Our first day with the first-gen Apple Watch was disappointing, battery-wise. By 6.15pm our iPhone had run out of battery, and just half an hour later the Apple Watch gave up the ghost. Perhaps that day's use had been a little excessive - we'd been checking out the apps and messing around with settings - but it's not as if we'd run a marathon.
This poor experience was shared by many new Apple Watch owners. Apple said the device would offer an "all day battery life", which it defines as "90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use and a 30-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth, over the course of 18 hours". That first day we we managed just 11 hours.
As time went on we got better at managing our watch use, and the hardware got better too; the Series 3 was good for a solid two days of typical use when brand-new, and the Series 4 and 5 aren't far behind - provided you don't hammer the cellular feature too much. But even owners of these newer models are sure to be interested in ways to stretch that performance still further.
With this in mind, we present our top tips for saving battery life on the Apple Watch. For similar advice for your smartphone, take a look at our tips to get better iPhone battery life.
How long should the Apple Watch battery last?
Apple says that in general use the Apple Watch will last around 18 hours between charges. This figure was arrived at from tests in which an Apple Watch was paired with an iPhone and used for a variety of typical uses: 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use and a 30-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth.
Our experience suggests this might be about right for the original model, provided you don't go overboard with app use and notifications, but (despite Apple continuing to use the 18-hours figure) the Series 2 and Series 3 models were capable of a lot more. In tests, the Series 2 managed 54 hours (including two nights, and fairly light typical use), while the Series 3 lasted for 39 hours (including one night). The Series 4 and 5 should last somewhere between 24 and 36 hours, although this will vary depending on your usage habits.
Whatever your typical usage, you can expect to have to charge your Apple Watch overnight at least every other night, and every night if you use a first-gen or Series 1 model, or if you use the cellular function a lot.
If your device is doing significantly worse than the above figures (and is new - battery performance will degrade as it ages), it's worth looking into why, and trying to improve matters.
It's easy to see some simple battery stats for your watch. Swipe up from the bottom of its screen to access the Control Centre; top left of this you'll see the remaining battery power as a percentage. (Note that you can tap on this to blow it up to fullscreen size, and add a slider that activates the battery-saving Power Reserve mode.)
You can find out more details about your battery usage by turning to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Make sure you're in the My Watch tab (there's an icon at the bottom left), then go to General and scroll down and tap Usage.
Here (below a list of apps and the storage space they're taking up) you can see how many hours of usage your watch has been subject to since you last charged it - if you think that number looks higher than it should, chances are something is grabbing battery life while you aren't actually using the watch - and the total standby time since then as well.
Next, a warning: if you've got the cellular-enabled Apple Watch Series 3 or later, your device's battery performance will be heavily influenced by the extent to which you make use of the cellular feature.
One occasion, during review testing, we kept the Series 3 away from its iPhone for a morning, and in five hours it dropped 32 percentage points (55% to 23%); as a control, the Series 2 fell just 19% (from 38% to 19%) in the same period.
In other words, the first place to look if your Apple Watch is turning in subpar battery performance is your own cellular habits, which you may need to curb.
Best faces for battery life
Pick the most minimal watch face you can - the more black and the fewer animated graphical elements, the less power-hungry it will be. We stay well away from the pretty butterflies, cartoon character and kaleidoscope options, plumping instead for the X-Large clock face in purple - but the least detailed and colourful 'Simple' clock face would probably be the most battery-efficient option.
For details on how this is accomplished, take a look at our tutorial How to change watch faces on the Apple Watch.
Turn off Wrist Raise
Do you often raise your arm? Perhaps you drink a lot of tea, or when you talk you wave your arms around gesticulating. If that sounds like you, it might be wise to turn off Wake Screen on Wrist Raise, a feature that shows you the time and your alerts when it senses movement.
Open the Watch app on your iPhone. From the My Watch tab, tap General > Wake Screen, then tap the slider at the top. It's a drastic decision: you will find that some activity measurements won't be available, and your watch may not lock or unlock automatically. So play around for a bit and make sure this is the best option for you.
Alternatively, you can turn this feature off on the Apple Watch itself. Tap the Settings icon > General > Wake Screen, then tap the slider next to Wake Screen on Wrist Raise.
Now if you wish to activate the watch screen you will have to tap it.
If you've got the Apple Watch Series 5, you should think carefully about whether you want to make use of the device's always-on display.
Personally we'd be inclined to keep it. Partly because Apple has done a great job in creating simplified versions of its watch faces that consume less power, and partly because the always-on display is the main upgrade added for this generation, and it'd be a shame to buy a costly new product and not use its coolest feature.
Still, reverting to 'raise to wake' or 'tap to wake' should extend battery life a little, and is therefore worth bearing in mind if you're desperate. To do so, go to Settings on the watch and tap Display & Brightness > Always On.
You can use certain accessibility features to improve the battery life of your Apple Watch.
In the Apple Watch app go to General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion and turn on Reduce Motion. This will limit animation and automatic resizing of the Apple Watch user interface on the Home screen when you open and close apps.
