Apple Watch fall detection disabled by default … unless you’re old

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apple watch series 4
If you’re under 65, fall detection isn’t enabled.
Photo: Apple

Don’t just assume your new Apple Watch Series 4 will be there to help you when you drunkenly fall into a neighbor’s flowerbed on your way home from the bar. If you’re under 65, fall detection is disabled by default.

Here’s how to enable it to ensure your emergency contact knows when you’re in trouble.

Apple made a big deal of fall detection during its unveiling of Apple Watch Series 4 — and rightly so. It’s an incredibly helpful feature for anyone, particularly those who fall often, and it could just save some lives.

How does fall detection work?

Fall detection is the result of years of hard work. Apple studied falls through tests involving 2,500 participants, then used the data to create an algorithm that can identify what’s actually a fall and what’s not.

When “significant, hard fall” is detecting while you’re wearing your Apple Watch, you get a tap on the wrist, an alarm sounds, and an alert is displayed. You can tell Apple Watch you fell but you’re okay, or you can tell it you didn’t fall at all. If you do nothing, your Watch will automatically call the emergency services — and notify your emergency contact.

Fall detection isn’t available on older Apple Watch models (it requires a newer and more sophisticated accelerometer), and if you’re under 65, it isn’t enabled by default on Series 4. Fortunately, you can quickly change that.

How to enable fall detection

Here are the steps you need to follow to ensure fall detection is enabled:

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then tap the My Watch tab.
  2. Tap Emergency SOS.
  3. Tap the toggle alongside Fall Detection to turn it on.

It’s not clear why Apple decided to disable fall detection by default for users under 65. Younger users may be less likely to fall, but it can happen — and they may need help. Make sure Apple Watch has your back by turning it on manually.

It would be interesting to know whether reviewers realized fall detection was disabled before testing it with Series 4. Many reported that they could not trigger a fall alert on purpose, but it’s not clear if all of them had the feature turned on.

Apple does state, however, that “Apple Watch cannot detect all falls.”