Handwashing on Apple Watch Is Useless

By far, the most disappointing and useless feature on the Apple Watch is the Handwashing Timer. Which is ironic, because when it was announced back in 2020 I thought it was a really neat idea.

The problem: the trigger… doesn’t trigger.

Apple says the trigger is audio and motion, so it probably detects the sound of running water, then checks if the user is rubbing their hands together.

But this never works reliably. When it does work it is magical. But more often then not it thinks I’ve only washed for five seconds when I’ve already scrubbed for forty seconds trying to get it to trigger, or won’t trigger at all.

And there are false positives: any rubbing motion while water is running sets it off. So it activates when you’re washing dishes, for example.

My naive solution: when the Apple Watch hears the sound of running water, prompt the user if they’re washing their hands. But since we obviously can’t touch the watch with dirty hands, have the user do some sort of gesture to start the timer. Maybe like a double-chop in mid-air, just like the Motorola phones that wait for the gesture to turn on the flashlight?

This solves the issue of false positives, since users can just not do the gesture to not start the timer if they’re not washing their hands, and it also means it’s easier to trigger, since the only condition to fulfill is to get the Apple Watch to hear the sound of running water.