The battery life on an Apple Watch seems crazy short to me. In previous electronic watches I’ve owned, I might have had to change the battery every few years. Newer watches can self charge on solar power. Why can’t Apple Watches keep charged using solar power?
This is my Watch today. It’s down to 29% at 11:30 am and sitting on the charger now while I have lunch. It was down to about 60% even before I went on my morning walk, which I did track with the standard Fitness app.
I’ve actually never bought an Apple Watch. In 2019 a friend in St. Louis was upgrading her Series 1 to a Series 4 and gave this to me as a present. It was still under monthly warranty (and still is!) when it failed a couple of years ago. Apple didn’t have any more Series 1s in stock, so they sent me a Series 2.
So while it’s an old model, the battery is only 2 years old. And it has never lasted a full day. Apple has done remote diagnostics several times and insists the battery is at normal capacity. Otherwise, presumably, they would exchange it again since it’s still under warranty.
It’s super inconvenient having to charge up in the middle of a day. So I was wondering:
Do the newer models last longer?
Are there alternatives to the Apple Watch that let me track move calories with the iPhone so I can record them in MyFitnessPal?
Apple has always claimed 18 hours of battery life from typical usage for Series and SE watches. The Ultra watches are rated for 36 hour battery life. I’ve owned two series watches and an Ultra - these seem accurate to me. (Many people report getting more, but it depends on how many workouts you do, how many calls you make, etc. - these drain the watch more quickly, because the watch is getting more frequent heart rate readings, GPS location readings, plus, of course, calls take more power.)
I tracked battery health on my Series 5 and it had 87% battery health after two years, which suggests about 15.5 hours on full charge. Again, this seems accurate; after two years, I needed to charge my watch while I showered and then for an hour before I went to bed. (I wear the watch while I sleep to track sleep.) I never ran out of battery during the day.
Honestly for me my watch tells me the time, shows me most notifications, and tracks workouts for me. I don’t really run third party apps on my watch. I don’t often travel around without my phone - I only use my watch alone without my phone when I do a workout in the rain. Otherwise my phone is always with me. The further away you are from your phone, the more battery will drain. The watch uses Bluetooth to communicate with your phone and the further away you are, the more power the watch needs to use to communicate with the phone. If you exceed BT range, the watch will try to use WiFi, which drains even more power than Bluetooth LE (and if you have a cellular plan and are away from both BT and WiFi, only then will it use cellular data, which uses even more power than WiFi.)
As for other devices, I’m sure that there are, but I don’t really follow the fitness device market other than the Apple Watch.
Interesting information. I can’t tell exactly what my battery health is because apparently there is no way of showing it on a Series 2. When Apple remotely tests my Watch I don’t know what kind of figures they see.
My Watch is not cellular. And I would say it’s almost always within BT range of my iPhone because I almost always have my iPhone in my shirt pocket.
I never wear it while sleeping. As a matter of fact, I look forward to taking it off in the evening after I’ve recorded my last “move calories” for the day.
I use it to see the time, check the current weather and rain forecasts, receive notifications, and to track walks twice a day. I do notice that the tracked walks drain the battery quickly. So if I’m going out and about for the day I never track a walk. Instead I just rely on the move calories and the steps recorded in the Health app on my iPhone. (I’m not clear how the Watch and iPhone communicate about Move calories and walked steps.)
I’ve tried on an Ultra before and it’s too big and heavy for me. If I ever get a Watch though I think it would be a larger face though.
I wonder why Apple can’t make it solar powered. Or body heat powered. Or a combination of charged, solar, and heat, or something like that. After all - how much power can a Watch consume?
Watches that are solar powered don’t generally have bright displays or a processor as powerful and doing as much work as an Apple Watch, communicate using BT radio or WiFi, etc. Plus I don’t know how they could put a solar sensor on an already fairly large watch that is all display - Apple would need to sacrifice a lot of display size to create something like the notch on an iPhone. The photo watch face would be impossible with an area set aside for a solar collector, or, if they could somehow put it under the display, it would make the watch thicker or reduce size of the battery. Also I just don’t think solar is efficient enough to provide adequate power to charge the battery. Perhaps I’m wrong.
