How I Got Four Days Out Of My Apple Watch Battery

I’m always paranoid about battery life. When I get down to 60 per cent battery on my smartphone I start to think of plugging my devices in. To help me get over my battery paranoia, and as a fun little experiment, I decided to live this week at Computex 2015 like I’d forgotten my Apple Watch charger. Here’s how you get four days out of Apple’s wearable instead of just one.

Deciding What You Want

Apple says that the Watch gives you an “all-day battery”:

Testing conducted by Apple in March 2015 using preproduction Apple Watch models and software, paired with an iPhone using preproduction software. All-day battery life is based on 18 hours with the following use: 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. Battery life varies by use, configuration and many other factors; actual results will vary.

And that’s true. Through our tests we’ve found that pushing the Watch brightness up, getting a load of notifications, working out with it and talking to Siri means that your juice is sapped within roughly 18 hours.

I’m in Taipei this week for Computex, and before I took on this hypermiling challenge I had hoped the Watch could give me everything from directions around town through to calendar reminders and world clock updates. I already use it every day when I’m in Australia to track my activity, help me message and call people on the go and control my notifications. It’s a handy gadget.

But when you’re on a mission to preserve your battery, you have to understand that you can’t have it all. If you turn everything on and use it like your charger is only a few hours away, you’ll be left with a dead gadget. So you have to make choices.

I decided that what I wanted from the Apple Watch this week in Taipei was to help me track my activity, tell the time in here and in Sydney, and give me only the notifications i needed while I was in my meetings.

So I tweaked my iPhone and my Apple Watch, and last night after almost exactly four days, my wearable was dead. Here’s how I did it.

Screen Brightness

This is a no brainer. You want a longer-lasting battery, you turn down your screen brightness.

The Apple Watch has three brightness settings, which we’ll call low, medium and high for argument’s sake.

I love a bright screen, so I normally run it on high. Switching it down to low meant that it wasn’t as visible in the daylight as it might have been on high, but it’s still usable.

Wrist Detection

One of the niftier features of the Apple Watch is Wrist Detection: a feature that turns on the screen when the accelerometer comes to a sudden stop. It tells the Watch that you’ve raised your wrist to look at it.

Wrist Detection is great, but it’s not perfect. It means that the Watch quite often turns itself on when you’re not looking at it. That’s going to sap your juice fast, so you’ll want to turn that off if you’re looking to hypermile.

Power Reserve

When you hold the power button down on the Apple Watch, you’re given two options: Power Off or Power Reserve.

Power Off does what it says on the tin, but Power Reserve is a little different. It shuts down everything except a green 24-hour clock face that activates itself whenever you tap the power button once.

You’ll be able to see just the time for up to 72 hours. That time was calculated based on checking the time for four seconds every hour.

I found Power Reserve particularly helpful when sitting in places I knew I wouldn’t use my Watch at all, but still wanted it to act as a timepiece. For example, I’m not about to be rude to an interviewee by looking at my Watch every time it buzzes, but I still want to know how long I have left before we have to wrap it up. Power Reserve was perfect for that.

It’s also perfect for when I was sitting down at a meal and using my phone as I ate. My Watch wasn’t going to do a damn thing in that scenario but sit on my wrist and suck its own juice, so I flicked it into Power Reserve mode and fired it up when I got moving again.

I timed how long it took to boot back into the fully-fledged Watch OS from Power Reserve, and the longest it took was 46 seconds. The shortest it took was 31 seconds, so it’s not like you’ll have to wait an age to get it going again from Power Reserve.

Power Off

Let’s be honest, when you’re sleeping, you don’t need the Apple Watch. Sure, it has an alarm function, but so does your iPhone. Turn that on and leave the Watch powered off overnight to save juice. Power Reserve doesn’t use a whole lot of battery, but it adds up over a few nights.

The same goes for when you’re on a plane, by the way: if you’re not doing anything with your phone, you won’t be doing anything meaningful with your Watch other than waste the battery.

Adjust Notifications

If you’re hypermiling, you don’t want your Watch doing things it doesn’t have to do. You only want it to give you the bare essentials.

By going into the Notifications panes on your iPhone settings and Apple Watch settings app, you can adjust what’s pushed to your wrist. I turned off a bunch of app notifications like eBay, Instagram, Snapchat and Skype, but left on essential apps.

I’m talking Hangouts and Facebook Messenger for keeping in touch with the team, Calendar for my next appointments, Mail for new messages and my alarms. Only the bare essentials.

Cut Down App Usage

Fundamentally, the apps on your Watch are just cut down versions of those living on your phone. Save yourself the battery you’d use on Watch and check the weather on your phone instead.

Ditch It For Your Workout

Tracking movement and steps on the Watch is done in two different ways. There’s the Activity app, which tracks basic steps and calories burned throughout the day, and then there’s the Workout app.

Workout is a little more battery intensive than Activity, simply because it fires up the heart rate tracker full-time so it can track your burn rate as you move, and it activates all of its sensors to gather the most amount of data.

It sucks not taking your shiny fitness gadget to the gym, but if you’re looking to save power, it’s counter-productive to activate the Workout app. You’re better just turning it off and leaving it in your room until you get back.

What are your favourite battery saving tips? Tell us in the comments!

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