country can receive it. The phone message will repeat until you press “Stop Recorded Message” and speak to emergency services yourself, or until the call ends.
In addition to contacting emergency services, Fall Detection will also send a message to any emergency contacts you have designated when the call ends.
What are the benefits of using fall detection?
If you’re prone to falls due to a medical condition, this feature could give you real peace of mind that you’ll receive medical attention if you need it. This is especially useful if you live alone or if you frequently engage in an activity where you could injure yourself.
It’s easy to think the feature is only for the elderly or frail, but anyone can benefit from fall detection in an emergency. Maybe you cycle to work or ride a mountain bike often, where you could fall and knock yourself out. Maybe you are a fan of risky sports like rock climbing or abseiling. Or maybe you’re a hiker or trail runner who often goes out alone.
Drop detection looks for impacts, which are not always due to a fall. For example, a car accident is likely to trigger fall detection if the impact is strong enough. If you are knocked out by the accident, the watch will call the accident and notify the emergency services even before you wake up.
Apple even updated fall detection with the rollout of watchOS 8 to include detection for certain types of workouts, like cycling. The update allows you to limit fall detection so that it is only activated during a workout.
Are there any downsides to using fall detection?
The biggest drawback of using fall detection is the risk of false positives, but you should have time to react if your watch detects a fall and everything is fine. Since the Apple Watch notifies you via taps, sounds, and a visible alert before emergency services are called, you should be able to press the “I’m fine” button in time.
If you don’t answer the call in time and your watch calls emergency services (you may be a very heavy sleeper who rarely takes off his watch), you could incur a burden and put unnecessary pressure on first responders. You may also have a rude awakening when the ambulance arrives.
But for most people who don’t sleep like the dead and wear their Apple Watch to bed, there should be plenty of time to cancel the call. If you engage in an activity that frequently triggers fall detection, this could be more of a nuisance than a real help.
The only other negative is that your watch must be in range of your iPhone or have cellular connectivity to make the call. You’ll need to be in an area with mobile reception, which can be a problem if you fall into a remote area or a mobile blackspot.
Fall detection has saved lives
There are countless stories of fall detection credited with saving lives and helping porters in distress. We have covered the case of an 85-year-old man who injured his head after a fall, but there are many other examples like a cyclist who fell off his bike in the middle of the night and lost consciousness.
In an example of how functionality is potentially vital for anyone of any age, a 28-year-old hiker was helped by fall detection after breaking his back while hiking. In another example, a man was cleaning the gutters in his house when he fell of a ladder, and fall detection dialed the emergency services.
These are all examples of fall detection automatically calling emergency services, but you can also use the Apple Watch emergency service shortcut to do the same by holding down the side button for about 10 seconds.
How to enable (or disable fall detection)
It’s easy to turn on Apple Watch fall detection. On the iPhone your watch is paired to, open the Watch app, then navigate to the “Emergency SOS” menu. Enable “Fall detection” and decide whether or not you want to restrict detection only to workouts or not.
That’s it! You can visit this menu again to disable the feature if you wish.
Consider gifting an Apple Watch to your loved ones
Do you know anyone who would benefit from fall detection, who also uses an iPhone? The Apple Watch could make a great gift while providing some protection against drops experienced at home or during exercise. If you’re upgrading your Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch SE, or later, consider giving your old wearable to someone who would benefit from this feature.
Don’t forget to activate the feature and explain in detail how it works to the person receiving it. Turning on fall detection is just one of many Apple Watch tips you might not have heard of. Have you just received your first portable Apple device? Take the time to learn how to get the most out of your watch.