Should You Use Apple Watch for Fall Detection in 2023? Experts Weigh In
Apple Watch fall detection may be better at detecting “hard” falls compared to slow, gradual falls. Learn why this matters.
Since its founding in 1976, Apple has introduced iconic products, like the Macintosh desktop, MacBook laptop, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and many more.
Whether you’ve been an Apple enthusiast since the beginning or are newer to the company’s products, you may be considering an Apple Watch to help you age safely at home. After all, if the Apple Watch can detect falls and contact emergency services, isn’t it similar to medical alert systems with fall detection?
Although it doesn’t include all the same features as other medical alert watches, the Apple Watch may be a good alternative for active older adults, especially those who live alone, are comfortable using technology, and already have an iPhone.
About Apple Watch with fall detection
Apple Watch with fall detection costs more than traditional medical alert devices. Still, you don’t have to pay the monthly monitoring fee required with most medical alert systems since the watch isn’t connected to a 24/7 monitoring center.
Instead, it calls the nearest 911 dispatcher when you push the Emergency SOS button or if the watch detects a fall. Most medical alert systems connect to a 24/7 monitoring center staff member who will contact emergency services, a designated caregiver, or both during an emergency.
The fact that Apple Watch only contacted 911 during an emergency was one of its biggest disadvantages compared to medical alert systems. Now, add-on services, like the Care Smart app, are available to connect the Apple Watch to a 24/7 monitoring center, similar to how medical alert systems work.
Why you can trust our expert review
Our Reviews Team spent more than 2,500 hours conducting in-depth research on medical alert systems. During our process, we:
- Engaged in ongoing independent research
- Consulted with licensed adult caregivers, doctors, and nurse practitioners who specialize in older adult care
- Mystery shopped 13 medical alert system brands
- Surveyed 1,000 medical alert system users
- Tested various medical alert systems
- Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties, such as Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot
Pros and cons of Apple Watch with fall detection
Pros No monthly monitoring fee Emergency SOS button to call 911 Fall detection available GPS location tracker Voice-activation features Health and wellness monitoring
Cons Higher equipment fees compared to medical alert systems (249–799) Requires an iPhone to setup Not automatically connected to a 24/7 monitoring center high-tech than standard medical alert watches Touchscreen may be difficult to navigate
Table 1 Comparison of Apple Watch models, as of July 2023
Apple Watch with fall detection models review
With GPS ⓘ GPS technology uses satellites to provide users with positioning, navigation, and timing services. and an emergency button, all Apple watches can be used as a medical alert device, but certain models offer extra features in addition to the ones listed above.
Here’s a look at each model. We compared costs and features to help you decide which one best fits your needs and budget.
Apple Watch SE
- Cost: Starts at 249 for GPS only; starts at 299 with GPS and cellular connection
- 40 millimeters (mm) case designed to fit 130–200 mm wrists
- 44 mm case designed to fit 140–220 mm wrists
The Apple Watch SE (second generation) has a lower starting cost than the Series 8 (249 compared to 399). Both models share the important health and safety features listed above, including SOS Emergency and fall detection.
The SE also has low power mode, a feature that extends the battery life up to 36 hours. Low power mode turns off select features, like the “always on” display, heart rate notifications, and background heart rate measurements.
The watch also includes a step counter and heart rate monitor, but it doesn’t have the more advanced health monitoring features of the Series 8. We recommend the Apple Watch SE if you want a lower starting price with more basic health monitoring features.
Apple Watch Series
- Cost: Starts at 399 for GPS only; starts at 499 for GPS cellular connection
- 45 mm case designed to fit 130–200 mm wrists
- 41 mm case designed to fit 140–220 mm wrists
The Apple Watch Series 8 has all the features of the SE—including fall detection and Emergency SOS services—plus a watch face that’s nearly 20% larger.
Unlike the Apple Watch SE, the Series 8 screen doesn’t go black when you haven’t engaged with it. This “always-on” display means you don’t have to raise your wrist or touch the watch face whenever you want to check the time or other home screen information.
On top of that, the Series 8 offers two health monitoring features not available with the SE: the Blood Oxygen app and EKG app.
The Blood Oxygen app allows you to measure your blood oxygen level on demand. This feature is a major plus if you have a health condition requiring frequent blood oxygen monitoring.
With the EKG app, you can take your heart’s electrocardiogram (EKG) to monitor its rhythm and flag any potential irregularities. Remember to check health monitoring results with your health care provider for the most accurate interpretation.
We recommend the Apple Watch Series 8 if you’re looking for more in-depth health monitoring features, a larger display screen, and don’t mind a higher starting price.
How does Apple Watch with fall detection work?
Fall detection is included with all Apple Watch models newer than the Series 3. The feature is not compatible with Series 1, 2, and 3.
Fall detection automatically turns on if you indicate you are 55 years or older during setup or when you input your age in the Health app. You can always double-check if fall detection is turned on by:
- Opening the Apple Watch app on the iPhone connected to your watch
- Selecting “Emergency SOS”
- Scrolling to “Fall Detection”
- Sliding to the “On” position
When your Apple Watch detects a hard fall while you’re wearing it, the watch will:
You can cancel the alarm or contact 911 by sliding the SOS Emergency Call icon on the screen.
If your watch senses you’re moving after your fall, it will wait for you to respond to the alert and won’t automatically contact 911. The watch automatically calls emergency services if you haven’t moved for about a minute after your fall.
A member of Our Reviews Team tested fall detection with an Apple Watch Series 8. The watch registered zero out of 11 test falls, leading us to assume Apple Watch fall detection does not detect slow, gradual falls, which are easier to replicate during testing.
Multiple Apple Watch users reported successful fall detection experiences in a Reddit forum from 2022. Almost all users described their falls as sudden, hard falls.
