The new Apple Watch Series 5 models come equipped with an always on display, a feature new in 2019. With the always on display, some element of the screen is always lit, even when the wrist is down.
It’s a good way to keep an eye on the time or to keep track of a workout without needing to raise a wrist, but its use at this time requires compromising on battery life.
Though Apple says the Apple Watch Series 5 offers the same 18-hour “all day” battery life as the Series 4 model, a multitude of complaints on the MacRumors forums and the Apple Support forums suggest that’s not the case.
A 36-page forum thread is filled with battery life complaints about the Apple Watch Series 5, starting from September 20, the day the device was released. MacRumors reader Radeon85, for example, said that he was seeing significant battery drain until he turned off the always on display.
Battery life coming from an S4 to the S5, battery life I find is not great. From a 100% charge on my S5 I was losing about 5% an hour doing nothing, it stayed like this for a few hours. To test I turned off the always on display and battery life immediately improved, for the next few hours I was losing at most doing nothing about 2% an hour which is pretty much close to where my S4/S3 and S2 were.
For me the battery killer is the always on display.
Several of us here at MacRumors have the new Apple Watch Series 5 with always on display and have indeed experienced our Apple Watch batteries draining much more quickly than the prior Series 4 models. Workouts, LTE, and other battery draining functions combined with always on can result in major drops in battery life. As described by MacRumors reader Yachtmac:
I am really getting shocking battery life during workouts. Today I did a 35 min indoor workout. Elliptical and played an on watch playlist and the battery ran down from 69% to 21% during this workout. I thought things were going really well when I left for the gym with 69% available since coming off the charger at 7.00am.
I have Siri and Noise monitoring off but AOD on! I am thinking of returning this and sticking with the series 3 as it was excellent for this type of usage.
Battery problems don’t appear to be limited to the Apple Watch Series 5, which suggests that watchOS 6 is also perhaps impacting battery life. The Noise app may be one culprit, and some users have also cited cellular connectivity, though both Cellular and GPS models appear to be affected by battery life problems.
MacRumors forum member Michael says that since watchOS 6 was released, his Apple Watch Series 4 battery has been dying faster, a sentiment echoed by many other MacRumors readers who have noticed issues since beta. From MacRumors reader Canyonblue737:
I’ve had my S4 on watchOS 6 for 4 days now to settle in. I do have the noise app set to monitor. Today in 17 hours off the charger I went from 100% to 32%, no workouts today, 5 hours 18 minutes usage 16 hours 57 minutes standby.
I feel prior to OS 6 with no workout I would have been about 40-50% with the same usage so yes it is higher but I still make it through the day.
On the Apple Watch Series 5, battery life can be improved by disabling Always On under the Display & Brightness section of the Apple Watch app on iPhone, but on the Series 4, it’s less clear what might be causing problems.
MacRumors readers have reported some fixes that have helped improve battery life on both the Series 4 and Series 5, such as force restarting the device or unpairing and re-pairing, but there does not appear to be a single solution that has worked for everyone.
Apple has already updated watchOS to version 6.0.1, and that update fixed some bugs, but according to the release notes, it did not address battery life. watchOS 6.0.1 may include some battery optimizations though, as there are some reports on the forums of improvements after updating. From MacRumors reader Haruhiko:
after upgrading my watch to 6.0.1 and disabled music syncing in iPhone watch app, music, the battery life of my series 5 has returned to normal. Unplugged at ~11am this morning and now it’s 11pm and the watch still has 61% battery. I have always on display and noise detection on.
Apple has also released the first beta of a watchOS 6.1 update to developers, and that update seems to include some battery fixes. We’ve heard reports from forum members that watchOS 6.1 significantly improves battery life, and in our own experience, we’ve also seen better battery life after installing the update. From MacRumors forum member Rogertoh16:
I have 2x series 5, me and my wife. Wife is 6.0.1 and I am in beta 6.1. We have 1 common thing turn off the noise detection. Her’s 6.0.1 battery drain more then mine 6.1 and she don’t work out daily which I am. We will wake up 6.30am morning and and walk our boy to school, work and come back home around 9.30pm. Hers will only left with 10-13% battery where mine left with 45%. Both IOS is 13.1.2. And it been 2 day straight same result even before 6.0.1. I think Apple need to release the watchOS 6.1 quick.
watchOS 6.1 is still in the early stages of beta testing so additional optimizations could be added before the software sees a release, and many of the battery life woes associated with watchOS 6 and the Series 5 could be addressed soon.
Are you experiencing battery life issues either with the Series 5 or with an older Apple Watch updated to watchOS 6? Let us know in the comments.