Apple Watch COVID-19 iOS Update Offers Hand-Washing Reminders & Masked Emojis

The tech giant is laser-focused on using the Watch to monitor health.


Apple made a number of timely announcements at last week’s WWDC. One of the most notable was about a new OS for the Apple Watch that will remind users to wash their hands the requisite amount of time to avoid COVID-19 infection. 

In a similar vein, Apple’s Memojis will receive a COVID-19-related add-on: face masks. 

Using the Apple Watch‘s array of sensors, the new feature will detect when the wearer is washing their hands and initiate a 20-second countdown. If a user decides they are done at 15 seconds, the app will prompt continuing for five more. 

Once you’ve arrived home, the Watch will remind you to wash up again.

It’s got a bit of a nanny state feel to it, but Apple is obviously realizing just what a potent health monitoring tool the Watch can be. 

After all, it already tracks heart rate, helps women track their cycles, and has an EKG function reliable enough that in November 2019 Healio—a website that caters to health care practitioners—reported it “can record an electrocardiogram using an app and obtain results similar to those of a standard ECG,” citing research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine

Apple will also add sleep tracking. TechCrunch provides a helpful description of how that will work:

As you sleep, the Watch uses machine learning to track your movements, even the rise and fall of your breath, to determine how you’re sleeping. You can later view your sleep trends, based on this tracking, in the Apple Health app.

In the morning, you can choose to wake up to a haptic vibration on your wrist, instead of a more jarring audible alarm. 

Users familiar enough with the WatchOS can customize various faces to incorporate these new functions and have them readily at hand.

Another announcement that perhaps got lost in the shuffle is that in iOS 14 users will be able to customize Memoji with face masks.

Credit: Apple

The animated avatars that Apple first introduced a few years ago mimic user facial expressions and sometimes are used to tag videos and photos.

Apple is also set to drop in 20 new Memoji hairstyles and stickers for hugs, fist bumps and blushing that can be used in messages.

For a fuller breakdown of updates and upgrades coming to your iPhone, go here: “Apple iOS 14: Here’s All the New Features Coming to Your iPhone.”