Why I won’t be upgrading to the latest Apple Watch

When I use my Apple Watch to its full potential – listening to audiobooks, tracking my heart while training, receiving calls, and keeping an always-on display, its battery drains way too fast. Is there a way to actually enjoy it without constantly worrying about running out of juice?

Tuesday was the most intensive day of the week for me. After dropping my daughter at daycare, I had a nice 20-minute walk to the office. I was walking more slowly than usual so I could finish another chapter of Stephen Kings’ Fairy Tale. Audiobooks make me anticipate my little journey to work.

In the middle of the day, I engaged in several intense table football matches with my colleagues, causing my heart rate to increase.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening, I took a long detour on my way home, visiting the gym for some boxing training. I was at the end of the workout when my Apple Watch chimed in with the dreaded low battery notification. Would that mean that I’ll have to go all the way home without a book in my ears?

I found a quick workaround for the time being – turned on battery save mode and listened to the Fairy Tale on my iPhone. But while I was looking for a good enough reason to upgrade my Apple Watch 6 to Ultra, I instead found a reason not to invest in smartwatches at all anymore – the short battery life.

I turned to experts, hoping that there might be some secrets I hadn’t yet discovered on how to fully enjoy the shiny gadget. But there’s no silver lining, I learned after going through dozens of responses. You can’t enjoy it too much, it seems. However, if you build a habit of caring for the battery, the issue could become somewhat less annoying.

Is it worth the price?

I bought my Apple Watch 6 three years ago. Honestly, there’s no need to upgrade – I get somewhat exciting new features with iOS updates, and the surface hasn’t even scratched despite me being really clumsy and hitting things with it all the time.

However, there’s one big downside of the watch, and the reason I’ve been looking to upgrade. I am an active Apple Watch user – in the morning, I check the weather forecast and my sleep tracker data, I record all my walks during the day, I listen to Audible, I play music on it when I run, I record boxing and yoga workouts, I use Apple Pay, timers, and I answer calls, among other things.

No wonder my battery drains fast. Given that the watch is three years old, it still lasts for nearly 14 hours, which is relatively good. Still, on a more active day, I’m forced to turn off my always-on display, and I have to opt out of listening to audio via my watch, and many other things. It’s kind of ok. But an Apple Watch with an e-SIM is capable of fully replacing your phone – you should be able to leave the phone at home. But that’s not the case.

So, my watch annoys me but still pretty much gets me through my day. Would an upgrade mean a better experience for me?

The newly released Apple Watch 9, starting at $399, is said to have a two times brighter display. That’s not gonna save your battery, I think to myself. And guess what, the battery still holds up to 18 hours. 36, if on low power mode. It’s said to be fast charging, and that intrigues me. Considering its features, not much of an upgrade for me.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 seems to be quite a different bargain. It does stand out because it's better suited for extreme sports, has a bigger display, and, what I’ve been looking for – double the battery life. 36-72 hours! It charges fast, too, which doesn’t seem to be a super-exciting feature. It still needs at least an hour to charge, and, because its battery is bigger, it charges longer than its predecessors, too.

But the biggest downside is its price – the Apple Watch Ultra 2 starts at $799. For me, residing in Europe, that actually translates into €900. Not something that I’m considering, given the only upgrade I need at the moment is a longer battery life.

The experts’ verdict

One of the most frustrating pieces of advice I got from dozens of experts is to dim the screen. Now, with my screen off, I can look at it all I want – but it won’t tell me the time if I don’t rotate my wrist. Second of all, the variety of watch faces seems like a good way to express your personality and match your watch to your outfit and mood. That’s also out of the window, too.

“Chasing battery perfection is a bit elusive. Our technological demands are always evolving. By the time batteries meet our current expectations, we'll have set new ones,” Tony Nelson from Game Boy World said.

Nelson has tried different smartwatches. “I once tested the Huawei GT2, which boasted a battery life of 12-14 days. It was impressive, but it lacked seamless integration with my iPhone. This experience showed me that while some brands excel in battery life, they might fall short in other areas.”

Tech companies are facing a difficult challenge. Devices are power-hungry to meet our ever increasing demands. At the same time, we’re looking for sleek and compact gadgets, limiting the scope for battery size.

“Balancing consumer expectations for portability and endurance drives the need for innovations in both battery technology and energy-efficient software to tackle this issue,” Nathan Clark, Co-Founder of Gate2AI, said.

Current battery technology mostly relies on lithium-ion batteries. The more energy it stores, the longer it can power your device without a recharge. However, Jonathan Svensson Co-Founder & CEO of the gaming platform Duoo, listed a couple of reasons why we’re facing a bottleneck of limited battery capacity:

  • Energy density: Lithium-ion batteries have a high energy density, but there's a limit to how much energy can be packed into a given volume without causing safety issues.
  • Lifecycle: Each charge and discharge cycle causes a small amount of damage to the battery's components, reducing its overall lifespan.
  • Safety: Increasing the energy density of a battery can lead to overheating and potential failure, posing safety risks.

How to save your battery

Experts listed a variety of habits that can help stretch your devices’ battery life. Here are some of the more common ones:

  • Reduce screen brightness
  • Turn off the always-in display
  • Limit the notifications you get to your smartwatch
  • Disable background processes you think are unnecessary, such as heart rate monitoring
  • Update your watch regularly. Software updates might improve your battery life in some cases
  • Turn on plane mode when the battery is low to disconnect it from the power-draining connections
  • Use theater mode
  • Turn off the apps running in the background regularly
  • Toggle your GPS as it's one of the biggest battery consumers
  • Recharge your battery throughout the day when you are only moderately active – like attending an online meeting or crafting an article

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