Tips to improve Apple Watch battery life

BY Kelly Hodgkins

Published 4 May 2015

Apple Watch

Apple designed the Watch with a battery that provides sufficient power to make it through a typical day under normal usage. The company estimates most people will get 18 hours of battery life as long as they don’t stress the Apple Watch with long workouts or lengthy phone conversations. If you need to get more juice out of your Watch, then read on for a handful of tips that’ll help extend your battery’s performance.

You can use these power-saving tips to squeeze the most power out of your Watch each day. They also are useful for emergencies when you are out of battery life and away from an outlet for an extended amount of time. Please note that these tips are meant to remove those services that are high consumers of power. In exchange for maximum battery life, you may have to sacrifice some of the features of the Watch.

Lower Screen Brightness

The Apple Watch includes an OLED display that already draws minimal power. You can squeeze even more juice out the Watch by lowering the brightness of the screen to keep it as dark as possible. You can change the brightness right on the Watch by opening Settings > Brightness & Text Size. You also can adjust brightness in the Watch app on your iPhone by going to My Watch and then Brightness & Text Size. From either of those sections, you can choose one of the three brightness settings.


Use a Minimal Watch Face

On an OLED display, black pixels consume the least power, so you should try to choose a minimal Watch face if you are looking to maximize battery performance. Stick with the Simple clock face and avoid the more colorful and animated ones like the Mickey Mouse and the Motion face as shown above.

Remove Watch face complications that track location or pull down data frequently

When choosing a Watch face and managing the information it will display, you should consider the battery impact of each complication you enable. For example, the Moon Phase, Weather, and Sunrise/Sunset complications pull down data and use location information to provide relevant information. Consequently, these complications may consume more power than a static complication like the date or calendar.

Remove Apps and Glances you don’t need

You also can run your Watch lean, installing only those apps and Glances that you need. To maximize the battery impact, try to avoid those Glances, like stocks and weather, that reach out the Internet on a regular basis. Also avoid apps that require an active internet connection to stream music or track your location. In this case, less is better for your battery.


Reduce Haptic Feedback

The Watch’s haptic feedback is great, but its constant firing may be using up precious battery life. You can easily turn down the Haptic feedback and disable the prominent haptic alerts from the “Sounds & Haptics” setting on the Apple Watch or in the Apple Watch app on the iPhone.

Limit Notifications

A steady stream of incoming notifications will drain your battery dry. To avoid notification overload, you should open the Apple Watch app, and configure your notifications so only the most important information lands on your Watch.

Don’t Play Around

Games may be great when have a spare moment, but keep those time-wasters on your iPhone and not your Watch. Games utilize the Watch processor and the display, both of which will drain your battery. Not to mention the fact that you can start a game and easily play for 5-10 minutes without even noticing the passage of time and the impact on your battery.

Disable Animations

Similar to iOS, the Apple Watch OS includes animations that improve the overall visual experience of the wearable device. This motion is pleasing to view, but not necessary for the operation of the device. If you want to lower your power consumption slightly, you can easily turn these off by going to Watch app on your iPhone and selecting General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion > Off.


Turn off wrist detection

I love the ability to raise my wrist and have my Watch automatically turn on, but it has a major drawback. The feature activates far too often when I am moving my arms during everyday activities such as driving or cooking. To cut back on these accidental activations and save battery life, I have turned off the the wrist raise activation feature by opening Settings > General > Wrist Detection. By default the feature is turned on, but you can tap on the toggle to turn it off. The toggle should turn from green (as shown above) to black as an indicator that it is disabled.

Workout in Power Saving Mode

When working out for an extended period, you can minimize the impact of the Watch’s fitness tracking by turning on Power Saving Mode, which disables the heart rate sensor. The removal of the heart rate monitoring feature may reduce the accuracy of the calorie burn estimate, but it also will reduce the load on your Watch. Though heart monitoring is disabled, the Watch will still track your steps and receive other workout parameters from third-party apps. To enable Power Saving Mode, open the Apple Watch app on iPhone, tap My Watch, and then turn on Workout > Power Saving Mode.

Turn on Airplane Mode or Do Not Disturb

If you need to reduce power drain temporarily, you can turn on Airplane Mode, which disables all wireless features, but leaves non-wireless features enabled. You also can turn on Do Not Disturb, which silences all incoming calls and alerts. DND also prevents these notifications from lighting up the screen. I’ve used both successfully to extend my battery life while I am away from a power outlet and unable to charge my Watch.


Turn off heart rate and fitness tracking

Heart rate monitoring and fitness tracking are two major features of the Apple Watch. They also are among the most power hungry. The heart monitor records your pulse every 10 minutes throughout the day, while the workout tracker will use all available sensors to monitor your vitals and calculate parameters such as distance traveled and calories burned. According to Apple’s estimates, the workout tracker potentially can reduce your battery life by two-thirds, dropping it from 18 hours under normal usage to 6.5 hours when tracking a lengthy workout such as a hike or a touring bike ride.

if you are using your Watch primarily as a productivity tool and not a fitness tracker, you can turn off those features to conserve power by opening the Watch app on your iPhone and then selecting Privacy > Motion & Fitness. In this section, you can use the toggle button to turn off the heart rate monitor, the fitness tracking feature or both. They are turned on by default as shown in the image above. When they are turned off, the toggles will change from green (on) to black (off).

Use Power Reserve in an emergency

Apple realized the Watch battery may reach a critically low level under some circumstances and has provided a Power Reserve feature for these situations. This mode turns off all Watch functions except the Clock, allowing you to consume as little battery as possible and still use the timekeeping functions of the Watch.

To enable Power Reserve, you simply swipe up on the watch face, swipe to the Power glance, tap Power Reserve, and then tap Proceed. You also can press the side button until you see the Power Reserve slider appear, and then drag it to the right to enter Power Reserve Mode. The Apple Watch also automatically enters Power Reserve mode if the percentage of battery charge remaining drops below 10 percent.

To exit Power Reserve and return to normal power mode, you can press and hold the side button for 5 seconds to restart the Apple Watch. Note that there must be sufficient charge left in the battery to resume normal operations.

Monitoring your Battery Performance

Apple also added some basic battery stats into its Watch settings that provide a glimpse into your charging habits and usage times. To access these stats, you must open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap My Watch, and then go to General > Usage. Here you can view the Usage and Standby values, which when added together provide the elapsed time since the last full charge of your Watch battery. You also can see the Power Reserve value, which estimates how long your Watch will last until its battery level drops to a critical level, and Power Reserve is enabled automatically.

If you want to learn more about the Apple Watch, you can view additional tutorials on our Apple Watch Tips and Tricks page and our Watch Help page. If you have an area you would like to see covered in this ongoing series of Watch tutorials or have discovered your own handy tips or tricks, please share them in the comments.

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