All the wires

Use these tips to get the most out of that little block of polymer

If you picked up an Android Wear watch, or know someone who picked one up, or just listen to what people are saying on the Internet, you know that battery life is a big issue for many new watch owners. The need for frequent charging combined with a tiny proprietary charging cradle to keep track of isn't the best experience in the world. Never mind the fact that finding a second charger is a bit like pulling hens teeth, so you have to take it with you or be at the same spot every time you want to top things up.

We've been testing different things over the past couple of weeks, and now we can stretch things out a bit further, and in a pinch can go two full days without the watch meeting the charger. Everyone uses their watch in different ways, but using these tips will keep your watch on your wrist — and off the cord — longer.

Brightness makes a big difference

Set your screen brightness to stun

And this is a tough one to overcome. Even at the highest brightness level, you can barely see anything on both the Gear Live and the G Watch if you head outside under the bright sun. We have a feeling the Moto 360 won't be any different. If you're working or playing outside, you'll need to have it cranked way up or you're that guy who is trying to use one hand to cast a shadow over the screen so you can read it. We get it — tiny battery means you can't crank the screen over 9,000 nits. But we still would like to see this addressed in future hardware somehow. It will be interesting to see how the rumored Apple iWatch handles this if we ever see it.

In the meantime, know that setting the screen brightness to 1 can dramatically increase your battery life — just like you would expect it to do. You'll have to find that balance where the brightness is high enough to see, but low enough to save a little juice. Maybe an ambient light sensor can help here, and we hope to see one in upcoming products. It's also worth noting that while the LG G Watch brightness has an extra step (it goes to six, while the Gear Live goes to five) screen brightness makes a bigger difference in the Samsung Gear Live.

Always on isn't a big factor

Always on screen settings

In the Android Wear software there is a setting to keep the screen awake all the time, albeit in what's called a "dim mode." In this dim mode, things are in black and white and everything is at a very low brightness. The benefit here is that you can always see the time and if you have a notification (based on the Android Wear app settings). Tapping the screen or raising your wrist brings things back to normal.

You can shut this off in the settings, and when your watch is idle the screen will be off. Raising your wrist or tapping the screen still brings things right back to normal, so thinking this is a battery saver is a natural conclusion. It probably is to some extent, but it's not a big enough factor to make a difference in "real-life" tests here.

If I were pressed to put a number to things, I would say you'll get a couple of extra hours over the course of two days at most by turning the screen off. I also didn't see much of a difference between the Gear Live and the G Watch here. If you want your watch to always be a watch, leave this enabled — it's not going to destroy the battery. They are watches after all, they need to act like a watch, right?

Use the snooze

ZZZZzzzzzzzzZZzzzzz

When you don't need or want your wrist to be buzzing every time your mom emails you to ask how to "work" her new phone, you can turn the notifications off. Just pull down from the main screen on your watch and notifications will cease until you pull down again to turn them back on. While notifications are off, your screen isn't lighting up and the vibration motor isn't running. Both of those things need juice. Turning them off means they no longer use your juice.

This is a good way to extend your battery life if you have a routine where it works. While I'm at my desk doing Android Central stuff, my phone is laying right on the desk in front of me. If I don't want my watch to go off because I'm in front of the computer and have my phone out already, I can shut them down.

And shutting down notifications can make a huge difference ...

It's all about the notifications

too much mail

This is what kills your battery, plain and simple. When you get a notification on your wrist, the screen of your watch lights up and comes on for a few seconds. Those seconds add up, and if you're constantly getting notifications, you're going to need to visit that little charging cradle at least once a day. If you have the screen brightness cranked up high, it gets even worse.

Of course, having notifications on your wrist is a big part of the allure of Android Wear, so turning them off is a bit like having a shiny new riding mower and no gas. Luckily, the Android Wear app on your phone allows you to fine tune what gets sent to your watch. This made a big difference here, and when I shut down the things I would never want to see on my wrist battery life got better. It still wasn't good, but it was better. I had to go deeper.

We all get the mails that come in to the Android Central email account. That's a good bit of mail. I was also monitoring the AC Twitter, and I'm sure the Google+ or Facebook account would be the same — the screen can never get enough sleep. I shut off Twitter, and made a few filters in my AC Gmail so things would skip the inbox. Again, things got better but still not good enough. Phil was getting better battery life than I was, and we were basically doing the same things with our watches.

Then I noticed that Gmail was still lighting things up all the time. My personal Gmail. I'm not that popular, so I had to take a long look at all the stuff coming in to see how I could adjust. In my case, it was as-they-happen Google groups updates. I'm subscribed to just about all the Google product and technology groups, and every time one rolled in my watch(es) woke up to tell me. I jumped into the settings for the various groups and scaled things back to a daily digest of notifications.

BAM

No more 200-plus emails a day, and my battery life went from absolute crap to something I could deal with.

