Apple Watch to Finally Steal Battery-Saving Low Power Mode from iPhone

Apple Watch Battery Charger Credit: Framesira / Shutterstock
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The Apple Watch could become even more power-efficient when watchOS 9 arrives later this year, thanks to a new Low Power mode that Apple is reportedly working on.

Eking long life out of small batteries has long been a challenge for mobile devices, but it’s an even more serious problem for the Apple Watch. While charging a mobile phone regularly is simply a way of life, some folks still can’t wrap their head around the idea of a watch that needs to hit a charger every night.

After all, before the Apple Watch brought the world of smartwatches into mainstream consciousness, the most expensive watches went weeks or even months on a single charge. Even today, smart fitness watches by companies like Garmin measure their battery life in days, not hours.

So far, however, Apple hasn’t done much to improve battery life on its wearable. While the iPhone gets slightly better battery life each year, the Apple Watch Series 7 remains in the same category as its 2015-era ancestor: “up to 18 hours” on a single charge.

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Since Apple’s hands appear to be tied when it comes to improving battery life, it went in a different direction last year, adding fast charging support to the Series 7. In other words, the latest Apple Watch may not run any longer than any of the models that came before, but at least you’ll be able to juice it back up twice as fast.

Better Life Through Software

There’s still no indication that Apple will be able to do much about battery life in this year’s Series 8 – still, it may be trying a different tack instead by focusing on making the operating system more power-efficient.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, watchOS 9 could include a new low-power mode that will help save some battery life for when you need it.

Gurman doesn’t elaborate on precisely what form this will take. He compares it to the Power Reserve mode available on the Apple Watch from the very start but suggests that it will be something different from that.

For watchOS 9, Apple also is planning a new low-power mode that is designed to let its smartwatch run some apps and features without using as much battery life. Currently, Apple Watches in low-power mode — known on the device as Power Reserve — can only access the time.Mark Gurman

Power Reserve mode is more of a hardware or firmware feature, as it kicks in after the battery life has gotten so low that the primary watchOS operating system has shut down. By contrast, Low Power mode would likely be more akin to what’s offered on the iPhone — shutting down certain background activities to preserve battery life without interfering with the regular operation of the iPhone.

With the iPhone, Low Power Mode shuts down 5G on an iPhone 12, reduces the auto-lock time to 30 seconds, drops the Display Brightness, limits the display’s refresh rate to 60Hz on an iPhone 13, and tones down visual effects. Numerous background activities such as iCloud Photos, automatic downloads, and fetching email are also put on hold.

With the iPhone, Low Power Mode isn’t on by default; it has to be enabled manually, although you’ll be asked if you want to switch it on when your battery drops to 20 percent.

We don’t know whether Apple plans for this Apple Watch Low Power Mode to work similarly. Years ago, some rumors hinted that an “intelligent” low power mode would arrive in iOS 11. That never happened, at least not in any visible form, although it’s possible Apple did implement some of this under the hood.

An “intelligent” Low Power mode would undoubtedly be more useful on an Apple Watch, but even if it works as it does on the iPhone, it could be a big help in optimizing your battery life. Best of all, since this is a watchOS 9 feature, it likely won’t be dependent on the newest hardware; it could even breathe new life into older Apple Watch models.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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