How to fix watchOS and Apple Watch battery life problems

How do you fix Apple Watch and watchOS battery life problems? Here are the top power-saving tips!

It's often the case that after updating to the latest version of watchOS, some Apple Watch users are claiming their battery life is terrific and others are saying it's terrible. That's not unusual. All of our devices are so complicated now that even small differences can result in big disparities in power and performance. If you're having problems (or just dealing with a sluggish Watch), here are some troubleshooting tips you can try!

Wait a while

Some updates are more than just pixel deep. They cause all sorts of system processes to run, keeping the processor and radios lit. So, whenever you update, wait a day or so before worrying about battery life. That way, re-indexing, data migration, re-downloads, and more can all finish, and you can get a better sense of what battery life is really like.

Watch your watch

New versions of watchOS typically come with new features, including new watch faces, new workout options, and new features like Theater Mode. If your Apple Watch screen stays lit up, and the radios stay broadcasting, it can give a false sense of battery drain.

So, before you do anything else, note how much battery life you have left. Then put your Apple Watch down for an hour or so. When you pick it back up, note how much battery life you have left again. If there isn't a big change while in standby, you're probably okay, and your battery life will return to normal when your usage returns to normal (after the novelty wears off).

Reboot

Yes, it sounds like something right out of the stone ages of troubleshooting but sometimes a good reboot is all that's needed to kick loose the bad bits.

  1. Press and hold down both the digital crown and the side button at the same time.
  2. Keep them held down until you see an Apple logo.
  3. Let go.

Re-pair

The single biggest cause of battery life problems with iOS devices occurs when they are updated and something gets glitchy. Whether it's cruft or corruption, bad bits or rouge processes, un-pairing and re-pairing can often knock everything back into place.

  1. Launch the Watch app from your Home screen.
  2. Tap on your Apple Watch at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap the information button (looks like an "i" with a circle around it)
  4. Tap Unpair Apple Watch.
  5. Tap Unpair [Your] Apple Watch to confirm.

You can also un-pair right on the Apple Watch:

  1. Press the Digital Crown to switch to the app launcher.
  2. Tap on the Settings app.
  3. Tap on General
  4. Tap on Reset all the way at the bottom.
  5. Tap on Erase all contents and settings.
  6. Enter your Passcode to confirm.

Set up as new

A clean install — pain in the butt though it may be — can sometimes be the only cure. Yes, it's the nuclear option. You will have to set up absolutely everything again, but since a lot of data will still sync back from your iPhone, it won't be a total loss.

  1. Launch the Watch app from your Home screen.
  2. Tap on your Apple Watch at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap the information button (looks like an "i" with a circle around it)
  4. Tap Unpair Apple Watch.
  5. Tap Unpair [Your] Apple Watch to confirm.

You can also un-pair right on the Apple Watch:

  1. Press the Digital Crown to switch to the app launcher.
  2. Tap on the Settings app.
  3. Tap on General
  4. Tap on Reset all the way at the bottom.
  5. Tap on Erase all contents and settings.
  6. Enter your Passcode to confirm.

Once it's done, start the set up but don't restore from back up. Set it up as a new Watch.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

Yes, you need to reboot because the Apple Watch literally shuts off everything but the time to save power.

Bonus tips

If you just need to get a little more power out of your Apple Watch between charges, there are a few things you can do to eke out as much as possible.

  • Turn off Activate on Wrist Raise in the settings on the watch so the screen only lights up when you tap it.
  • 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.

Contact Apple

Sometimes hardware or software picks update time to fail. If that's the case and you live close to an Apple retail store, you can make an appointment at your local Genius Bar. Otherwise, there are several ways to contact Apple for more help:

How to contact AppleCare for support

More help!

If you're really desperate, put your Apple Watch into Low Power mode until you can get back to a charger. If you know of any other tips, leave them in the comments below!