The ultimate guide to Apple Watch safety features

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When it first launched back in 2015, the Apple Watch didn’t offer much in terms of safety features. After all, it’s a smartwatch, and early smartwatches were really only designed to be companions to smartphones, enabling users to call and text from their wrist, control a few apps, and maybe track a couple of workouts. Fast forward to today, and the Apple Watch has asserted itself as one of the best personal safety products on the market, with recent generations exhibiting a focus on heart health, incident detection and emergency SOS making it a powerful accessory for seniors, those with medical conditions, and even kids.

But is it the right health monitor and personal safety device for you? Let’s dig into all the safety features the Apple Watch offers.

Compare Apple Watch models

Emergency SOS
Medical ID
Fall Detection
Crash Detection
Heart Rate Monitoring
Blood Oxygen
Wrist temperature
Learn more
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Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.
Currently, only the Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8 and SE (2nd gen) are available. All older models have been discontinued but are listed here for comparison purposes.

Emergency SOS

iPhone users will be familiar with the Emergency SOS feature, which triggers a button to call emergency services when the user presses and holds the side button and one of the volume buttons. It works in a similar way on the Apple Watch, with users needing only to hold down the side button (the one below the Digital Crown) until the Emergency Call slider appears. Once that slider is dragged, it’ll automatically call 000. It will also do so if you simply continue holding the side button and wait for the countdown to reach zero. Not only does this put you in contact with emergency services, but it also shares your GPS location with them.

After the call ends, your Apple Watch can also send a text message with your current location to your emergency contacts (if you have them set up in your Medical ID—don’t worry, we’ll get into that one next).

Connectivity required
It’s important to note that Emergency SOS only works with a mobile or Wi-Fi connection, so if you don’t have a connected Cellular Apple Watch model, you’ll need to have your iPhone nearby at the very least. The same applies to emergency calls made through the Fall Detection and Crash Detection features.

Medical ID

Medical ID is another feature iPhone users are probably aware of. It’s essentially a snapshot of all your important health information (like your age, blood type, weight, height, organ donation status, medical conditions and medications), along with a list of emergency contacts. In the event of an emergency that leaves you unconscious or otherwise unable to speak to first responders, they can simply check your Medical ID (using the same steps as the Emergency SOS feature above). Both Medical ID and Emergency SOS are accessible even if your phone is locked, meaning responders can identify you and learn potentially life-saving information about you.

To create your Medical ID, open the Health app on your iPhone, tap your profile image in the top-right corner, then tap Medical ID, then “Edit”, then input all your information and select emergency contacts. Once complete, hit “Done” and your Medical ID is ready to go.

Fall Detection

Fall Detection is exactly what it sounds like. If you have a fall while wearing your Apple Watch (SE or Series 4 or later), it will sound an alarm and display an alert saying a fall has been detected. From there, you can dismiss the alert by tapping “I’m OK”, or drag the Emergency Call slider to contact 000. If you haven’t moved for one minute after the alert, it will automatically make the call and share your location with emergency services. As with the Emergency SOS feature, once the call has ended, it will also send a message (along with your location) to your nominated emergency contacts, letting them know you’ve had a fall and called 000.

Crash Detection

A recent addition to the Apple Watch, Crash Detection works in a similar way to Fall Detection. When your Apple Watch detects a severe car crash, it’ll sound an alarm and display an alert saying a crash has been detected. You can either dismiss the alert by tapping “Cancel” if you’re OK, or you can drag the Emergency Call slider to connect you to 000. If you’re unable to respond, your Apple Watch will automatically call 000 after 20 seconds. Once connected to emergency services, your location will be shared with them and, if you are unable to speak, a looped audio message will play informing emergency services that your Apple device detected a car crash and that you are unresponsive. Your emergency contacts will also receive a message with your location and notifying them that you have been in a car crash.