Since Apple Watch fall detection is designed to detect hard falls, it may not be the right safety tool for older adults who experience slower, more gradual falls.
Our Reviews Team testing Apple Watch fall detection
We asked Christopher Norman, a geriatric nurse practitioner based in New York state, the difference between a “hard fall” and “slow fall” and what that may look like for older adults.
“A slow fall would be like a controlled descent: I feel myself getting dizzy, my legs start to give out, I might take a knee, and then fall forward or to the side,” said Norman. He explained how these falls might result in a bone break or fracture, depending on the person, but a joint dislocation or sprain/strain is more likely with a slow fall.
“A hard fall would be considered something more sudden: I’m walking at a normal pace, trip over something, and fall forward,” said Norman.
He explained how generally, an older adult’s reaction time may be delayed, so they may not put their hands out as quickly to break the fall. This can result in a more full-force collision with the ground or object, which is more likely to result in a break or fracture.
Remember, your Apple Watch can still call emergency services or a caregiver if you fall, even if fall detection isn’t activated. But with no fall detection triggered, you lose the added protection of automatically calling emergency services, especially if you can’t call yourself.
If fall detection is a crucial feature for you or your care recipient, we recommend a medical alert necklace. While a 2016 study found a fall detection sensor placed on the left wrist was more accurate than a sensor placed on the chest, recent research cautions that quick, jerky movements of arms and hands may be more likely to cause false alarms and is not representative of a body’s mobility.  Gjoreski M, et al. How Accurately Can Your Wrist Device Recognize Daily Activities and Detect Falls? Sensors. June 1, 2016. Found on the internet at https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/16/6/800.  González-Cañete, Francisco Javier and Casilari, Eduardo. A Feasibility Study of the Use of Smartwatches in Wearable Fall Detection Systems. Sensors. March 2021. Found on the internet at https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/21/6/2254.
Use the Falls Free CheckUp to assess your falls risk and receive free falls prevention resources.
Wearing an Apple Watch with a pacemaker
Although the Apple Watch has health and heart monitoring features, which can be helpful for someone using a pacemaker or heart defibrillator, the watch contains magnets that may interfere with these devices. These magnets are commonly found in smartphones and smartwatches.
If you use a pacemaker or other implanted medical devices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends you keep your smartphone and smartwatch at least 6 inches away from your medical device.  Magnets in Cell Phones and Smart Watches May Affect Pacemakers and Other Implanted Medical Devices. U.S. Food Drug Administration. May 13, 2021. Found on the internet at https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/cell-phones/magnets-cell-phones-and-Smart-watches-may-affect-pacemakers-and-other-implanted-medical-devices.
Apple has a similar warning and safety recommendation on its website.
Apple Watch with fall detection features
Apple has several apps you can use with the Apple Watch, including the apps on your iPhone. The Apple Watch allows you to customize watch faces, adjust settings and notifications, configure the home screen, install other apps, and more.
Because there are countless apps and features available for the Apple Watch, we’ve highlighted the ones comparable to the best medical alert systems:
- Battery life: The SE and Series 8 have a 14- to 18-hour battery life when charged overnight. You can extend this to 36 hours of battery life by using low power mode.
- Caregiver alerts: The Apple Watch can send a message to your selected emergency contacts when you push the Emergency SOS button. If the watch detects a hard fall and you’re unresponsive, it will automatically call 911 and send a message to your emergency contacts.
- Location tracking: You or a caregiver can pinpoint and track the location of your Apple Watch with the Find My app.
- Medical ID: You can store health information, like medical conditions, allergies, current medication, and blood type, using Medical ID in the Health app. This feature allows emergency responders to access your important medical information during an emergency—even if your Apple Watch is locked.
- Water-resistance: The two models have a WR50 water-resistance rating, so you can keep it on when showering, bathing, or swimming. We like that you can wear your watch in the shower or bathtub since research shows falls in the bathroom are more likely to cause injury compared to falls in the living room.  Circumstances and Outcomes of Falls Among High Risk Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Injury Epidemiology. March 2014. Found on the internet at https://injepijournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2197-1714-1-5.
- Heart rate monitor: You can monitor your heart rate any time of day with the Heart Rate app available for both SE and Series 8. You can also turn on alerts that notify you when your heart rate is above or below a selected beats per minute.
Norman explained access to real-time health data, like heart rate monitoring, can help empower users and keep them more engaged about their health conditions.
But he also cautioned, “Paying too much attention to an issue or being constantly reminded that a body system is being monitored can be stressful for certain types of people.”
He encouraged potential users to consult a knowledgeable health care professional before buying any device to monitor a body system.
Care Smart App
Care Smart is a service from Verizon that turns your Apple Watch into a monitored medical alert system. For 10 per month, your watch calls a 24/7 monitoring center instead of directly contacting 911 during an emergency.
You can contact the monitoring center by pressing the “Get Help” button or triggering fall detection. When you call the monitoring center, a staff member speaks directly to you from your watch and can see your watch’s location.
Depending on the situation, the staff member will call emergency services, a designated caregiver, or both. The staff member will automatically dispatch emergency services to your location if you’re unresponsive.
You’ll also create a “Trust Circle” consisting of your designated caregivers. They’ll receive emergency alerts, be able to track your watch’s location, and get updates during an emergency call. Trust Circle contacts are unlimited.
Table 2 Comparison of the two Care Smart plans, as of July 2023
Care Smart plan
Location sharing with Trust Circle
Unlimited Trust Circle contacts
Fall detection alert to Trust Circle
Access to 24/7 monitoring center
Location sharing with Trust Circle
Unlimited Trust Circle contacts
A line is any device that uses voice or data to communicate (basically priced per device)
The Caregiver Alert plan does not include access to the monitoring center, so we recommend the Professional Monitoring plan. Since standard medical alert system monitoring fees normally start at 20 per month, 10 per month for 24/7 monitoring is a more affordable option.
