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25 tips and tricks to improve Apple Watch battery life without compromising the experience

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:59PM EST
Apple Watch Battery Life: Tips and Tricks
Image: Apple Inc.

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If you’ve already purchased an Apple Watch or you’re considering one, you should know that battery life on the device can be much better than Apple’s own estimates. But that still might not be enough, as the device still needs to be charged on a daily basis – in fact, I think that the worst thing about the Watch is directly related to battery life.

However, there are ways to improve battery life on the Watch without compromising the user experience, so here’s my list of tips and tricks that should get the job done.

DON’T MISS: The absolute worst thing about the Apple Watch

First and foremost, you have to understand how the Watch works and how it consumes power in order to conserve it.

The Watch is constantly connected to the iPhone, via Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. Furthermore, the screen turns on either automatically when notifications come in, or manually when you press the Digital Crown or Power button. Each notification also has its own sound and taptic vibration.

So in order to get better battery life, you have to prevent the screen from turning on so frequently, and limit sounds and vibrations. You also have to make your Watch interactions as brief as possible. After all, you have a smartphone in your pocket for when you need to do things that take longer periods of time.

Using some of the following tricks, I currently have a 63% charge on my 42mm Apple Watch battery, and it has been 16 hours since its last full charge.

1) Watch face choice

Since the Apple Watch screen is an OLED display, so it conserves power when it shows black rather than other colors. That’s why the background of everything you do on the Watch is black. Because of this, you might be better off choosing an Apple Watch face that has very few elements, rather than one that’s more colorful.

This is the Simple watch face I currently use instead of the Mickey face you may have seen in other posts. It tells me the time and battery life status, which is all I need to see at a glance, and it turns on fewer pixels than Mikey.

To choose yours, turn on the Watch and Force Touch on the watch face (press continuously until you feel a taptic response and the watch face zooms out).

2) Get out of Notifications hell

You know all those Notifications you get on your iPhone all day long? They’ll be beamed to the Watch automatically after you first set it up. That means the device will turn on the display, vibrate and make a sound for many of them, and your battery life will suffer.

To fix this issue, not just for the battery’s sake but also for the sake of your sanity, go to the Apple Watch app on your smartphone. In there, go to the Notifications menu and start customizing which notifications are enabled.

3) Kill the sound

Okay, you don’t have to disable sound completely on your Watch, though that’s an option. Instead, simply go to the Apple Watch app, Sounds and Haptics, and then dial down the Alert volume.

A Mute option is also available in there, and it can be your friend while charging. When enabled, the Mute option will not silence alarms or timers when the device is charging.

4) Dial down the vibrations

The taptic engine is definitely one of the main features of the Watch, but you don’t have to have it turned on at maximum power to enjoy it. In the same menu mentioned above, you can also tweak the strength of the haptics. Unfortunately, there are only three settings including off, medium, and full strength. In order not to compromise on your experience, set it to medium.

Furthermore, you’ll want to leave the Prominent Haptic option turned off, so it doesn’t use more energy to deliver stronger vibrations.

5) Disable Wrist Raise

One of the cooler features of the Watch is that it can react to your wrists movements. Simply raise your wrist and it’ll show you either the time or recent activity, depending on your choice. But it’s also prone to accidental triggers.

To keep the screen off until you manually turn it on, head to the Settings app on the Watch, then to General, then to Activate on Wrist Raise, and turn the feature off.

6) Lower brightness

So far, we told the Watch to turn on less frequently, be quieter and vibrate at a lower strength. We’ll also want to make the screen dimmer, since brightness has a huge impact on battery life.

Just go to the Apple Watch app on iPhone, then to Brightness & Text Size, and choose the minimum setting.

It might be a good idea to make the text smaller as well, in order to try to limit the number of pixels that turn on when notifications come in, and to leave Bold Text off from the same setting.

7) Forget color, go Grayscale

Before I tell you how you do it, I’ll say this measure will ruin your Watch experience, as you don’t want a black and white screen on the smartwatch. So only use this tip if you’re in a pinch.

Enable Grayscale by going to Apple Watch on the iPhone, General and Accessibility. From there, you simply have to toggle Grayscale on.

8) Reduce motion and transparency

From the same menu mentioned at the previous step, you can turn on Reduce Motion and Reduce Transparency. In theory, by reducing these effects, you should enjoy better battery life since you’re putting less pressure on the device’s graphics processing power.

9) Power Reserve is your friend

Whenever you find yourself not using the Watch often, simply press firmly on the Power button on the Watch until you get the screen below.

To enable Power Reserve, simply slide the toggle to the right, just as you’d unlock the iPhone. And voila, the Watch will only show you the time.

10) Do not let the Watch disturb you at night

You obviously only want notifications to bother you during the day. To ensure you aren’t bugged while you’re sleeping, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up Glances.

The first screen in there will let you turn on Airplane Mode, enable Do Not Disturb or put the watch into Silent mode. Press the Do Not Disturb button (the one in the middle, which should be colored in Blue while on) and the device will stay silent according to the preset rules on the iPhone.

11) Enable Silent mode

Instead of going with Do Not Disturb in the menu above, you can enable Silent mode on the Watch at any time during the day, and you should save battery life in the process. You can also have both of them enabled at the same time.