Heart rate monitoring

Heart Rate Monitoring has been a feature of every Apple Watch, enabling it to record more accurate metrics when tracking workouts and sleep. But it’s also a good measure of your overall health and can be especially useful for those with heart troubles. You can enable heart rate notifications to alert you if you fall below or rise above a certain BPM (beats per minute), and Apple Watches running watchOS 5.1.2 or later can also alert you if it detects an irregular heart rhythm, which may be indicative of atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Apple Watches use an optical heart sensor to measure heart rate, so for it to work reliably, a good, snug fit is essential. The Watch takes measurements all throughout the day, or you can check at any time via the Heart Rate app.


If you’ve ever had an electrocardiogram (ECG) before, you’re probably familiar with the sticky electrodes and wires placed on your chest in order to get a reading. That’s still the gold standard when it comes to monitoring for heart abnormalities and a watch can’t replace a proper ECG machine, however, the Apple Watch’s ECG feature can still be a useful monitoring tool, particularly if you share the findings with your doctor.

The feature is available on Apple Watch Series 4 and later models and the Apple Watch Ultra, with the exception of the Apple Watch SE. It uses electrical heart sensors to measure your heartbeat and rhythm, recording the electrical pulses in the form of an electrocardiogram to check if the upper and lower chambers of your heart are in rhythm.

To take an ECG, simply open the ECG app, rest the arm wearing the watch on a table or in your lap, then rest (but don’t press) the index finger of your other hand on the Digital Crown, remain still and wait—the reading will take 30 seconds. Once complete, you’ll receive a classification: Sinus rhythm (meaning your heart is beating regularly), atrial fibrillation (meaning your heart is beating irregularly), low or high heart rate (meaning your heart rate was too low or too high to get an accurate reading) or inconclusive/poor recording (meaning your recording couldn’t be classified).

It’s important to note that the ECG feature on your Apple Watch cannot detect a heart attack, blood clot, stroke, or other heart-related conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol or heart failure. If you’re experiencing heart attack symptoms, seek emergency care immediately. The feature is available on Apple Watch Series 4 and later models and the Apple Watch Ultra, with the exception of the Apple Watch SE. It uses electrical heart sensors to measure your heartbeat and rhythm, recording the electrical pulses in the form of an electrocardiogram to check if the upper and lower chambers of your heart are in rhythm.


As someone with chronic illnesses and a bad memory, the Medications feature in Apple Health is a game-changer. All you need to do is log the medications, vitamins and supplements you take in the Apple Health app on your iPhone, along with the timing at which you take them. You can even change the icon of each medication to match the tablet’s real-life appearance, making them easier to identify.

Once set up, your Apple Watch will send you a reminder at the time your next dose is scheduled. Simply tap the notification (or open the Medications app on your Apple Watch) and tap “Log All as Taken” once you’ve done so, and the Health app will automatically record the dosage and time at which you took your meds. You can also mark a medication as “Skipped” if you missed it that day.

Wrist Temperature

Currently only available on the Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra, the Wrist Temperature feature uses two temperature sensors (one near the skin and one just under the display) to sample your skin’s temperature every five seconds. It then plots each night’s average temperature in the iPhone Health app so you can view any changes from your established baseline.

For Wrist Temperature to work, you’ll need to have sleep tracking set up on your Apple Watch and the Sleep Focus needs to have been enabled for at least four hours a night over about five nights.

Final word

The Apple Watch can’t replace your doctor, but it can be a useful tool to keep track of your overall health and wellbeing, and in the case of Fall Detection and Crash Detection, it may even save your life.

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time of publish and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the retailer’s website at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SafeWise Australia utilises paid affiliate links.
Georgia Dixon
Written by
Georgia Dixon
Georgia Dixon has 10 years of experience writing about all things tech, entertainment and lifestyle, with bylines on, 7NEWS, and in TechLife magazine. In her spare time, you'll find her playing games and daydreaming about good food, wine, and dogs.

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