Some Cellular Apple Watch owners are complaining of battery life issues

Apple Watch Series 5
Apple Watch Series 5 (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple Watch Series 5 went on sale on September 20th.
  • Some owners are experiencing poor battery life.
  • The issue seems limited to GPS+Cellular watches.

Apple Watch Series 5 has been around for a little over a week and generally the response has been positive. But while the always-on display has been a big hit, battery life hasn't. At least for some people. Specifically, those who are wearing a GPS+Cellular model.

Backing up for a moment, here's the issue. Over the last week we've seen various people taking to Twitter to complain that they are experiencing poor battery life from their brand new Apple Watch. Some, like Marques "MKBHD" blamed the always-on display. And that's a reasonable assumption to make when you're comparing to an older Apple Watch.

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But we've seen people with a standard GPS Apple Watch Series 5 report no such issues – even with the always-on display active.

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In fact, the only people we've seen with battery life issues are using a GPS+Cellular model. And we've even heard of Apple Watch Series 4 models – again, GPS+Cellular – having the same problem. That would suggest that the problem isn't so much hardware, but software instead. Especially considering users report the problems persist even when they disable cellular altogether.

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Apple tested watchOS 6 alongside iOS 13 and all the other betas through the summer, but with far fewer people testing Apple Watch beta software it's possible bugs crept through. And if the problem is watchOS 6 then there's hope that a new update will rectify all of these battery issues. We've heard some reports that watchOS 6.1 beta 1 does indeed address battery life problems, so there is hope.

It's important to remember that it's expected that a cellular Apple Watch would drain its battery more quickly than a non-cellular one. That stands to reason, but some of the comparisons we've seen on Twitter go way beyond what we would expect. And like all good bugs, this one doesn't seem to be impacting everyone.

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Liss noted in a follow-up tweet that their Apple Watch Series 5 reaches the end of the day with "20-30% less" than a previous Apple Watch Series 3. To add insult to injury, the Series 5 also needed a charge at midday, too.

It's still early days for Apple Watch Series 5 and watchOS 6. All fingers point to the issue being the latter right now, and we'll be keeping our eyes peeled once the betas end and more people can test the update for themselves.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • I am having the same issues with my series 5 cellular watch. After I unpaired it and repaired it as a new watch the battery life was improved a bit. It still goes down about 6% per hour.
  • I have the same issue with my GPS only model. I gave it a week and still it uses about 30-35% more battery than my 4. I turned the AOD off and it now is the same as the 4.
  • My Series 5 GPS only 40mm Apple Watch used up battery far faster than my Series 4 GPS Apple Watch. In 12 hours the battery was only 18%. Normally Series 4 would still have about 35 to 40% after over 18 hours of use. After two days I turned off always on and battery life is a tad better than the Series 4. My nephew had a similar issue with his 44mm Series 5 GPS only Apple Watch.
  • Yep. Same exact issue. My 5 w cellular is about 25% worse battery life then my similar model in series 4. Hoping 6.1 fixes this!
  • My series 4 GPS + Cellular took a big hit to battery life since updating to Watch OS6. I turned off the noise level detection and changed my watch face to black and that seems to have helped some. I used to put my watch on the charger nightly at well over 50% left, and lately Im barely making it through an entire day without the watch complaining about battery.