Another way to preserve a little bit of power is to stop your Apple Watch beeping when you receive notifications.
Go to the Apple Watch app on your phone, choose Sounds & Haptics and tap the Silent Mode toggle below Alert Volume. Alarms and timers won't be muted, note, provided that the watch is on the charger at the time.
Digital Touch and battery life
Another way to avoid an excessive amount of haptic notifications is not to get caught up in a Digital Touch interaction with another Watch user.
We were tapping away and sending drawings and heartbeats like mad, and both we and the recipient noticed that battery life seemed to suffer.
Turn off notifications
Just as with your iPhone, don't sign up for every notification going if you want to save battery life.
In order to receive and alert you of notifications on your Apple Watch, the device has to be in almost constant communication with your phone - a power-draining business. So be choosy about what you actually need to be notified of.
Use the Apple Watch app on your phone to turn off any notifications you don't need. Go to Notifications and go through each of the apps listed that can send notifications to your watch and adjust the settings, or simply switch them off. We look at this in more detail in How to stop Apple Watch notifications.
Of all the apps, there is one whose notifications you should pay particular attention to: Mail. If left to their own devices these will kill your battery, because the watch will be constantly pinging the iPhone to see if you have any emails.
One option is to fine-tune your notifications so you're alerted only if one of your VIPs (set up in Mail) emails you. In the Watch app on iPhone, go to Notifications > Mail, then tap Custom, and set Show Alerts to on. Make sure everything is set to Off except for VIPs at the bottom.
But for the best battery life, we recommend turning Mail alerts off completely.
Turn off Activity-related notifications
You could also switch off some or all of the notifications for the Activity app.
For example, you can switch off Stand Reminders, so that your watch doesn't remind you every hour to stand up, although we can't imagine this is particularly battery-intensive. There are also alerts for goal completions (your own, and those of your friends), special challenges and personalised coaching tips that can be disabled.
Workout Power Saving Mode
While you can't turn off Activity monitoring as such (only the notifications), you can turn on a Power Saving Mode for the Workout app that makes the Apple Watch conserve battery life by disabling the heartrate sensor during walking and running workouts.
If you do this the calorie burn calculations won't be accurate, though.
To switch on Power Saving Mode, go to the Watch app, scroll down to Workout, and tap the toggle for Power Saving Mode.
How to force-quit apps
If you suspect an app is using too much power, you can force-quit it. Force-quitting an app is not as obvious as it is on the iPhone, however.
To quit a watch app, open the app, hold down the side button until you see the power off message, then let go of the side button and now press and hold the Digital Crown dial until you return to the home screen.
Turn off Maps routes
Once you've planned a route in Maps, make sure you stop directions when you're finished with the route plan.
To do so, do a hard press on the Maps app and tap on the cross labelled End.
How to remove apps from Apple Watch
Another tip is to get rid of apps on your Apple Watch that you don't need.
Apple says that there were 3,500 apps available for the Apple Watch at launch, and there are far more now; but we certainly don't recommend that you install all of them. This is because each app will be moving info between your iPhone and Apple Watch. Be choosy.
You can only remove third-party apps, however. If you want to remove apps from your Apple Watch go to the Watch app on your iPhone, scroll down to the app you wish to remove, and toggle Show App on Apple Watch to off.
Get more power
What about those desperate times when you really need to squeeze the last bit of power out of the battery?
There are various last-minute tweaks to extend the battery in the watch a little further.
How to turn on Greyscale viewing mode
If you're really desperate to stretch out battery power open the Watch app on the iPhone and go to General > Accessibility. Turn on Greyscale and remove any colour (and a certain amount of battery drain) from your life.
Do Not Disturb & Airplane Mode
Turn on Do Not Disturb to prevent Notifications causing your watch to light up, tap your wrist, or beep at you. The simplest way to turn on Do Not Disturb is to swipe up on the Clock Face to open Control Centre, then tap on the crescent moon icon.
You can also activate Airplane Mode from the Control Centre - it's the little plane icon, of course. This mode means that any communication between your Watch and iPhone will be barred.
Apple Watch and Bluetooth
When it comes to saving power you may be inclined to turn off Bluetooth. But think carefully about taking this step.
Bluetooth is required for your Apple Watch and iPhone to communicate, and without it the watch will not offer much in the way of functionality. For example, you won't be able to load up your latest emails and you won't receive any text or call alerts.
If you need any more convincing, Apple actually states that in order to maximise battery life on the watch you should keep Bluetooth enabled on the iPhone as it enables "more efficient communications".
Turn on Power Reserve Mode
Your final port of call is to turn on Power Reserve Mode.
To do so, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up Control Centre, and tap the battery percentage figure at the top left. Now swipe across the Power Reserve slider.
From this point on your watch will only work as a clock. When you want to go back to using the Apple Watch normally, hold down the side button until you see the Apple logo.
The Apple Watch will also give you the option to switch to Power Reserve Mode when it's close to running out of battery; Apple says you should get a couple of days of extra use by switching to this mode.