I have a few mechanical and quartz standard analog watches that are all quite heavier than the Ultra. Compared with a plastic digital watch or the aluminum series or SE, sure, it’s heavier. But it’s really not that heavy. 61 grams, plus maybe another 10-20 for the watch band. It’s not like strapping a dumbbell to your wrist. But, in my opinion, it’s the only Apple Watch really with adequate battery life for its purpose, to be worn almost all day to collect fitness and health data on your behalf. At this point I hope that Apple spends more resources trying to make the watch’s processor more battery-efficient rather than balance power and efficiency and accept 18 hours as enough battery life for one full charge on the other watches. For most people perhaps it gets through a day, but really I think that it’s not enough.
How much power do you think an Apple watch draws? It’s probably closer to what your iPhone draws than to what a non-smart watch draws.
A typical mechanical watch gets 1-2 years on a 3v lithium battery. And a digital watch can run for 10 years or more on a battery. Because they draw very little current. So it’s not surprising that systems like Citizen’s EcoDrive can keep a rechargeable battery topped-up with a small solar cell.
But for something like an Apple Watch, it is very likely that any solar cell able to keep up with its power draw would be several times the size of the watch. So even if they could hide it beneath the face with some creative use of light pipes (as Citizen does), I doubt it would be able to eliminate the need for a charger (although it might extend its runtime by a meaningful amount).
In my experience (0 → 3 → 5 → 7) an Apple Watch battery lasts about 2 years before you have to find time during the day to put it on the charger to make it through a full day. I’ve always put my Apple Watch on the charger at the end of the day (not interested in sleep tracking) so it’s fully charged when I wake up. I replaced the 7 with an Ultra precisely because I’m hoping the battery will give me 4 years of full day (non-fitness) use instead of 2.
Garmin has several models of watches that have built in solar charging. (There are reviews of all of them at DC Rainmaker’s site.) I think there’s only one model, the least capable, the Instinct, where it’s actually possible to run the watch entirely on solar power. For all of the rest (and for the high end cycling GPS the Edge 540/840/1040 Solar models) solar power is just a gimmick that gives you a little more time before you have to connect it to real power. Garmin has a transparent solar cell that overlays the display, and a ring of more substantial solar cell around that. These device simply require too much energy to realistically run on solar power. The same is true of the Apple Watch, especially the AMOLED screen.
Have you tried rebooting your watch? When mine burns through battery at an unusual rate, rebooting always helps.
I’m not familiar with the Citizens one you mentioned. I’m going to check with a friend who went with a 3rd party watch to go with his iPhone, mostly because of battery life considerations. I’m going to find out what it can and cannot do.
I agree…wife and I have series 5 and just ordered series 9s. The new features are nice but not why we upgraded…the limiting factor was battery life for both of us and she (with the small size) has had always on turned off about a year.
Unlike the iPhone, Apple will only do a battery repair on a watch when the health is below 80 or if it fails diagnostics, and they don’t actually repair - they give you a like-new replacement. Even if maximum capacity is 80%, Apple will refuse to do battery service.
Apple will do it for $99 and we would be without for a week or so but at that point we decided the new features were worth it…that’s 25% of new and that seemed too much for keeping 4 year old tech around.
Even with a “new” battery, that’s a dreadfully old model. While your numbers show unusually poor battery life, it doesn’t surprise me that much. I’ve had several watches over the years (starting with the original) and battery life has steadily improved. The batteries have gotten bigger even as the watch stayed the same size.
I don’t recall you mentioning the battery’s health rating. Did you check that? I bet it’s lower than 80%.
My old Series 5 recently started not lasting a full day and when I checked, it was just under 80%. It lasted almost 4 years, though. Though I wasn’t needing a new watch, I traded it in for a 44mm Series 9 and I’m way impressed. The bigger watch is so much easier to read and the battery lasts forever. Right now it’s 4p and I’ve been wearing the watch since 9a and it’s only down to 88% charge. I haven’t done too much hiking since I got it, but I anticipate it won’t run out of power like my old one frequently did.
