Skip to main content

Google rolls out fall detection so the Pixel Watch won’t fall further behind rivals

Google rolls out fall detection so the Pixel Watch won’t fall further behind rivals


The watch will call emergency services about 30 seconds after detecting a hard fall.

Share this story

Woman wearing Pixel Watch while tapping screen
Starting today, you’ll be able to enable fall detection on the Pixel Watch.
Image: Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

When the Pixel Watch launched back in October, the company said to expect fall detection to arrive sometime in winter 2023 — and it looks like Google just squeaked in ahead of the deadline. Starting today, Google is rolling out the safety feature to all Pixel Watches.

Google’s version of fall detection is similar to those you’ll find on other smartwatches, like the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 lineups. It uses the device’s motion sensors and machine learning to figure out when someone’s taken a tumble and might need some help. The feature will purportedly kick in about 30 seconds after it detects a hard fall. At that point, the watch will vibrate, sound an alarm, and flash a notification asking if the Pixel Watch owner needs help. If users don’t respond after a minute, the watch will automatically call emergency services and share their location.

Gif of Fall Detection feature on Pixel Watch
You’ll have the chance to stop the watch from calling emergency services if there’s a false alarm.
Image: Google

According to Google, the Pixel Watch ought to be able to differentiate between a hard fall, stumble, or physical activity that may mimic falling — like the dreaded burpee. Whether that claim holds water is another matter that we’ll have to test for ourselves. While Apple, Samsung, and Garmin all have some form of emergency SOS and fall detection, the features aren’t equal. For instance, the Apple Watch’s fall detection is hard to trigger. Several reviewers, including myself, have tried to activate the feature (within reason) to no avail. Meanwhile, some users have complained that Garmin’s Incident Detection feature is a little too sensitive.

The feature is opt in, so you’ll have to turn it on manually if it’s something you want. Google says Pixel Watch owners may see a promotional card pop up in the Updates page within the Watch Companion app. If you don’t see it there, you can also check directly from the wrist in the Personal Safety app.

This isn’t the first time that Google’s tinkered around with the Pixel Watch’s feature set. In November, Google and Fitbit introduced the latter’s premium sleep profile feature. (The Pixel Watch relies on the Google-owned Fitbit for health tracking.) In a more surprising move, Fitbit recently announced it was sunsetting some of Fitbit’s community features on March 27th — a move that will ostensibly remove them from Pixel Watches as well. The latter hasn’t sat well with frustrated Fitbit and Pixel Watch owners, though perhaps Google is hoping the addition of fall detection will take out some of the sting.