Handwashing with an Apple Watch

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

One of the two standout features in WatchOS 7 for me was handwashing. Today, it has been just over a week since I turned on handwashing notifications.

Some background on the new feature:

  • Apple Watch can now detect when hands are being washed and encourages you with gentle taps on your wrist to continue for atleast 20 seconds.
  • When your return home, it can now remind you to wash your hands.

My observations so far:

  • When I said “Hand washing countdowns are cute and I love that they exist ☺️,” 3 months ago, I under-estimated it.
  • Handwashing is detected only when actually washing hands, typically about 5 seconds after I start scrubbing my hands.
  • It appears to be relying on accelerometer movements to determine when hands are being scrubbed, not microphone to determine flow of water.
  • I haven’t experienced a single false positive yet on notifications to continue washing my hand.
  • No false positives when rinsing hands or doing the dishes.
  • The first time I returned home after turning this on, I was reminded to wash my hands just after I had removed my shoes as I was about to change my clothes. Pretty darn incredible feeling, that.
  • That same day, a permission dialog popped up asking how frequently I wanted ‘Handwashing’ to have access to my location. Cute.
  • It does not detect movement within my apartment complex (mailbox, parking) as leaving the home and returning.
  • It can, however, get reminders for returning home wrong. I was once asked to wash my hands just as I was driving out of the parking garage.
  • It doesn’t appear to be using barometer readings to determine the height, so the parking level is treated the same as my home (a couple levels over).
  • I was out camping over the last weekend, and washed my hands with water that was a few degrees over freezing. Those were some pretty rough 20-seconds, but the Watch’s motivation made it a game that I had to win.
  • I didn’t realize just how many times I had a tendency to not scrub my hands for a full 20-seconds; it seems I was often in the 15-second range. (No, I do not have a handwashing song.)
  • I appreciate the gentle nudges whether I am anticipating them or not. It leaves me with a smile on my face everytime I wash my hands :).

Definitely one of those Apple-y things that surprise and delight. Truly.