If you’re considering monitoring services for your Apple Watch but don’t want to switch to a Verizon cellular plan, learn more about our experience with Lively 24/7 monitoring services for Apple Watch in our Lively review.
How much does an Apple Watch with fall detection cost?
The cost of the Apple Watch with fall detection depends on the model, watch case, and if you choose GPS or GPS plus cellular connectivity.
- GPS: You can send and receive texts, answer phone calls, and get notifications when your Apple Watch is connected to your iPhone via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. GPS is built-in and doesn’t rely on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
- GPS Cellular: You can do everything mentioned above without being connected to your iPhone. The built-in cellular connection allows you to use your Apple Watch without having your iPhone nearby.
Models with GPS have a lower starting price than those with GPS and cellular. For example, an Apple Watch SE with GPS connectivity starts at 249, while the same model is 299 with GPS and cellular connectivity.
How to choose your connectivity plan when ordering your Apple Watch online
Remember, fall detection is not a cost factor for Apple Watches—it’s automatically included with Series 4 models and above.
The Apple Watch model costs in this review range from 249–799. How does this compare to the cost of medical alert systems?
Medical alert systems generally cost 20–45 per month for monitoring services, while some mobile systems and watches also charge an additional one-time equipment fee. This one-time equipment fee ranges from 0–299 for popular medical alert system watches.
Apple Watch Emergency SOS and fall detection services don’t charge a monthly monitoring fee since emergency alerts go directly to 911, not a monitoring center (unless you’ve purchased the Care Smart app or another add-on monitoring service).
Apple offers monthly payment plans when you purchase your Apple Watch with an Apple Card. For example, a payment plan for an Apple Watch SE with a 249 starting price would be 10.37 per month for 24 months. This is the only payment option Apple offers, and many may not think it’s worth opening a new credit card.
Are Apple Watches covered by insurance?
Even though both can be valuable for your health and wellness, Apple Watches and medical alert systems are not covered by insurance.
While Apple Watches are not eligible for purchase with money from a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), you can speak with your health care provider to see if your medical condition justifies a Letter of Medical Necessity to purchase an Apple Watch with these accounts.
For example, if you have a medical condition that causes low blood oxygen levels and requires frequent monitoring, your health care provider may write a letter stating why an Apple Watch is essential.
Keep in mind you can’t contribute your HSA funds when you’re enrolled in Medicare, but you can still access them. Your FSA funds are tied to your employer and typically have a “use it or lose it” policy by the end of the calendar year. Some employer policies allow rollover into the next year, but this varies.
How to purchase an Apple Watch with fall detection
You’ll need an iPhone to set up your Apple Watch, another potentially substantial cost. Fortunately, Family Setup allows you to use your Apple Watch without needing your own iPhone. A family member or loved one can use their iPhone to set up and control your Apple Watch.
You can purchase your Apple Watch with fall detection online at https://www.Apple.com or by calling 800-MY-Apple (800-692-7753). If you’re shopping on the Apple website, your options may feel overwhelming at first since you’re shopping by model, casing material, and watchband style.
We recommend filtering your search to display the casing material and watchband styles you’re interested in. This will help cut down on the models to choose from. Once you choose the model and style you’re interested in, you’ll select:
- Band color
- Case size
- Connectivity type
- Band size (depending on the style)
- Optional AppleCare coverage
Depending on your location to the closest Apple Store and the time you order your watch, you may be able to pick it up at the Apple Store the same day you order it.
We were given three delivery options during the online check-out progress:
- Pick up at the our nearest Apple Store the same day (free)
- Ship the watch from the Apple Store to our home within two hours (9)
- Ship the watch from the Apple Store to our home to pick up three to four days after placing the order (free)
Most Apple Products come with a one-year limited warranty and up to 90 days of free technical support. The limited warranty protects against defects due to manufacturing for one year after the date of purchase. It doesn’t cover damages from accidents, natural disasters, or normal wear and tear.
If you’d like to protect your watch beyond this limited warranty, you can purchase AppleCare and receive:
- Apple-certified service and support coverage
- 24/7 priority access to tech support
- Unlimited accidental damage protection
- Battery service coverage
Month-to-month (2.49–3.99) coverage and two-year coverage (49–79) are available. vary by model.
We confirmed with a customer representative you have 14 days from the day you receive your Apple Watch to return it.
Apple Watch with fall detection customer service and satisfaction
You can call 800-MY-Apple (800-692-7753) to speak with a customer service representative. An automated voice will answer and route you to the appropriate department based on your answer to the question, “What can I help you with?”
After saying we were interested in learning more about the Apple Watch SE, we were transferred to the Apple Watch sales department and waited less than a minute to speak with a live sales representative.
Our representative was patient, knowledgeable, and answered all of our questions. They asked thoughtful questions to learn why we were interested in the Apple Watch and what features we wanted to learn more about. The call never felt salesy, and our representative was patient and helpful.
If you do need help setting up or troubleshooting your Apple Watch, there are multiple ways to contact Apple Support:
- Phone (800-APL-CARE) (800–275–2273)
- One-way video chat: Available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT, seven days a week
- Online chat
- Free mobile app
- American Sign Language Support: Available 24/7 through SignTime
- At an Apple retail store
Table 3 Comparison of Apple Watch with fall detection to other top medical alert watches, as of July 2023
“Using the Apple Watch as a fall detector comes with several benefits,”said Sean Marchese, a registered nurse with more than 20 years of patient care experience.
“The device has functionality for monitoring several other health data, such as heart rate, exercise, and more. It has phone calling functionality and works well for connecting with family or emergency services.”
