Apple Watch as Medical Alert: Review
Product name: Apple Watch
Manufacturer / Distributor: Apple
Compilation: Q4 2018
This page contains our Apple Apple Watch review.
Analyst Summary: Apple Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is one of several products we compared in a piece of research called "Smartwatch as Medical Alert". If you are interested in this category of product, we recommend you look at this comparative review.
There are two distinctly different ways to use an Apple Watch as a medical alert. This review is about using the Apple Watch with only its native emergency alert software (called Emergency SOS).
The second approach is to use an Apple Watch with a special Medical Alert App installed. We recently tested the App called FallCall Lite, with the Apple Watch (review of FallCall Lite here).
The big difference between these two approaches to using an Apple Watch as a medical alert is who gets called when you press the "button". With the Apple Watch using its own built-in Emergency SOS App the device calls 911 directly when you press the button. With the FallCall Lite App installed, the App calls a professional monitoring service when the button is pressed.
The other big difference is that with iOS12 the Apple Watch 4 and Emergency SOS come with a fall detection algorithm. This is a big deal.
For more on these important differences, read Smartwatch as Medical Alert.
To see how to use and set up Emergency SOS on your Apple Watch see this article on Apple's website.
It looks great.
You get the full functionality of the Apple watch, so as far as smartwatch capability goes, you can't beat it.
The Apple Watch and Emergency SOS App are at present the only way we know of to get a smartphone medical alert with an automatic fall detection algorithm.
To call for help you hold down the button on the side for a few seconds. You do NOT need to open any App and look for buttons on the screen.
It calls 911 directly.
This means there is no reassuring professional who gets paid to be nice to you in a variety of greater or lesser "needing help situations". Just a busy 911 professional, and you definitely worry about whether it is right to bother them in anything but a life and death emergency.
And you don't want to "test" this functionality, because calling 911 for no reason seems like a very bad idea. So would you remember what to do in an emergency in the absence of "practise"?
Finally, we don't believe all 911 providers have the technology to receive a notification of your exact position automatically from the watch. So if you can't tell them where you are, that may be a problem. We think this is changing, and so in the future this may be a non-issue.
For more on this topic, read Smartwatch as Medical Alert.
For lots more details about this product, including the topics below, we suggest you read "Smartwatch as Medical Device?".
In "Smartwatch as Medical Device?" we discuss topics including:
- can you wear it in the shower?
- ease of use;
- where it does and does not work;
- response time;
- how well it can locate you;
- any "failures to call for help" in our testing;
- how this category of medical alert smartwatch compares with more conventional medical devices; and
- features for caregivers (like knowing where the wearer is).
You can set up the Emergency SOS so that you add specific individuals as emergency contacts. You can choose whether or not you want them to get a notification if you press the emergency alert button, and if you do they will get your specific location.
Note: If you want to support our work, please use these links when you buy any of the products we write about, as we sometimes get a small percentage of the sale from the manufacturer, which we use to support our research. (This does not affect the price you pay). See How we Fund our Work.
About this Research
This product review is part of an extensive series of medical alert system reviews of over 50 products, including hands-on evaluation and real-world testing of the most promising ones, in real-world situations.
These reviews and analyses are part of our Research Project designed to help older adults and their families Choose the Right Medical Alert System for THEM — the result of which is our Medical Alert Systems: Selection Guide.
We have tried hard to make this research as independent and objective as possible. It has not been funded or sponsored by any of the vendors of these products, and includes no advertising or "sponsored content". The team that conducted this research has strong scientific, clinical, and aging services backgrounds. You can read more about the team that did this research at the links above.
Help Support our Research
We hope you found this work useful. If you like what we do, and would like to see it continue, please consider contributing time, ideas, or some funding to help support our work.
We are currently raising contributions from those who find our work valuable to complete some new research initiatives, all targeted at helping older adults live better for longer. And we are always looking for contributions of ideas about what to work on, or help executing some of our projects.