Apple has done everything they can to maximize battery life on the Apple Watch. Now here’s what you can do!
The OLED display, the S1 computer-on-a-chip, the Watch OS software, Bluetooth Low Energy — it all works in tandem to ensure the Apple Watch is sipping power rather than sucking it. Yet battery life remains the single greatest constraint in mobile. It’s the currency you use to pay for every pixel and every bit. If you’re running low on power, and you have your charger close by, you can simply plug in and keep going. If you’re away from your charger, however, there are still a few things you can do to eke out a little more time. They’ll cost you some convenience and some fun, but they’ll keep you going for as long as possible.
Note: We don’t have generations of experience with Apple Watch battery life to base these suggestions on, like we do with iPhones and iPads. So please consider this a draft or a work in progress. As we spend more time with Apple Watch and collect more data, we’ll update with more and better tips!
1. Black is best
The Apple Watch is OLED (organic light emitting diode), not LCD (liquid crystal display) like the iPhone, so it’s not just on or off that matters — black pixels cost very little power and color pixels cost more. That means any time the screen is black with a few bits of high contrast text or graphics, power draw in minimized. (Note the primarily black interface!) So, to keep energy output to a minimum, don’t spend a ton of time on photos, big animated emoji, or apps that don’t follow the interface guidelines. Do what you need to do. Check what you need to check, then go back to your watch face. If you really need to browse Twitter or Instagram, you have an iPhone for that.
2. Pause unimportant push
Push Notifications not only light up the screen, they light up the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios as well. For anything that doesn’t urgently require your attention, launch the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, go to Notifications, and turn off anything you don’t really need. (I have Messages, VIP mail, Phone, Activity, Calendar, and a few messaging notifications on, and that’s it.)
And yes, Apple really needs to make VIP a system-level service. I don’t need everybody lighting up my watch, just the people in that group.
3. Boot unneeded apps
Apple does a lot to coalesce updates and deliver them on demand so the radios don’t transmit or receive any more than they have to. But if you don’t need an app moving information back and forth to your iPhone and using up power on both devices, get rid of it. Go to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, scroll down, and toggle off any apps you don’t need on your Apple Watch. If you haven’t used an app in a day or a week, it’s a good candidate to go. (They’re just as easy to add back if you ever find you need to.)
5. Quit when not legit
95%+ of the time you’ll never have to worry about apps going rogue on your Apple Watch. The extension system is really good. However, even great apps can have bad moments, so if you suspect an app is using too much power, force quit it. Just launch the app, hold down the Side button until you get the power off screen, then hold down the Side button again until it sends you back to the Home screen.
6. Minimize motion
I’m not sure if this makes a difference on the Apple Watch the way it does on the iPhone, but typically animation and compositing costs GPU cycles so, minimizing animation minimizes GPU cycles. If you want to give it a try, go to the Apple Watch app on iPhone, tap General, tap Accessibility, and turn Reduce Motion and Reduce Transparency to On.
It’s a cliche because it’s true. If something is going wrong and your battery is draining faster than you know it should, rebooting can clean things out and get you back on a proper power path. Just hold down both the Digital Crown and the Side button until the screen goes dark. Then let go and wait for your Apple Watch to reboot.
8. Power reserve mode
If everything is working as it should, but you’re away from your charger and just need to know the time for as long as possible, there’s Power Reserve mode. Hold down the Side button until the power off screen comes up, then slide Power Reserve. You’ll get a clock, and only a clock, until you hold down the Side button again to reboot. (And yeah, you need to reboot because the Apple Watch literally shuts off everything but the time to save power.)
9. Bonus tips
If you just need to get a little more power out of your Apple Watch between charges, there’s a few things you can do to eek out as much as possible. To access them, start at the watch face, swipe up to bring up the glances, and swipe all the way to the left to show the control widget.
- Turn on Do Not Disturb. That’ll prevent notifications from lighting up your watch, tapping and beeping at you, and most importantly, transferring data.
- Go into Airplane mode. This is an even more severe version of the above. You’ll still be able to do things like check the time, but absolutely no radio activity will occur.
8. Your best battery savers?
I typically only use these tricks when I’m traveling. In other words, when there’s no power, my iPhone has poor signal, or both. Otherwise I prefer to use my Apple Watch as much as I can and charge it as much as I need to. I do keep notifications and location to a minimum, because I consider my attention and position to be valuable, but otherwise I like using my devices.
If you have some great battery saving tips, however, I’d love to hear them. I could always use a few extra cycles at airports, conferences and more!
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