See how the Apple Watch SE and Series 8 compare to the best medical alert watches below.
Apple Watch with fall detection customer reviews
Apple has 1.9 stars on Trustpilot based on more than 7,000 reviews. A majority of reviews discussed the company in general and aren’t specific to Apple Watch products, so this isn’t the best representation of third-party Apple Watch customer reviews.
The Apple Watch Series SE has 4.7 stars based on more than 5,000 customer ratings on Amazon. While multiple listings for the SE model exist on Amazon, we chose this product listing rating since it has the most ratings and reviews.
Positive reviews mentioned the following:
- Great health features and monitoring
- Affordable price for the features
- Easy to pair with iPhone
- Excellent fitness and activity tracking features
“The older I get the more I rely on my Apple Watch to track all my health issues, so when I go to the doctor I have a good report of my body to present to him. I can pull my activity counts, average heartrate, run an EKG, and more. It even tells him how much I am hydrating. If I take a fall the watch detects and asks if it should call for help, it tells me when I have been watching my televised story programs too long and need to stand up and move, and also tracks how well I am sleeping. The bigger screen on this model is also helpful to my failing eyes.”
— SPORTS GEEKERY, VERIFIED CUSTOMER (REVIEW FROM AMAZON)
“I wish battery life was better. I have turned off a lot of notifications on this watch. But I like the idea of ‘fall detection’ and answering phone calls and texts from my watch”
— WENDY, VERIFIED CUSTOMER (REVIEW FROM AMAZON)
Most negative reviews FOCUS on issues customers had when ordering the Apple Watch SE from Amazon, such as shipping, broken equipment, or missing accessories. A few reviewers touched on poor battery life and watch size.
The Series 8 has 4.7 stars based on more than 6,000 Amazon customer ratings. Many positive reviews mention the health monitoring features, especially the heart rate and blood oxgen level monitors.
“Like the ECG, blood oxygen, and fall detection features. Only drawback is it has to be charged everyday.”
— HELEN, VERIFIED CUSTOMER (REVIEW FROM AMAZON)
“I never wore a watch and didn’t want a bulky Smart watch. After open heart surgery I thought it would be good to track my heart beat and blood oxygen. My wife convinced me to get a Smart watch and I love it. I can track my sleep, count steps without carrying my phone, see my stock price, and current weather. I get notifications without having to pull out my phone. I don’t know why I waited so long.”
— DAVE, VERIFIED Apple Watch CUSTOMER (REVIEW FROM AMAZON)
Like the Apple Watch SE, many of the Series 8 negative reviews stem from issues with packaging and ordering from Amazon. A few customers reported fall detection did not work.
“Just spent four days in hell with Apple Support because my 84-year-old mother’s brand new Apple Watch failed to detect falls TWICE. Went through the settings six times with support and the Apple Store, even escalating to the ‘Health and Safety’ team, who apparently could care less. Did falling simulations 32 times, it picked up 3. That’s a 90% failure rate. Apple falls back on ‘we don’t detect all falls.’ Yeah, but you should be able to do better than 1 in 10.
You can buy it for other reasons, but for god’s sake, don’t buy it for an elderly or infirm family member. Buy a REAL CERTIFIED MEDICAL DEVICE.”
— STEVE, VERIFIED CUSTOMER (REVIEW FROM AMAZON)
Even without a monthly monitoring fee, an Apple Watch is significantly more expensive than most medical alert systems. Some users may justify the watch’s higher price for its smartphone capabilities, as well as its impressive health and wellness features.
Marchese pointed out the shortcomings of using the Apple Watch as a medical alert system: “It is not always connected to a help center and lacks automatic or one-touch controls for those who have fallen or become unresponsive,” he said. “However, apps on Apple Watch now connect the wearer to a constant monitoring system, but these also require a subscription service. The Apple Watch is a good option as a fall detector for those who have one or are planning to get one to use in some other capacity.”
If you’re looking for a more affordable option with similar features to the Apple Watch, we recommend the HandsFree Health Medical Alert Watch. For almost 100 less than the Apple Watch SE, you can enjoy two-way calling, heart rate monitoring, step tracking, and access to a voice-activated Smart assistant.
Or perhaps you’re looking for a more basic medical alert watch with minimal features. If so, we recommend the Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch or Medical Guardian MGMove.
The Apple Watch is designed to detect “hard falls,” which we found to be another shortcoming of this watch. This may not be a helpful safety tool for older adults who are more likely to have slow, gradual falls. For a more customized fall detection technology that learns your movements, we recommend the UnaliWear Kanega Watch.
Frequently asked questions
How good is Apple Watch with fall detection?
Apple Watch fall detection does not detect 100% of falls, like any fall detection device. In general, fall detection devices are more accurate around the neck than on the wrist. Apple stated the watch “might detect high-impact activity as a fall and trigger fall detection.”
If your Apple Watch detects a fall, it will contact either 911 or the Care Alert 24/7 monitoring center, depending if you purchased the Care Smart app from Verizon. You can cancel a false alarm from your watch face within about 60 seconds of the fall being detected.
Can Apple Watch detect falls for older adults?
Yes, Apple Watch fall detection is available for older adults and any user for no extra charge. Fall detection turns on automatically when users indicate they are 55 years or older when setting up their watch or in the Health app.
Apple Watch fall detection is designed to detect a hard fall, according to Apple. Some older adults may experience slower, more gradual falls that Apple Watch fall detection may not detect.
Can Apple Watch call 911 if you fall?
Yes, your Apple Watch can call 911 if it detects you’ve fallen. The watch taps your wrist, sounds an alarm, and shows an alert message on the watch face when it detects a fall. If you don’t cancel the alert or the watch detects that you’ve been immobile for one minute, it will automatically call emergency services.
