How To Get Five Days Out Of Your Smartwatch's Battery

We usually have the luxury of regular charging for our electronic devices, which means that atrocious battery life isn't necessarily a terrible thing for super-thin phones, tablets and smartwatches. But there are some times when you need to eke the utmost from your device, making a series of small changes that may not add up to much individually, but together make for a pretty massive difference. Here are a few tips for getting the absolute most from your smartwatch.

Here's The Ambitious Goal

In the middle of last week, I headed to Singapore for four days. I was away from 7:30AM Wednesday morning until 7:30AM Saturday. As something to do while I was waiting for planes and taxis and press conferences to start, I gave myself a bit of an optimistic goal — could I make my LG G Watch smartwatch last for that entire 96-hour period on a single charge?

I'm not usually especially careful with the battery of my LG G Watch, because it usually sits on the sticky-backed charger next to my bed overnight — as long as it lasts from 7:30AM in the morning until 9 or 10PM that same evening, I don't really care. Because of that, I usually have the screen set to always-on, brightness at its maximum and don't bother with muting notifications unless I'm in the middle of writing or a meeting.

To make the G Watch last for the entire length of my short overseas trip, though, I had to exercise a little more care than usual.

(And of course, I should note that this wasn't exactly necessary. My hotel room was chock-full of those brilliant multi-plug international power connectors, and it even had a couple of USB ports specifically for charging mobile devices. The G Watch's charger is no larger than the smartwatch's own 47x38x10mm dimensions, too, and it uses a standard microUSB connector — even travelling with just hand luggage it wouldn't have been hard to fit in. I just wanted to see if I could do it.)

Mute Notifications When You Don't Want Them

For (relatively short) periods of time like the ride to the airport, I wanted notifications, so I could preserve the battery life of my massive 6-inch-screened Huawei Ascend Mate7 by keeping it switched off in my pocket. (I was also bleary-eyed and didn't exactly want to deal with the usual morning deluge of emails just yet.) Once I was at the airport, though, and had my phone in hand to start working, I muted the G Watch's notifications to save its battery.

This feels like the biggest thing you can do to extend your smartwatch's battery life. That Bluetooth ping, the lighting-up of the LCD screen, the buzz of the vibration motor — each time that happens you can feel those precious electrons draining away. If you get a lot of notifications it can actually also get pretty annoying. But more than anything, it's just unnecessary to get that notification on your watch if your phone is already displaying it in front of you.

Turn The Brightness Down When You Don't Need It

When you are getting notifications, the watch's screen lights up, as you'd expect it to, to show you the card for whatever that notification is. The G Watch has six levels of brightness, and unless you're literally out in the daylight and standing around with the sun blazing away overhead, you really don't need those top two brightness levels. For the vast majority of my trip, I had the screen's brightness set to the third increment, and when I was sitting in a dimly lit press conference even the lowest setting was more than adequate.

This is one of those smaller but still important changes that can transform your Android Wear smartwatch's battery life from good to great. It's not exactly mandatory, but it's probably the difference between four and a half and five days. The G Watch consumes the most power when the screen is on and displaying notifications, and if you can lower the power usage even a little bit during those battery-intensive sessions, you're doing well.

Turn Off The 'Always-On' Screen Mode

This is the big one. Without the G Watch displaying the time all the time — yes, I know, that's why it's called a watch, it tells the time — the battery life jumps massively. This, more than anything else, is responsible for the G Watch getting four or five days of battery life. It certainly makes the watch less powerful as a horological device, but you have to make some sacrifices to maximise your smartwatch's battery, at least until battery or LCD screen tech improves significantly.

You can still tell the time with the LG G Watch, and any other Android device, perfectly easily by lifting it to a vertical orientation — like when you twist your wrist to look at the watch face — or by giving the touchscreen a quick tap. My practice was — especially when I was sitting in traffic back to the airport and about to miss my homeward-bound flight's check-in windows — to tap the screen, check the time, and cover the screen again quickly.

Cover The Screen To Dim Notifications Once You've Read Them

If you do want to receive notifications, then it's a good idea to get to them quickly, read them, and swipe them away. Unfortunately, Android Wear doesn't give you very much granular control over how and when notifications appear, so exercising a bit of care can — as I experienced — massively improve the battery life of your watch.

When the watch buzzes, you have two choices. Quickly glance at the notification, tap the screen to read it in more detail, and swipe away straight away, or come back to it later. Either way, when it's done with, covering the watch's screen with your hand tells it you're done — to dim the screen in always-on mode or to shut it off completely if otherwise. This way, you don't use unnecessary power lighting up the screen when you aren't looking directly at the watch, and that's the important part.

Power It Off When You Don't Need It

For the eight-hour flight from Sydney to Singapore and the seven-hour flight back, I tapped and swiped my way through the G Watch's menus to the not-easily-found "Power Off" setting. With my phone in flight mode, the G Watch wouldn't be receiving any notifications, but even with the screen off it still uses a tiny bit of power ticking over in the background — and I figured I needed everything I could get.

With the watch powered off, it wouldn't be using any power until I switched it back on. By the way, switching it back on is actually pretty annoying, since the G Watch's only button is a little recessed thing near the charging pins on the watch's base that needs a paperclip or the tip of a pen to press it (like the convenient one in my Bellroy Passport Sleeve).

