During last year's Melbourne Marathon, I discovered an annoying Apple Watch "feature". It ran out power before the end of my race. Now, I'm not the fastest runner out there but running out of battery after 40km pissed me off. So, when I approached my next big event, a 55km ultramarathon n the Victorian high country I was faced with a choice. Buy a "proper" running watch or find ways to extend my Apple Watch's battery life. I decided to see if I could get the Apple Watch to last the full duration of an arduous event crossing some super rugged terrain in an event with a 15 hour cut-off.
After running out of battery during the Melbourne Marathon, I did some further research and made a few calls with consensus reached that running cellular and GPS on an Apple Watch would give me about six hours of life. That gelled with my experience as the Series 5 unit I used clocked out after about eight hours from when I woke up till the 40km mark.
For the ultramarathon I participated in during February, I made a number of changes that resulted in the Apple Watch lasting a lot longer. Here's what i did.
1. Disable the 'Always On' display
Here's how you can disable the 'Always On' display mode for the Apple Watch:
- Open the Watch app on your iPhone
- Tap on Display & Brightness
- Turn off the "Always On" switch
You can do the same through the settings app on the watch by going to the display and brightness settings there.
I find that to be a little annoying and cumbersome. I prefer to enable "cinema mode" by swiping up on the Apple Watch display and tapping on the cinema mode icon to toggle it on or off.
2. Don't use cellular data unless you really need it
Cellular data is a really power drainer. If you keep your iPhone close by, there's no real need for Cellular Data to be enabled as all notifications and calls are referred to the Apple Watch via Bluetooth LE. That uses a lot less juice.
To toggle cellular data on and off, swipe up from your Apple Watch's main screen, tap on the cellular data icon and turn the function off and on as needed.
3. Disable notifications
In order for your iPhone or Apple Watch to receive a push notification, it needs to be listening for the incoming communications. And all that listening in takes energy.
Turn off notifications for any non-essential apps and services. Do you really need to know what your friends had for brunch?
From the settings app on the Apple Watch, you can toggle the do not disturb setting so you don't get notifications during specific times. But there's also an option to disable those alerts during a workout.
If there are notifications you must have, work through the list of apps in the Watch app on your iPhone. Look at the list of apps and choose what sorts of notifications you want. In general, you can choose to either mirror what happens on your iPhone or you can customise the Apple Watch settings.
Unfortunately, my ultramarathon ended at the 43km mark as the result of an error I made with my hydration and food intake. But at that point, 11 and half hours from the start, after traversing mountain ridges and completing over a dozen river crossings with a 6kg pack, the Apple Watch still had about 30% of its battery remaining.
Those three things made a huge difference to the Apple Watch's battery life.