The Care Smart app is now available for Apple Watch. For those using the app, the watch connects to a 24/7 monitoring center if it detects a fall instead of going straight to 911. Depending on the situation, monitoring center staff can dispatch emergency services or caregivers.
Is fall detection worth it?
Yes, fall detection is an important safety feature, especially for those with a higher risk of falling. A device with fall detection can potentially contact emergency services if you’re unresponsive or immobile after a fall. Older adults, anyone prone to seizures, recovering from a surgery, or those with mobility issues should consider a medical alert system with fall detection.
The majority of respondents (60%) to our Reviews Team’s survey of 1,000 medical alert users said automatic fall detection was the top special feature they wanted in a medical alert device.  NCOA Adviser Medical Alert System Survey. 1,000 respondents. Conducted using Pollfish. Launched Nov. 11, 2022.
What are the disadvantages of fall detection?
One of the only disadvantages of fall detection is the possibility of false alarms. A false alarm may be stressful for the user, especially if they’re not sure what triggered fall detection and if emergency services show up unexpectedly.
Most fall detection devices give you time between the “fall” and contacting emergency services to cancel the alarm. If you miss this cancellation window and the device contacts emergency services, stay on the line and tell the operator that you are OK and the call was a false alarm.
Have questions about this review? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apple Watch 8 review: A sleeper hit, even if it doesn’t match Samsung’s sensors
The Apple Watch Series 8 upgrades how it handles workouts, sleep tracking, and women’s health. Battery life and the Always-On display are better, too.
Christina Darby is an associate editor based in New York City with interests in lifestyle technology, fitness and health wearables, and Smart home appliances. She has a bachelor’s in Integrated Marketing Communication and Journalism from Wake Forest.
Christina Darby is an associate editor based in New York City with interests in lifestyle technology, fitness and health wearables, and Smart home appliances. She has a bachelor’s in Integrated Marketing Communication and Journalism from Wake Forest.
Apple Watch Series 8
pros and cons
- WatchOS 9 brings new health and fitness features
- Enhanced sleep tracking for more accurate insights
- Temperature tracking can improve women’s health
- Impressive battery life
- Always-On display keeps getting better
- No major hardware upgrades from the Apple Watch Series 7
- Doesn’t match all of the sensors in Samsung watches
On the surface, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the Apple Watch Series 8 and last year’s Series 7.
If you want the most comprehensive Apple Watch experience.- other than the Ultra.- then the new Series 8 is the one to get.
The display sizes (41mm and 45mm) are the same. The battery sizes are the same. And the stock of colorful watch bands is mostly the same.
It’s only when you interact with the new Apple Watch that you’ll begin to notice most of the improvements.
I’ve been exercising, sleeping, and wandering about with the Apple Watch Series 8. Here are my thoughts on Apple’s latest wearable and whether or not it could be a good fit for you.
396 x 484 pixel Always-On Retina LTPO OLED
Aluminum (38.8g), stainless steel (51.5G)
Case materials and colors
Aluminum: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, (PRODUCT)RED | Stainless steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold
IP6X dust-resistant, water-resistant to 50 meters
Like its predecessor, the Series 8 model comes in 41mm and 45mm stainless-steel aluminum cases.
The case’s narrow bezel helps the display shine as the 41mm panel encompasses most of the watch’s face. And there’s a subtle curve surrounding the Apple Watch, giving a soft, pebblelike impression.
The digital crown and home button remain on the right side of the watch case and continue to be the easiest way to navigate through the watch interface, scroll through notifications and apps, and even adjust the audio volume.
The Series 8 comes in seven different aluminum case colors, four of which the Series 7 does not have: Gold, Silver, Graphite, and Space Black.
Coming from a 38mm Series 3 to the 41mm Series 8, I was initially worried that the watch would look or feel bulky on my relatively smaller wrist. The 3mm difference, however, turned into a positive.- I could now see notifications and my live fitness metrics more clearly, and the watch still felt sleek rather than bulky.
Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Watch series or more classic, round-faced watches, Apple continues to keep its staple squircle design. While Apple released a few new bands with this year’s model, both the 41mm and 45mm sizes are backward-compatible.- in case you currently own a Series 7 Watch and want to elevate the look without paying up for the Series 8.
Display and brightness
The Apple Watch Series 8 has the same display and brightness as last year’s model, which means it’s still impressive to interact with and look at. The brightness, in particular, also made it easier for me to enjoy the six new Apple Watch face designs, including Lunar, Astronomy, Modular, and Metropolitan. Like on the Series 7, the background colors adapt to the light of your environment when the watch is on your wrist, shifting from light and dark modes to optimize battery life and keep things in FOCUS.
The Always-On display also continues to get better and better. The combination of the improved battery life in the Series 8 and WatchOS 9 optimizations has made the Always-On display more usable than ever. Apple’s early implementation of the Always-On display on the watch was not always worth the battery hit.
Depending on what watch face you were using or what app you had open when it went to sleep, the Always-On display used to act more like a screensaver with a clock on it. Now, for example, it can simply dim the watch face or Fitness seconds counter.- minimizing the battery hit, so it’s worth turning on the feature.
The latest version of WatchOS introduces enhanced health and fitness features, including in-depth sleep tracking, cycle and basal temperature tracking for women, split pace notifications for cardio workouts, and a more custom workout display. Always-On display and its notification functionality have also gotten a lift; rather than piling up and then quickly disappearing, notifications pop up at the top of the watch face and roll away without overwhelming your feed.
It’s worth noting that Apple Watch models dating back to the Series 4 are eligible to receive the WatchOS 9 update, but not all the features.- specifically, the health and fitness ones.- will be available. For that reason alone, it may or may not make sense for you to make the upgrade to the Series 8.
