Apple Watch 6 could prevent you from drowning — here's how

Apple Watch 5
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Apple Watch 6 is coming soon, but future models of Apple's smartwatch will be able to protect you from drowning or from contaminated water.

AppleInsider found an Apple patent titled "Portable Electronic Device As Health Companion", which describes fitting an Apple smartwatch with a water sensor. This could do things as simple as detecting the fact that it's raining and giving you a weather update, but there are more exciting possibilities discussed in the patent as well.

Apple Watch patent

(Image credit: USPTO)

According to patent, the water sensor will able to identify what type of water the wearer is in or exposed to, knowing whether they're caught in the rain, going for a swim or simply sweating. By reading your calendar and your location data, an Apple Watch with such a sensor will try to figure out the context of this water and decide if it's more likely you've gone swimming intentionally or if you've accidentally fallen into a lake or river. It will indicate the type of water a person is and the conditions they are exposed to with a UI element. 

Presumably, if someone had fallen into a river they'd know about it first-hand rather than need an Apple Watch notification to inform them of that fact. But such a notification could be used to alert others that the Apple Watch wearer is in danger, perhaps by calling the emergency services or notifying a person's trusted contacts.  

The proposed watch design will also be able to test the quality of the water it's immersed in; whether it's freshwater or saltwater, via openings which could be located in the watch and band (see below). The watch can then use this in conjunction with location data to figure out if the wearer is in danger and if the emergency services are needed. The sensor could also measure the water for contaminants, and warn the user if they're potentially exposing themselves to harmful chemicals or other water.

The watch could also use the sensor along with location data and other information to alert wearers to the presence of riptides or sharks, which could be shown as a UI notification, such as the shark icon in the patent picture above. 

(Image credit: USPTO)

The patent is exclusively about a smartwatch using these features, but it does propose adding this to other devices too. The most obvious option would be a future iPhone, since this is probably the most likely device a user is going to have in their pocket at any given time, plus Apple already makes the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro waterproof to the IP68 standard.

In the meantime, we can look forward to the Apple Watch 6. We're expecting it to include sleep tracking (a long requested feature), mental health tracking, and the replacement of the Digital Crown for an optical sensor embedded in the side of the face. We'll hopefully see it launch in September alongside the iPhone 12, although it will potentially be delayed depending on how the coronavirus pandemic impacts Apple's final production and shipping plans.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.