What is going on with Apple Watch battery life?
My Series 8 struggles to get through a day with watchOS 10, and I have no clear answer why.
Today’s newsletter is focusing on an issue I’ve been having with my Apple Watch that won’t seem to go away: bad battery life.
When I upgraded my Series 3 to a Series 8 last year, I was delighted to find that the new hardware, combined with watchOS 9, could give me much longer stamina than what I was used to. I could end days with 40-50 percent in the tank, even after using it to track my sleep and 1.5 hours of workouts in the morning. It was a delightful experience, one that stretched well into 2023 as updates to watchOS 9 were shipped.
That all came crashing down when I installed the watchOS 10 beta. The slick new UI and Snoopy watch face were enough to draw me in, convincing me that yes, I should be running beta software on my Apple Watch. “After all, why not?” I thought to myself. “So many others do it. I should do it, too.”
So, I installed it, fully expecting to run into a few bugs and glitches as Apple continued to iron out the system ahead of its public release in the fall. I also heard from some early adopters of the beta that battery life had taken a hit, but that was to be expected, too. I’ve been a technology journalist for over eight years, so I’m no stranger to a device’s beta software reducing its battery life.
Here’s the strange part: the reduced battery life never went away. While I ran the watchOS 10 beta, my Series 8 would drop down to 10-20 percent at the end of the day, which is significantly less than what the stable version of watchOS 9 afforded me. And yet well after watchOS 10 exited beta stages and was stable enough to ship to the public, the software still drains my Apple Watch for no apparent reason.
I’ve done gobs of research on why this might be happening. I assumed it was a system-level problem that involved a complication or Apple’s new Smart Stack interface. I cleared anything that could be running in the background, including weather and news widgets. I disabled features like irregular heart rhythms, blood oxygen monitoring, and I even turned off my always-on display for a little while. Hell, I even uninstalled every third-party app just to see if it would make a difference.
And yet, nothing has worked. The watch continues to drain for reasons I can’t explain, and it’s driving me nuts.
Apple even admitted that watchOS 10 was being a battery hog. The company shipped watchOS 10.1.1 as an update specifically designed to fix the battery life issues users were having with their Apple Watches when paired to iPhones running iOS 17. And according to some users, it seemed to work. According to forums on the subject, users of the Series 7 and last year’s Apple Watch Ultra seem to have had their battery life fully restored, while others—including myself—were stuck with the same poor stamina as before.
For about 20 minutes, I considered resetting my Apple Watch to see if that would make a difference. I heard some people had to do that to clear out any junk left over from the transition to watchOS 10 and, in turn, their battery life was back to normal. But I guess I need to learn how to control my urges because instead of resetting it, I installed the watchOS 10.2 beta to see if it would make a difference.
Reader, it has not made a difference. If anything, it’s made battery life worse; I charge my watch to 100 percent before dozing off, then wake up seven hours later with 82 percent in the tank. From there, it drops to 15 percent before I go to bed. Yes, it technically lasts all day, but certainly not as long as it used to.
I’m going to wait until watchOS 10.2 ships to the public before resetting, but I honestly don’t know if it’ll work. I hope it does because otherwise, I’ll have no idea what’s wrong or how to fix it.
Oh, and before anyone asks, my Apple Watch’s battery health is at 91 percent. It’s not ideal for a watch just a year old, but it’s not low enough that I could blame all my issues on it.
So, what’s going on with battery life on the Apple Watch? Is it a fundamental system flaw, some bug with the health sensors, or is watchOS 10 simply more power-hungry than previous releases? I’m asking hypothetically, of course, but if someone at Apple is reading this, I’d love to know.
I’d love to hear from you, too. What’s your experience been like with battery life on your Apple Watch running watchOS 10? Is your watch still lasting all day and then some, or is it dying quicker than it used to? Drop me a line and let’s talk, I’d love to get to the bottom of this.