As fitness continues to be at the core of the Apple Watch experience, the Series 8 wearable introduces a catalog of new tracking and measurement features.
For cardio-based exercises, the smartwatch can now track the Zone that your heart rate drops to during a workout. Like on a professional-grade heart rate monitor, you can see if your heart rate falls in Zone 1, 2, 3, or 4. For instance, when I felt out of breath during my spin class, I noticed that my heart rate had dropped to Zone 3 but nothing lower, so I pushed harder to get it racing again and exercise more efficiently. Since WatchOS 9 calculates these zones with your resting and max heart rate taken into account, each Zone is tailored to your specific heart rate and updated monthly. You can view how the specific zones correspond to your heart rate levels on your watch settings and learn a lot about your cardio health.
Additionally, the Apple Watch Series 8 now shows your mile split, which is handy if you’re a long-distance runner. While I’m not training for a race, I found it just as practical for my everyday walk to work. By tracking how much time it would take for me to walk a mile or two, the watch basically set a benchmark for my walking speed, which pushed me to push my pace.
The new metrics tracking helps you see workouts differently. Since there are now more stats you can sift through, with the addition of heart rate zones and split pace, you can better customize your watch face to display the information that’s most important to you. Within the exercise app, you can, say, switch the typical calories burned metric on your watch face to the split pace numbers instead. If you, like me, are borderline obsessive about closing all your rings, you can even set the watch to display the three trackers at a glance. There were plenty of times when I’d see that I only needed 50 more calories to close my move ring and it motivated me to put in a few more reps when working out.
It’s also possible to add more variety to your run with the Apple Watch Series 8. Instead of using your watch to simply log a run, you can now account for warmups and recovery and set drills and repeats for your main work intervals. For runners training for a 5K or half marathon, this tool can make your runs more structured and reliable.
You can even become your own biggest competitor by racing yourself on an outdoor track that you’ve already completed. Again, if you have a favorite training spot and want to build off your benchmark time, this feature alone may be worth the splurge.
Finally, for the true multitaskers out there, the Series 8 also has a multi-sport function that allows you to quickly transition from running to biking or swimming without having to completely end the workout.- like on the Series 7.
It’s worth noting that the Apple Watch Series 8 still cannot measure blood pressure and body composition standalone, two metrics that Samsung’s latest Galaxy Watch 5 series, with its BioActive sensor, can calculate. If those numbers matter to you, and you don’t want to have to buy additional equipment to find them out, then the Apple Watch 8 may not be the best choice.
New this year, the watch tracks how long you spend in deep sleep, core sleep, REM sleep, and awake. You can then access the data in the iPhone’s Health app to learn just how efficient or inefficient your sleep really is. As someone who chronically wakes up every night around 3 a.m., I was impressed to see that the Apple Watch was able to perfectly mark those times and the depth of my sleep after the fact.
Wearing the watch to bed is more comfortable than I would’ve expected, and I’m more invested in my sleep habits than ever before. Its sleep schedule feature has even been the secret to correcting my poor sleep habits.
My colleague Jason Hiner has also been testing the Apple Watch Series 8 and has been using the Apple Watch for sleep tracking for over three years. He’s also tested under-the-mattress sleep sensors and a Smart bed. He reports that, overall, he still prefers the SleepWatch app on Apple Watch to the built-in software in the Health app.
However, the biggest thing he missed from the under-the-mattress sensor was the data on sleep stages to help understand the quality of sleep. He now regularly uses that feature on the Series 8 and is impressed with the accuracy and the visualizations. But, the Apple Watch’s sleep app would be much better if it also integrated HRV, blood oxygen, and other data.- and he added that Apple is overdue to launch a companion Sleep app for the iPhone as well.
The features I didn’t test
Like the iPhone 14 line, the Apple Watch Series 8 can detect a severe car crash by measuring changes to the environment’s sound, pressure, and motion, and help connect you to emergency services. In the event of a car crash, the Apple Watch will ask if you’re OK or if it should call emergency services. It will do the latter if there’s no response within 20 seconds. By default, crash detection is on.
Women’s health features
Perhaps one of the biggest upgrades to come with WatchOS 9 is the upgraded health features, specifically for women’s health. As a woman, I found it convenient that I could track my cycle by answering a few questions and wearing my watch daily. While this technology is useful for women who just want to be more in tune with their bodies, it’s worth noting that a smartwatch is not smarter than your physician. If you have an irregular cycle or suffer from medical anxiety, the Apple Watch may be a useful first assessment, but you should not base your medical decisions on just that.
While I personally am not using the watch for family planning purposes, I know many look for tools to do so. WatchOS 9 also tracks changes in basal temperature while you sleep (after five days) and can monitor your ovulation.
You can expect a similar battery life performance with the Apple Watch Series 8 as last year’s model given the similarity in battery size. Having switched from the Series 3, however, I was even more impressed with the Series 8’s endurance.
I typically wear the watch from morning to night, walking about 2 miles to and from work, exercising for 30 minutes to an hour, and then sleeping for about 7 hours. I’ve found that time and charging management are needed if you plan on using the Apple Watch day and night.
Fortunately, the new Apple Watch charges fast. I’ve been using Anker’s 511 Charger (Nano 3) and Apple’s USB-C charging cable, which takes the Series 8 to a full charge after an hour. Since I’ve been using the watch during my sleep, I’ve been occasionally trickle-charging it during the day, like when I’m sitting in a meeting.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is an incremental update to the classic, squircle smartwatch.- and I’m not complaining. The same catalog of good-looking and practical watch faces is still there and, with the enhanced health and fitness tracking features, the watch is more useful than ever for helping me stay in tune with my body both during activity and at rest.