12) Mirroring the iPhone is a good thing

When customizing your Watch experience using the Apple Watch app on the iPhone, you should always check the Mirror iPhone option, which will let you easily apply some of the same settings on both devices.

How is this useful for saving battery life? Well, with a simple tap on the iPhone or the Watch, you can enable Airplane mode on both devices, or set up Do Not Disturb. Both these actions can save you battery life when flying or during meetings and leisure time.

13) But don’t always mirror

For other settings, such as Messages notifications, you should set up a Custom pattern that involves either having Sound or Haptic feedback on. You don’t need both types of alerts for all notifications, do you?

Go to the Apple Watch app, then scroll down to Messages and choose Custom. In there, set up Alerts as you see fit. Furthermore, you should set them so they only show up once on the screen.

The same thing can be done with other apps, and especially Apple’s default apps that are sure to deliver plenty of notifications.

14) Never make calls with the Watch

By not using the calling feature on the Watch, you can save precious battery life, though it can be useful at times.

What you can do instead to save battery life while using the Phone app on the device is customize your Alerts in a manner similar to Messages.

Go to Apple Watch on the iPhone, then scroll down to Phone app and choose Custom. I turned off both Sound and Haptic for this one in the Alerts section, and left the Haptic on in the Ringtone section. Adapting those to your needs can save you even more battery life.

15) Bye bye, Siri

In many cases, using Siri on the Watch may not be needed, so you shouldn’t leave the Hey Siri always-on listening option enabled.

On the Watch go to the Settings app and then Siri to toggle the option off.

16) Forget about fitness if you’re not serious about fitness

Some of the Watch’s most important features are related to health and fitness. But not all users will be interested in them, which means they don’t need to track fitness or heart rate. These options can be turned off to further conserve battery life.

Go to the Apple Watch app on iPhone, scroll down to Privacy, tap Motion & Fitness and turn off Heart Rate and/or Fitness Tracking, depending on your needs.

One other way of using them is to toggle them back on only when you want to track your fitness activity. I personally keep them on at all times.

17) Deactivate Activity

Okay, you shouldn’t really deactivate it, just reduce the types of notifications that you receive so that it doesn’t waste battery life, especially if you’re an active person.

Go to Apple Watch on the iPhone, then Activity, and play with the toggles. You can choose to turn off Stand Reminders, Goal Completions, Achievements and Weekly Summary, and set Progress Update to either None or Every 8 hours, so that the app doesn’t bother you on the Watch.

Of course, Activity is one of the best apps of the Watch if you’re into sports and exercising, so turning everything off will compromise your experience.

18) Disable Heart Rate during Workouts

The Watch will measure your heart rate at increased frequency during Workout sessions. Of course, you can prevent that from happening by going to Apple Watch on iPhone, selecting Workout, and enabling Power Saving Mode.

Doing this, however, compromises the Watch experience for some users, since you won’t have your heart rate recorded as accurately during walks and runs, so your calorie burn numbers will be off.

19) Passcode protect the Watch, but do it the right way

If you need to protect the Watch with a Passcode, do it the right way. That means having the Unlock with iPhone setting turned on at all times (go to the Apple Watch iPhone app, and then Passcode).

This way, whenever the Watch is on your wrist, you won’t have to keep entering the Passcode as long as your iPhone is unlocked. As a result, your Watch screen won’t be on as long since you won’t have to enter the passcode every single time you turn the screen on.

Locked Apple Watch with blue lock indicator (left), and Enter Passcode Apple Watch screen (right)

20) Don’t play games on the Watch

I think this one is self-explanatory. Don’t. Play. Games.

Okay, you can play games on the device, but the longer you stare at the little display, the bigger the hit your battery will take.

21) Don’t use it to wake you up in the morning

Yes, having a wearable device wake you up is cool. But why have it vibrate and play a sound when you might have other ways of waking up in the morning, including an alarm on your iPhone?

Just go to the Alarms app on the Watch and turn off your alarms.

22) Turn on the battery indicator

You have two ways of seeing how much battery is left on the Watch. It shows up in Glances (swiping upwards from the bottom) or on the watch face.

Don’t look at battery level from Glances, as this requires you to keep the screen on for longer periods of time, as you look for the right Glance.

Power Reserve notification (left), Charging the Apple Watch (middle and right)

Instead, Force Touch the watch face, select your favorite one, and customize it. Using the Digital Crown button, add the battery indicator in one of the corners (see image above).

23) Turn off while charging

This should be a no-brainer for the Watch. Because you need to take it off your wrist, which means you don’t get to use it while it’s charging, it’ll be a good idea to also have it turned off, or at least in Power Reserve mode while it’s charging.

It can take up to three hours to reach a 100% charge, so why have it show notifications and alerts, which will make it take even longer to charge?

24) Remember the charging cable

No, not everyone around you will have a spare MagSafe inductive charger for your Watch. And if they do, it might already be in use. Make sure you bring it with you at all times. You can connect it to power adapters, external battery packs, a computer or a car charger to recharge your Watch.

25) Remember the iPhone 

No, I’m not saying you’d forget the iPhone at home while using your Watch. But remember that you can do some things on your phone instead of doing them on the Watch.

Also, in most cases, you can customize many aspects (Notifications, sounds, haptics, app behavior) directly from the Apple Watch app on your phone rather than turning on the Apple Watch and going to its built-in Settings app.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.