Apple pulls Watch OS 5.1 update after problems caused for some users

Sarah Tew/Techhnews

Apple released an update to the Apple Watch Series 4 earlier Tuesday that was designed to improve emergency alerts after the watch’s fall detection is activated. But the Watch OS 5.1 software update appears to be fouling up some users’ watches, according to reports on Twitter. And now, it’s no longer available for download.

In the hours since the update became available, some users on Twitter and Reddit reported the update was “bricking” their Series 4 watches, causing an endless boot loop. (I was able to update the Series 4 without issue before the update was pulled by Apple.)

Apple provided a statement to Techhnews on the update being pulled: “Due to a small number of Apple Watch customers experiencing an issue while installing watchOS 5.1 today, we’ve pulled back the software update as a precaution. Any customers impacted should contact AppleCare, but no action is required if the update installed successfully. We are working on a fix for an upcoming software update.”

News of the software update issue was previously reported by 9to5mac. Previously, when the reports had started appearing, we recommended skipping the update.

One of the expected improvements of Watch OS 5.1, which was briefly available for download alongside iOS 12.1, is automatic calling of emergency services to report a fall with a recorded message, offering location information (latitude and longitude). The watch already could make emergency calls after falling, but didn’t send an audio message (instead, an emergency message with location information was sent to a key emergency contact).

The added audio message is intended for anyone who falls and is unable to speak, or falls unconscious. In the event the person who falls can still speak, there’s also an option to stop the recorded message and speak directly. (The Apple Watch Series 4 has already been credited with helping at least one person who fell and needed assistance.)

Apple had previously pledged to deliver a software update to the Apple Watch Series 4 that adds electrocardiogram (ECG, also known as EKG) functionality before the end of the year, but the company hasn’t specified a date.

First published Oct. 31, 2:50 p.m. PT.

Update, 7:30 p.m.: Adds statement from Apple.

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