My only callout is of WatchOS 9 and its abundance of updates and features: They may be overwhelming and not applicable to every user. But if you want the most comprehensive Apple Watch experience.- other than the Ultra.- then the new Series 8 is the one to get. As we often say with the latest products, if you have last year’s Series 7 then there’s little reason to upgrade to the Series 8. But if you’re on the upgrade-hunt and have the Series 6 or earlier, the Series 8 offers a boost in features and battery life.
Apple Watch heart rate sensor: everything you need to know
Is photoplethysmography more than just a two dollar word?
If you peel back the layers of the Apple Watch, tossing its premium look and features like the Force Touch screen and the Digital Crown to the side, you’ll eventually be left with one piece of tech that’s par for the course in most of today’s smartwatches: a heart rate sensor.
Not to be outdone by the Microsoft Band, Basis Peak and other competition in the wearables category, Apple Watch can track your heart rate with the sensor located on the flipside of its watch face. But the main attraction isn’t how Apple Watch interprets the heartbeat data, but (read this in your best Jony Ive voice) how Apple is trying to power a wrist-sized evolution in the way we communicate through technology.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s do an overview of how the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor works.
How does the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor work?
Fitness isn’t the sole FOCUS of the Apple Watch, but don’t count it out. Its sensor, which rests in the circular back of the watch, is a tag-team effort comprised of infrared light blasters and green LEDs. They work together to employ a tried and true (but difficult to pronounce) technique called photoplethysmography to give users an accurate heart rate reading.
Apple’s support documents explain the complicated process for tracking your heartbeat:
Blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light. Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist at any given moment. When your heart beats, the blood flow in your wrist. and the green light absorption. is greater. Between beats, it’s less. By flashing its LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute. your heart rate.
Wouldn’t flashing the green LEDs hundreds of times per second plague the Apple Watch battery life to die in a jiffy? Yes, it would. But the green LEDs kick on only when they’re needed. For the rest of the work, the infrared light comes into play. This low-power tracking mode sends your heart rate to the Health app every 10 minutes, which compiles the data into a graph for you to study, if you choose.
But if this method of heart rate monitoring isn’t producing consistent, reliable data, the green LEDs will kick back into gear as a failsafe.
Apple Watch packs guts capable enough to track several types of workouts, but like most trackers, it has limitations.
Will the Apple Watch heart rate sensor work on my wrist?
Apple is upfront about the likelihood that, for some users, the heart rate sensor just might not work very well – or at all – even under favorable conditions. In the same support document, Apple stresses that wearing the smartwatch correctly on your wrist is key, but you probably guessed that much. The heart rate sensor can’t detect much of anything if the Apple Watch isn’t snug and comfortable.
Still not getting a good reading? As it turns out, there are also a host of other factors that could be to blame for a lousy reading. Some are environment-related: for example, if it’s cold outside, the Apple Watch will have a hard time giving you a reading when circulation to your wrist is reduced. That said, if circulation to your extremities is an ongoing issue for you even in a warm room, an external Bluetooth heart rate monitor will give you better, more consistent results.
Lastly, Apple points out that the Watch might be choosy when it comes to tracking during your preferred activities. Rhythmic movements, such as running or cycling, give better results compared to irregular movements, like tennis or boxing. Sorry, jousters and parkour athletes.
Current page: How it works and user compatibility
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Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.
The Apple Watch SE may just be the best option yet, with a few compromises
Like the iPhone SE, the Apple Watch SE is the affordable yet featured-filled Apple Watch. Though there are some compromises, it still delivers an experience true to what is expected from an Apple Watch, and is sort of a mishmash between the 4, 5 and 6 pulling in different features from each.
After two weeks with it, this isn’t just a terrific entry-point for a first smartwatch, but it’s filled to the brim with features. But bluntly: If you don’t need an electrical heart-rate sensor, blood oxygen monitoring and an always-on display, the Watch SE is the clear choice when it comes to Apple Watches. Here’s why.
Classic Apple Watch design with a standard display
The SE doesn’t stray much from the classic Apple Watch design.
The Apple Watch SE keeps the 30% larger display that first debuted on the Series 4. With SE, the bezels (or edges) around the display are slim, so not even the 40mm feels nearly as cramped as we thought it could.
You still get the Digital Crown with haptics and an action button on the right side. The haptics in the crown give you feedback when adjusting volume, scrolling through a message and naturally using the interfaces. The Apple Watch SE still retains WR50 resistance of up to 50 meters in water. That means you can wear it in the shower, wash your hands and even go swimming.
On the rear of the Watch SE is where things get a little different. Notably, the SE features a second-generation optical heart rate sensor. It’s not electrical, which means no ECG (electrocardiogram) support and no blood oxygen sensors. No super advanced health features here, but the SE can still monitor your heart rate in realtime and still deliver alerts. The core heart rate sensor on the SE is the same optical sensor found on the Series 6.
The biggest change for us with the Apple Watch SE was the removal of the always-on display track. It makes sense as Apple needs to add in some compromises to get the price down. You’ll need to raise your wrist to wake the screen or tap it to engage with it. A small price to pay to, well, pay less.
The tech for the display is pretty much on-par with Series 6 as well. On the 40 and 44mm SEs, it’s protected by a layer of Ion-X glass and features a low-temperature poly-silicon and oxide OLED Retina display. Both sizes can reach a maximum of 1,000 nit brightness. It’s a 324X394 resolution on 40mm and 368X448 resolution on 44mm. To our eyes, it’s a vibrant smartwatch display that delivers no noticeable pixelation around text or any images.
Smooth performance and plenty of features
The Apple Watch SE boasts the Apple-made S5 processor — the same one inside the Series 5.
Put simply: That means that the SE delivers big value. It’s running watchOS 7 out of the box and set up was pretty quick. Once connected with an iPhone, either for personal setup or Family Setup, we were able to run through options and get apps copied over as a fresh install within 10 minutes. Going from a backup from a Series 5 or Series 6 took only about five minutes longer. Keep in mind, this is also dependent on a solid internet connection to pull data from the Cloud.