I recommend you bite the bullet and upgrade. (Check Apple’s clearance/refurb page if you don’t need the very latest model and want to save some dough.)
Unfortunately with the Series 2 there is no way to check the health rating percent. That apparently started with later versions. So all I can do is rely on Apple telling me that everything looks ok when they do a remote test.
I’m curious though. The monthly warranty which you can continue to keep is just $2.49/month. Isn’t it worth it to do that and get a new battery for free from Apple when battery health in a Series 5 falls below 80%?
I sort of would like a larger display though. It might be interesting to see what they have on the refurb page.
Oh, that’s weird! I guess that’s part of a newer OS and you’re stuck at the old version.
I never paid for extended warranty and I was way past the deadline for adding it later. I don’t remember it being that cheap, either. But I usually find upgrading the equipment brings new features and benefits and with a device that old, I’d probably choose to upgrade over just replacing the battery.
I thought I had the larger display. When I was checking in to Apple’s trade-in offer, I noticed it said I had the smaller watch. Then I remembered, when I got that watch Apple had shrunk the bezels so that the display area on the 40mm was as big as the old 44mm watch. So at the time I saved a few bucks and stayed with the 40mm and got a “bigger” screen.
This time I splurged on the 44m and I was shocked at how much better it is. I hadn’t bothered going to a store to see them in person. I just went for it sight unseen. It’s a little bigger on my wrist, but I got used to that in a few days. As my eyes have gotten worse with aging, I’d pretty much given up on reading texts on the watch. I just used it as a notification and would read texts on my phone. They were just too small on the watch. But on the 44m I can actually read them without eye strain. Even better, the main display is so big I can read the time from far away and all my complications are much easier to find and tap. Well worth the $300 in my opinion. (And saved me from spending $800 on an Ultra. )
I think the Apple Watch Series 1 runs watchOS 4 which was last updated in 2018. I recall it ran really slowly on my Series 0, and I upgraded to a Series 5 in 2019. The later watchOS might demand more power draw from the small (capacity) and ageing battery - a vicious cycle.
The Series 1 runs a dual-core processor and 512 MB of RAM on its SiP and has a bright, high-resolution display - which, in terms of power consumption, is more like a mini iPhone than a traditional digital watch like a G-Shock. (As an aside, G-Shock modules with Bluetooth functionality draws significantly more power than the non-Bluetooth ones from my experience.)
It seems that Apple is prioritising additional functionality than battery life in new models. The claimed 18-hour battery life is unchanged since Series 0 (and for the regular, non-Ultra models), IIRC. Nonetheless there are ways to increase the battery life, though probably not to the extent of lasting two full days comfortably: not using cellular connection (and instead relying on the phone’s connection), turn off notifications, etc.
The Series 2 is from before they generally increased the min and max sizes. There were two options: 38 and 42. The one I got from my friend is a 38 mm. I notice the Series 9 is 41 and 45 mm. I haven’t seen the Series 9 in a store but I did see the Series 8 and the larger size was, as you say, quite nice and visible.
I’m one of those aging people who are lucky that way in that in order to read something small up close I just need to remove my glasses.
But what was $300? The Series 9 Watch?! I didn’t realize it was that inexpensive.
If it truly lasted 18 hours - that’s as much as I’m awake all day (I don’t wear it while sleeping) so that might be good. Except during international travel. But I have this little portable charger I can connect to USB or USB-C outlets to charge in a situation like that.
Wow. If I take off my glasses I can’t even tell I have on a watch!
(I wear contacts 99% of the time and they’d be hard to remove just to read the watch.)
That was net after my $90 trade-in for my old watch.
(Another reason for upgrading regularly: if you wait too long, the old device is worthless as a trade. I probably should have traded mine in a year earlier and I would have gotten more for it. My ideal is to trade early enough to get about 50% of the new item’s price.)