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


Whether you’re prone to the occasional fall or it’s something you’ve never really had to deal with, the latest Pixel Watch update adds a critical safety feature that every Pixel Watch owner must turn on. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Google should enable the feature by default.

Also: Google’s first Pixel feature drop in 2023 is official. Here’s what’s new

The new fall detection feature uses a combination of sensors in the watch to detect when the wearer falls. The wearer will then receive an alert on the watch asking if they’re okay, and depending on the answer — or, at worst, a lack of answer — the watch will contact emergency services and get help.

Fall Detection isn’t just for those prone to accidents, like an elderly family member, (pardon the cliché), but it’s for everyone. Have you ever used a ladder to change a light bulb? Go on frequent hikes alone? Or walks in general? All are situations where it is easy to fall and get hurt. This feature on the Pixel Watch provides peace of mind, and there is value in that.

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Now that I’ve planted a seed of fear, you surely want to know how to turn on the Pixel Watch’s new Fall Detection feature, right? Well! Here’s what you need to know.

How to turn on fall detection on Pixel Watch

Google announced that the Pixel Watch got its Fall Detection feature at the end of February through a slow rollout. As long as your Pixel Watch and the necessary apps are up to date, you should be able to access Fall Detection.

Recently, Google announced that the March Pixel feature drop included an update to the watch. I haven’t seen the March update on my watch yet, but I got access to Fall Detection after installing the February update (I was a few months behind) and installing all available updates from the Play Store on the watch itself.

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To update your Pixel Watch’s software, open Settings app on the watch, then scroll to the bottom of the list and select System. Then tap on System updates. If an update is available, your watch will begin downloading and installing it. It’s a good idea to put your watch on the charging puck and keep your phone nearby.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

When the software update is complete, tap the digital crown on the watch to see all your installed apps. Scroll down and select Toy store from the list. Scroll to the bottom of all Play Store listings until you see a button labeled Manage apps and select it. Allow the next screen to load — it may take a few seconds — then tap Update all; it should be the first available button.

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

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

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

With your watch’s updated software and all available Play Store updates installed, you’re ready to enable drop detection using two different methods.

You can turn it on using the Pixel Watch app on your phone. The easiest way to get to the correct 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 telling you that drop detection is now available and ready to be turned on. Alternatively, open the Watch app and then select See preferences > Safety and emergency > Fall detection.

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The second method is to turn it on directly on your watch. To do so, tap the Watch’s digital crown to view your list of installed apps, then scroll down until you find the Personal Security app; select it. On the next screen, find and select Fall Detection. Turn the switch to the On position.

Note that if you are asked to approve the necessary location permissions, you must do so directly on your watch. You can do that by going to the Fall Detection section of the Personal Safety app using the steps I just highlighted and then set the permission to allow while using.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Frequently asked questions

What happens when you fall?

When the Pixel Watch detects a hard fall, it displays an alert on the watch asking if you fell and if you’re okay. You have 30 seconds to answer the prompt, after which it will start playing an alert sound and vibrate, asking if you need help. If no movement is detected or you fail to respond to the prompt within 60 seconds, your watch calls emergency services and plays an automatic voice message telling the first responder where you are and that a fall was detected.

What do I do if there is a false alarm?

The best thing to do if your Pixel Watch detects a fall when you’re perfectly fine is to dismiss the prompt as soon as possible. Google says it has 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 will probably happen.

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