Once set up, you can easily swipe left and right to find the watch face of your dreams. Long-pressing on a singular watch face brings you into the customization zone. Here you can adjust colors, type fonts and even the complications on the display. The latter are like mini-apps for your homescreen. We chose the current temperature from Dark Sky, our activity rings, calendar and easy access to heart rate. There are plenty of third-party apps that offer complications as well.
Our favorite new feature is real-time translations via Apple’s virtual assistant. It’s quite handy to get a quick translation right from your wrist and without opening a dedicated app. Most impressively, it shows how capable the S5 chip inside really is.
Apple Pay works just as well — and as quickly — as with the Series 5 and Series 6. And, thanks to watchOS 7, the Apple Watch SE can track handwashing just the same as the Watch 6. The microphones specifically listen for water from a faucet, hand motions and even the sound of soap being pumped from a bottle. And when it detects you’re washing your hands, you’ll see a countdown appear on your wrist. Once the 20-seconds is up, you’ll feel a vibration and hear a short jingle. You can also choose to receive a reminder once you’re back home to wash your hands. This taps into the GPS built inside and some improvements to Apple Maps.
Sleep tracking is on board as well, and allows you to set a goal for the number of hours, and tracks whether or not you’re hitting that goal. You won’t find data about different cycles like you might on a Fitbit, but it’s the same sleep tracking experience as on the Series 6 or any other Apple Watch that supports the feature. It just won’t track your blood oxygen periodically overnight.
Like previous Apple Watch models, it’s a lithium-ion battery cell inside and supports around 18 hours. For us that meant about a day and a half, including sleep tracking. The SE supports wireless charging with dead to 80% in about an hour and a half. Charging up to 100% is a bit longer at two and a half hours.
The fitness aspects on the SE are essentially the same experience you’ve had on every other Apple Watch with move and exercise goals you can track.
You can also use the Workout app to pick from a plethora of exercises — indoor or outdoor cycling, functional strength training, barre, dance, running, jogging, surfing and countless others — that the Apple Watch SE will accurately track through an array of sensors. We didn’t notice any slow downs or tracking differences between the SE and Series 6. Both were able to get an accurate number of calories burned, minutes exercised and heart rate tracked throughout.
The biggest thing we missed was the always-on display during activity. You can’t just glance down at your wrist while in a stretch to see the time. And we missed seeing the minutes worked out, calories burned and our heart rate. The solution? Raise your wrist or tap the screen. Some activities make this easier said than done, though.
If you can look past no electrical heart-rate sensor, blood oxygen monitoring and an always-on display it’s the clear choice when it comes to Apple Watches. And even if you opt for a cellular enabled variant, you’re still saving some dough.
But if you have a Series 5, the SE doesn’t make the most sense. We’d recommend you stick with your current model or opt for the Series 6 for the new health features.
Note: The above reflect the retailers’ listed price at the time of publication.
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The Apple Watch Series 8 is all about saving you from mortal peril
If you’re ovulating and facing imminent death, the Apple Watch Series 8 is for you.
At today’s ‘Far Out’ event, Apple introduced the new Apple Watch Series 8, its latest smartwatch which features a body temperature sensor, crash detection, and low-power mode. And as was heavily rumored, the Series 8 is built with a thermometer that can to be used to aid with fertility tracking.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is available to preorder today and will go on sale Sept. 16. It costs 399 with GPS capabilities, and 499 for cellular and GPS connectivity.
As previewed last spring at WWDC 2022, WatchOS 9, the software which powers the Series 8, is chock-full of fitness and health features. With the new body-temperature sensor, the Apple Watch Series 8 takes health tracking a big step further. The Series 8 measures biphasic readings — aka hormonal fluctuations, and shows a retrospective estimate of when you ovulated in the Health app.
Apple also addressed privacy concerns regarding tracking women’s health data — an issue which has become critically relevant post-Roe v. Wade. In line with other Apple features that track data, this fertility data is encrypted on your Apple Watch and will only be accessible via passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID. It is also end-to-end encrypted when synced in iCloud.
Apple didn’t mention measuring temperature for signs of a fever, which falls in line with Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman’s prediction that we’ll have to wait for future Apple Watch versions. That might come in 2024 with the Apple Watch’s rumored blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring features.
Another major update to the Apple Watch Series 8’s suite of features is crash detection. Using an accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, the Series 8 can detect detect a crash and provide emergency information. Apple says crash detection is only on when you’re driving and during a possible crash. Apple hopes you truly never need it, although that sounds more ominous than reassuring. Buy the Apple Watch Series 8 or else.
Low-power mode, bougie bands, and international roaming
The Apple Watch Series 8 also has a low-power mode which allows certain apps like activity tracking and fall detection to run while conserving battery. With a full charge, Apple says it can last 36 hours in low-power mode compared to (allegedly) 18 hours in full-power mode.
Aesthetic upgrades to the Apple Watch Series 8 includes new Nike and Hermes bands. The standard body is now made of recycled aluminum and comes in midnight, starlight, silver, and product red colorways, or you can grab the stainless steel version in silver, gold, and graphite.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is equipped with international roaming for little or no cost — Apple made no mention of pricing there. International roaming will also be available to all Apple Watch models with WatchOS 9.
Cecily is a tech reporter at Mashable who covers AI, Apple, and emerging tech trends. Before getting her master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School, she spent several years working with startups and social impact businesses for Unreasonable Group and B Lab. Before that, she co-founded a startup consulting business for emerging entrepreneurial hubs in South America, Europe, and Asia. You can find her on at @cecily_mauran.