By learning how to better manage my Gmail notifications, I doubled the battery life on my new watch. Gmail may not be your culprit, but chances are whichever app is notifying you the most has some settings somewhere that you can adjust to filter out what is important enough to show up on your wrist, and what can wait until you go looking for it. If you take the time to do this, you'll be glad you did.

My current battery life stats

LG G Watch

At it's worst, I was getting less than eight hours from my Gear Live. I had the screen always on, I had the brightness cranked way up and had far too many notifications for things I wasn't going to read right away coming in. The G Watch was a little better, but not much.

Now, with my screen brightness at two (yes, I head for the shade when I'm outside and my wrist vibrates) and the screen still in always on mode I can stretch things out to two full days of battery on the average. I use the snooze feature when I'm asleep or at my desk with my phone in front of me, and I've found a balance.

You'll have to find your own balance, because the way you use your watch is going to be different than the way I use mine. Use these few tips to help, and you can spend more time away from the little charging dock.

 

Reader comments

How to extend your Android Wear battery life

88 Comments

I have a better one, send a letter or use carrier pigeon.

Anyway, I don't think having to shade your watch outside is a big deal. I usually have to do the same with regular watches when its a cloudless day and the sun is really beaming down.

I don't get why you have to shade a regular watch? Physical shapes doesn't disappear just because it gets a bit brighter. Not for me, at least? :)

And this one is gonna make everyone go bananas:
Strap a back up battery to your arm and plug it to your watch when necessary.

Because after years of trying Samsung and LG have finally figured out a way to force you into a proprietary extended battery instead of a third party one. It will come out right after extra proprietary cradles are available. Kidding aside, the teardown on these things shows something akin to a standard watch battery in size and thickness. I doubt anyone would have noticed or complained if the had to make these things ever so slightly larger to accommodate a useful battery. Frankly, these things have no appeal to me unless I can get a full wakeup to bed time use out of them with heavy use and not needing to sit there tweaking it constantly. Thin is nice but useful is better. Until then it's nothing more than and overpriced toy to me.

Armadillo, the other white meat.

Great tips Jerry. While I'm waiting for the 360 from Motorola, it's nice to see some tips for extending the battery.

Posted via Android Central App using the all new HTC One (m8)

Use tasker to switch off Bluetooth on the phone when asleep at night. Saves 10% on the watch overnight I find

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Hopefully some of the breakthroughs we keep hearing about in flexible batteries will get combined with these devices for battery in the strap, doubling or tripling life.

A battery containing so much energy it will literally explode in a 1000+ degree fire if punctured, strapped around your arm only shielded by a thin layer of soft plastic.... Yeah... Count me out! :D

What is your problem with readability outside in sunlight (you wrote it here and said it during the podcast)?

I have the brightness on 4 of 6 on my G Watch and when the screen is active (tap watch or turn wrist), I can easily read the time. In dim mode of course, this is another story. With that, it is difficult in sunlight. But then again, it goes active when I turn my wrist, so no real problem.

And 4 of 6 is also not too bright in dim mode in the dark, it does not even seem to affect dim mode.

I think they are making a bigger deal out of it as well. I keep mine at 6 and can still read in when dimmed even on the brightest days. Really hasn't been as issue even once.

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Agreed. Every time I look at my watch in bright sunlight, and see it perfectly fine (when out of dim mode, as mentioned), I think of what a big deal AC is making out of this "issue." I really don't get it.

The problem is readability when the brightness is at 0 to extend battery. I keep it at 0 indoors and use Wear Mini Launcher to brighten it when I go outside.

I thought the benefit of having these watches was to be able to check or dismiss all these notifications without having to grab your phone. Makes perfect sense to spend $300 and turn notifications off. Is there anything software or hardware wise that could make battery life better without removing the already limited functions of a smartwatch?

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The issue is that treating every Email as a "notification" isn't useful or smart.... especially if you get hundreds of them a day. That would drive me bonkers. And it reveals a possible flaw in the design of Wear and notifications.... users are likely going to need some additional methods to filter out what is important instead of doing what Jerry did and just jumping things out of the inbox (although that will apparently work).

I wouldn't call it a flaw per se, just misuse of certain services by people and other services alike IMO, it's kind of a behavioral thing rather than a technical issue... Notification control COULD and probably will be more fine grained, but getting 200 emails a day as a general convo notifier seems quite superfluous either way.

I don't have any issues seeing my watch outdoors. I'm not as old as the writers claiming this though. My moto X screen was barely usable outdoors in comparison.

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maybe it's me, but if I turn off the screen (so it's not "always on") then the alarm doesn't work until the screen comes on making it useless, not tried with timer etc, but I was late for work twice last week due to this!

Not really. The watch is meant to be always on and, as Jerry pointed out, it has little impact on battery. You're defeating the purpose when you turn it off.

all you're turning off is the screen, it still vibrates for notifications, alarms and timers should still work too

But you're defeating the purpose of a smartWATCH. And it has been demonstrated that turning off has little effect on battery, so why bother? And why cry about it when it doesn't work like you expect it to if you're not going to use it as intended? Android Wear was clearly designed to be always on. If all you want is a vibration when you get a notification, then you don't need a watch. You can just pull your phone out of your pocket when it vibrates. If you can't glance at your wrist and see the time, I don't know why you even need something strapped to your wrist.