Here's How It Went

It was a breeze, actually. I only gave this a bit of forward thought and planning before I got the watch off its charger on Wednesday morning, but as the picture at the top of the story can attest to, I got back home bright and early on Saturday — slightly over 96 hours after I'd left — just as the G Watch trumpeted its last 15 per cent of battery life.

In the end, I didn't bother to power off the watch on the flight back to Sydney, so that's another 8 or so hours that could be added on. I didn't mute the watch when I was waiting in Changi Airport, either, so that's a little bit of wasted energy there too. I checked the time a lot when I was worried that I'd miss my flight back to Australia, probably more than I needed to.

By my calculations, I could have just reached through to Sunday morning, if I needed to, with the same procedure of muting the watch when I didn't need it and keeping that always-on setting switched off. Five days from a little 400mAh battery is a pretty impressive achievement. Of course, it's not a patch on what any real watch can do, but when you remember that the G Watch has the same 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and other computing hardware as a 10-inch G Pad tablet, that's pretty cool.

As it stands, I'm back in the office now, the G Watch's screen is back to always-on, brightness is back to that blindingly luminant maximum, and I'm not bothering to mute notifications. For those crucial 96 hours overseas, though, it worked a treat.

Do you have any other tips for getting the most out of your smartwatch's battery? Feel free to chime in with a comment below.


Comments

    Or you could get a Pebble. :)

      Came here to say this. I easily get 5 days out of my Pebble, all I have done is turn off the auto backlight and I switch it off each night.

      Yep. I don't understand the fascination with these smart watches with so many unnecessary features, and batteries that last a day or two using them. My Pebble lasts a full week, receives notifications, controls my music, has a pokedex, and a wealth of other apps I could install; plus tasker integration.

      I just don't get it.

        You know what? If you love your Pebble, and it does everything you want it to, then that's just fine and dandy. But dismissing off the wave of newer Google Wear smartwatches is foolishly short-sighted and quite frankly, ignorant.

        The Pebble is undoubtedly a successful pioneer in this field and its success from such humble beginnings is remarkable. But it's very clearly a first-generation product that only a very small sub-set of the general population will ever interested in. The styling already looks dated, the greyscale e-ink screen will never be good enough for the vast majority of consumers, and the popularity of fitness features and the demand for highly-integrated ecosystems will ensure that the Pebble never sees any more than a niche market of geeks and enthusiasts.

        Smartwatches with a full-colour touchscreens, integrated ecosystems backed by the major OS manufacturers, like the Android Wear products and the much-feted Apple Watch, are quite obviously the way of the future. Just like mobile phones became feature-phones and then evolved into smartphones, the Pebble will slowly be left behind. If you can't see the vast potential of having a fully-fledged voice-controlled computer strapped to your wrist, coupled with the enormous possibilities of the cloud and thousands of developers harnessing its power, then you're sadly deluded.

        You may feel that your Pebble is perfect for your needs, and doesn't need any additional features. And that's fine - stick with it and enjoy it. But smartwatch development is really only just getting started, and in 2 years time the Pebble will look like an archaic relic of a bygone age.

          Pebble =/= Android Wear

          Two very separate ideologies.

      And get 7 days of use. But I've managed to get 8 days sometimes from my pebble.

      Pebble user here, 5-7 days is the norm :)

      That's a bit of an obsolete suggestion these days, so I counter it with: Or you could leave the pebble in history and use a Wear.

      The article is quite valid, turning off the always-on screen ups the battery life to a week trivially, and as soon as you look at your watch, the screen is on. Plain, simple, effective. You end up with the long battery life of the wear, PLUS all the advanced features that Pebble can't do.

      On top of that we get a colour, touch enabled screen which has the ability to deeply tie with our phones to display music, emails, camera images and a lot more - with a very simple to use interface.

      On my daily commute my phone now stays packed in my bag. With my watch I can select and change music, look where I am, trivially read emails and tweets, look up some information I need on Keep, answer calls and send texts.

      But by all means, if you prefer older technology with fewer features, go for it.

      or turn it off when you don't use it :D

    Or just use your phone....

      Some work environments dictate that there is to be no use of mobiles at all

        Well you're not going to have fun with a smart watch either then that relies on a connection to a mobile phone to be 'smart'/

          The bluetooth connection on a smartwatch can easily work through walls, 10 or 20 metres away shouldn't be a problem.

            Exactly. Although my contract with my current employer was unceremoniously terminated last week, despite being at our busiest in years so while I don't have to worry about missing notifications, I have other worries

    When I'm on planes I put the LG G Watch into flight mode and find that works just as well.

    You shouldn't have bluetooth transmitting on a plane anyway, so it's either flight mode or turn it off completely (and i don't carry a paper clip or pin with me anywhere)

      Not really an issue any more.

      CASA Directive on Bluetooth and PEDS: http://www.casa.gov.au/scripts/nc.dll?WCMS:STANDARD::pc=PC_101302

      Plaintext article showing the same: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-26/qantas-and-virgin-customers-will-be-able-to-use-their-mobile-ph/5695862

        Yes WE know it's bull.... but refusing to follow the instructions of air crew could land you in serious trouble in many countries.

        OK sure you probably won't be spotted checking the time, but you might be approached if using bluetooth headphones to stream google play music from your watch.

    Connect it to a car battery and lug it around with you and you should get a year between charges.

    i got over 10 days from my pebble while on holidays with bluetooth off (i left my phone at home)

      So you have a digital watch with 10-day battery life? Truly ground-breaking :-)

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now