Does Apple Watch Fall Detection Work Without Cellular?


One of Apple’s newest devices, the Apple Watch, comes with a bunch of nifty bells and whistles that helps you exercise and stay in shape. But sometimes, even when exercising, accidents can happen. Apple Watch has a mechanism that can detect when you have a hard fall. 

If this happens, a prompt comes up asking whether you need emergency services or not. This is a great addition and can be a lifesaver for some people. But, does Apple Watch Fall Detection work without a cellular connection? 

Does Apple Watch Fall Detection Work Without Cellular? 

Emergency calls and notifications to emergency contacts through Fall Detection will require some kind of cellular service. This can happen either through your iPhone, so long as it’s in range of Bluetooth, or from the Apple Watch, but only if it’s the LTE version. Otherwise, it must have a connection to a known Wi-Fi network.  

Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 4 does not require an iPhone connection to call emergency services. They have cellular capabilities along with GPS already built in. Apple Watch Series 5 or higher only has GPS but it’s without built-in cellular capabilities.  

Apple Watch or iPhone 

This means, if you have the cellular version of Apple Watch, the notification of emergency contacts and making emergency calls occur through the watch. But if you don’t have the cellular version, then you have to have your iPhone handy. 

Regardless of whether your iPhone has a cellular plan or not, you have to pair your Apple Watch to the phone in order for Fall Detection to work. This feature has been a part of every Apple Watch version since their inception. 

Will Apple Watch Work with Public Networks? 

Apple Watch will connect to a public network, but not ones that require subscriptions, profiles or logins. These networks, also called captive networks, can include free and pay connections for work, home, school, stores and hotels. When Apple Watch finds a compatible Wi-Fi connection instead of the iPhone, the icon for Wi-Fi will show up in the Control Center. 

Do You Have to Charge Apple Watch to Work Without Cellular? 

The watch has to have a full charge, with or without cellular, and it has to be on during a hard fall. Unfortunately, Apple has not ironed out the issues with their watches maintaining a long-lasting charge, which may prove to be very inconvenient under the right conditions at the exact wrong moment. 

Does iPhone Have Fall Detection? 

Your iPhone won’t detect a fall; it only acts as a conduit to make a call in the case of an emergency from your Apple Watch Fall Detection interface. But, there is Emergency SOS on iPhone that you can use without a Wi-Fi connection. 

Will Apple Watch Fall Detection Work Outside the United States? 

If you’re traveling overseas, and you have Apple Watch Series 5, emergency services will work in most countries in the event you experience a fall. This will work even if you don’t have a cellular plan for your Apple Watch when traveling.  

Will Apple Watch Fall Detection Work in Any Country? 

In places like China, you will have to preset your Apple Watch to call the police, fire or ambulance before you use the watch for Fall Detection. Many countries in Africa (except Rwanda and South Africa) along with North Korea, South Korea and Vietnam either do not have this feature available or you have to preset them for the area you’re in before you use Fall Detection. 

Can Anyone at Any Age Use Fall Detection? 

Fall Detection is only available for people 18 years or older. This is because not only does someone have to be 18 to agree to a cellular contract, most people under 18 are active, fall and trip often; especially children and toddlers. 

Once You Have Cellular or Wi-Fi Connected, Will Apple Watch Connect; Work Automatically? 

Unless you are 55 years and older and entered your age when you setup your Apple Watch or in the Health app, this feature will turn on automatically. Ensure your correct age shows up in the Medical ID and Health Profile interfaces. 

Anyone younger than 55 years old will have to set up the Apple Watch, connect it to a Wi-Fi network and turn on the Fall Detection feature. Here’s how you do it: 

Setup Wi-Fi for Apple Watch Series 4 or Higher 

  1. On your Apple Watch, open the settings interface 
  2. Tap on Wi-Fi and allow the device to seek out networks 
  3. Tap the network name you want. Apple Watch Series 5 and earlier or Apple Watch SE can only connect to 2.4 GHz networks. For Series 6, you can connect to networks with 2.4 or 5 GHz.  
  4. Enter the network password and join. 

Turning Fall Detection On (or Off) 

  1. Access the Apple Watch app through your iPhone 
  2. Tap the tab that says “My Watch” 
  3. Select Emergency SOS 
  4. Tap the slider to turn Fall Detection on or off. 

Medical ID; Emergency Contacts 

In order for Apple Watch to use Fall Detection, you have to have your Medical ID setup. This will connect you to emergency services in your area and notify your emergency contacts. 

  1. Open the Health App on your iPhone and go to Medical ID 
  2. Select Edit 
  3. Enter all your health information including your birthdate. 
  4. Tap the add button under Emergency Contacts to add an emergency contact. Tap a contact from your Contacts and input their relationship to you. 
  5. If you want your Medical ID available on the iPhone’s Lock Screen feature, turn on “Show When Locked.” In the event of an emergency, this will give your medical information to those who want to help you, like emergency responders.  And, no, you can’t set local emergency services as an emergency contact. 
  6. If you want your Medical ID shared with responders, turn on “Share During Emergency Call.” This will automatically share your Medical ID info with emergency services. 
  7. When finished with this setup, tap “Done.

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