Smartwatches can do so many neat, amazing, and thoroughly modern things, but they all lag behind traditional timepieces in one key regard: battery life. Even if you’re using your Android Wear watch for little more than telling the time and catching notifications, you’ll probably need to pop it on the charger every night.
But if you’re pushing it hard every day with apps and search queries, maybe you’re cutting it close on that “all-day” battery life. Or maybe you just want more than a waking day per charge, and want to try and stretch it well into a second day. Whatever the case, here are some quick tweaks you can make to extend your Android Wear watch’s uptime between charges.
A bright idea
Just like on your phone, a very bright watch screen can eat away at your battery life. Finding an ideal middle ground is key—one that keeps the screen bright enough to view as needed, but not so overly illuminated that you’re wasting precious charge. Dropping a brightness level or two probably won’t bring a hugely noticeable change to your battery life.
However, if you go from the top-end 5 or 6 setting (depending on watch) to, say, a 2, then you might pull a couple hours more each day. Every bit counts. And if you keep it on a lower setting, you can always tap the Brightness boost for a temporary enhancement, which is especially handy outside.
Some watches have an Auto-brightness setting, which you should generally leave enabled.
Having the Always-on or Ambient screen enabled is ideal, since it means the time is always visible without twisting your wrist or tapping the display. Sadly, it’s a dramatic battery drain: in my day-to-day testing, I found that my LG G Watch lasted about a half-day longer simply by turning off that feature. Watches with bigger batteries could see even more of a benefit.
So if battery life is your chief concern, turn it off: it’s one of the first options listed in the settings menu on your watch. It means you’ll wear a blank face on your watch most of the time, unfortunately, but the battery benefits are significant.
Getting notifications on your wrist is one of the biggest perks of wearing a smartwatch, but if you don’t limit and filter out unnecessary or minor ones, it can also be a real nuisance. Even worse, all those pings to your watch will waste battery life as you keep glancing at the small screen.
It’s an easy fix: from the Android Wear app on your phone, you can block all notifications from certain apps. Games and other occasional-use apps are ideal ones to block on your wrist, although social media alerts can feel overly abundant as well. If blocking an app’s watch notifications makes you more focused and productive, then it’ll probably help boost battery life too.
Your results will vary based on how many notifications you’re starting with, but you might add minutes or potentially an hour or two between charges.
Tilting to wake your watch screen is a handy feature, since it means the display doesn’t always have to be on full blast—or on at all—when you’re not looking at it. The downside is that your watch is sure to accidentally wake over and over again throughout the day as you move your arms and body.
All that wasted illumination will chip away at your battery life, so consider turning off the Tilt to wake screen option in the Android Wear app. If you keep the Always-on or Ambient screen engaged, then you can probably live without tilt: just tap the screen whenever you need it to fully illuminate.
If you don’t mind “going quiet” on your wrist for a bit, you can minimize alerts or turn off communications entirely, which can save a lot of juice depending on mode and time used. Priority Mode is your first line of defense: only whitelisted notifications come through, so you won’t get every email, text, or Twitter ping. Or you can turn off all notifications, alarms included.
Theater mode is the next step up: it’s meant to be used at a movie or performance, and the watch won’t engage your screen at all until you turn it back on. If you don’t plan to glance at your screen for a good while, kick on this mode and save some power. It’s not only good etiquette in a social gathering, but will also cut down on energy consumption.
Lastly, if you want to turn your smartwatch “dumb” for a while, engage Airplane Mode from the settings. That will cut all communications, which means no alerts or web usage from apps, but your watch will still tell time. Better yet, it’ll do so while using less battery life than normal. It’s a drastic move, but if you don’t need the extra capabilities on your wrist for a spell, you might as well save the battery life for when you might need it before your next charge.