How to turn on the Pixel Watch’s new fall detection feature (and why you should)


Whether you’re prone to falling off from time to time or it’s something you’ve never had to deal with, the latest update to the Pixel Watch adds a critical safety feature that every pixel clock owner must light. Actually, I would go as far as to say that Google should enable the feature by default.

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The new fall detection feature uses a combination of sensors in the watch to detect when the wearer falls. The wearer then receives an alert on the watch asking if they are okay and depending on the response, or in the worst case if no response, the watch will contact emergency services and get help.

Fall detection isn’t just for those who are accident prone, like an elderly family member (sorry for the clich√©), it’s for everyone. Have you ever used a ladder to change a light bulb? Going on frequent walks alone? Or walks in general? These are all situations where it is easy to fall and injure yourself. This feature on the Pixel Watch provides peace of mind, and that has its value.

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Now that I’ve planted a seed of fear, you’re probably wanting to know how to activate the Pixel Watch’s new fall detection feature, right? Good! Here’s what you need to know.

How to turn on fall detection on the Pixel watch

Google announced that the Pixel Watch was getting its fall detection feature in late February via a slow release. As long as your Pixel Watch and the necessary apps are up to date, you should have access to fall detection.

More recently, Google announced that the March Pixel feature drop included an update for the Watch. I haven’t seen the March update on my watch yet, but I did get access to fall detection after installing the February update (it was a couple of months late) and installing all available updates on the Play Store on the watch itself.

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To update the software on your Pixel Watch, open the settings app on the watch, and then scroll to the bottom of the list and select System. then touch system updates. If an update is available, your watch will begin to download and install it. It’s a good idea to place your watch on the charging puck and keep your phone nearby.

Pixel Watch update notification

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Once the software update is complete, press the Digital Crown on the watch to view all installed apps. Scroll down and select Play store of the list. Scroll to the bottom of all Play Store listings until you see a button labeled Manage apps and select it. Allow the following screen to load (it may take a few seconds) and then tap Update all; it should be the first available button.

The Play Store will then download and install all available app and service updates.

Close up of Google Pixel Watch face

The rotating crown and the button on the right side are well designed.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

With your watch software up to date and all available updates from the Play Store installed, you are ready to activate fall detection using two different methods.

You can activate it using the Pixel Watch app on your phone. The easiest way to get to the proper settings screen is to open the Watch app on your phone and tap the Messages icon at the top of the screen. You should see an alert letting you know that fall detection is now available and ready to activate. Alternatively, you can open the Watch app and then select View preferences > Security and Emergency > fall detection.

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The other method is to turn it on directly on your watch. To do that, press the digital crown on the watch to see your list of installed apps, then scroll down until you find the Personal Safety app; select it. On the next screen, find and select Fall Detection. Flip the switch to the on position.

Please note that if you are prompted to approve the required location permissions, you will need to do so directly on your watch. You can do this by going to the Fall Detection section of the Personal Safety app by following the steps I just highlighted and then setting the permission to allow while in use.

Pixel Watch Fall Detection

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

frequent questions

What happens when you fall?

When the Pixel Watch detects a hard fall, it presents an alert on the watch asking if you fell and if you’re okay. You have 30 seconds to respond to the prompt, after which it will begin to play an alarm sound and vibrate and ask if you need help. If no movement is detected or you don’t respond to the prompt within 60 seconds, your watch will call emergency services and play an automated voice message letting the rescuer know where you are and that a fall has been detected.

What do I do if there is a false alarm?

The best thing to do if your Pixel Watch detects a drop when it’s perfectly fine is to dismiss the prompt as soon as possible. Google says it’s tested the watch’s algorithms in many different scenarios, such as during an intense workout or while skiing, and that it shouldn’t trigger accidentally. But it has to happen.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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