Gear watches only had it turn of because of battery limitations and it defeated the purpose of that line of watches, as far as I'm concerned.

I know it's a "smartWATCH", but I use my watch as an alarm on a morning so I don't wake the rest of the family, therefore through the night I turn off "always on" as I don't need the screen on while I'm sleeping but I need the alert to wake me ("always on" refers to the screen, not the alarms). The other 18 hours a day it's "always on" so please feel free to get off your high horse and stop talking down to me before you even know the circumstances in which I turn off "always on".

What mmace is describing is perfectly expected use of a smart watch but it appears you're more concerned with defending a shortcoming of it because you rather pretend it has none.

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A) NOBODY says "cool story bro" anymore and expects not to be called a douche. B) You're a totally fucking douche. There was no point to anything you wrote. You didn't take time to understand his point at all. Why don't you enlighten everyone and explain why the hell anyone would want the screen always on over night while they're trying to sleep... Why "it's a smartwatch" justifies the need for the screen being always on in order for the alarm to still work... total jackass you are, it's really quite comical.

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Ehhhh not really. You're not that important. And you're wayyyyyy behind the times with "umad" and "cool story bro" ... I have nothing to be mad at, as you're just making yourself look like more of a douche each time you respond like a10 year old... it's cool with me, keep it up. It's amusing

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"Cool story bro" is the only reply suited for the idiots who ragepost on here. Considering the fact that the only word in your vocabulary is "douche", you should probably take an introspective look at your own online behavior.

But feel free to keep replying and calling me a douche. It just confirms that I'm under your skin each and every time.

You're clearly the one with reading comprehension issues, not anyone else... but no need to reply back, we already know what your brilliant response will be ... "cool story bro" ... douche.

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Where was it demonstrated that turning off the always on feature doesn't improve battery life? My results are that it's a huge improvement to battery life.

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Do you own one? Have you tested the theory yourself and come to a solid conclusion? Or, are you just going off what you read on the internet? When someone says "my experience... for me... etc..." that means they actually have it and have tested it and know what works for them. And possibly what works for others due to first hand experience. When someone says "blogs said... Google it... read the article I found here " that usually means they don't have a fucking clue what they're talking about, and should probably just shut the fuck up.

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1) Yes (own)
2) Yes (tested)
3) Jerry states right in this article that it makes a difference of maybe two hours over two days.

Sorry to steal your thunder.

Excellent write up as usual Jerry. I am curious why you don't expect the 360 to do better in sunlight. I'm sure Moto is aware that one of the biggest complaints about the Wear watches so far is they are basically unusable in sunlight. I find it extremely hard to believe that they aren't working on a solution.

It's the nature of the technology. There's not magical solution here. People just have to wait for the tech to progress.

What technology is it that Moto is using that will make it hard to see in sunlight? Not saying its magic, I'm just saying that Moto sees a problem, and they have some really smart people working there. They thought that having a square watch instead of a round one was a problem so they had their really smart people come up with a solution for a round watch. Why can't they do the same for a problem with visibility?

This issue is All hype..
I have the G Watch, always on, brightness all the way up and I charge it at night with some to spare no matter how long the day. I travel from locations all day for work and have spent some sunny days at the beach and didn't once think it was unusable.

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Two things: Moto isn't a major parts supplier for the innards of these devices, they just design them and buy the components necessary... LG and Samsung are both major parts suppliers, in particular, they're both huge in the display business. If there was a novel solution here it probably wouldn't be Moto to debut it, at least as far as hardware innovation goes. Tho you can get pretty far with software trickery...

Second, the 360 was probably in development for a good 10+ months, last minute changes are unlikely. They might very well be working on the issue as more and more users voice their concerns, but it's just as likely a 360 2.0 project at this point. Square vs round was more an aesthetic thing and a willingness to chase a design vision, which they're always done better than the Korean OEMs.

Am I the weirdo that has absolutely no problem with a watch (or phone) that "just" makes it through a single day in a charge? Just so a device can make it through 16-17 hours, it's perfectly fine for me. I plug my phone in every night, so it's really not an issue to throw my watch on its charger as well.

The brightness outside is only really an issue to me on only the brightest of days. I leave my G Watch on max brightness all the time. I don't quite have the mail flow issues that the AC editors do, but between Gmail, Hangouts and work email all day long, I get my fair share of notifications. My watch battery is still usually at around 30-40% at the end of the night.

My biggest complaint with Wear right now is that I can't disable the "arm up" gesture that turns the screen on. That would not only save battery, but would be much less annoying in places like movie theaters...

The problem with that is that it eliminates the possibility of using the Smartwatch as an alarm. If you haven't used a Smartwatch before you probably won't miss it but for many of us who have it has become a must have feature since a vibrating wrist wakes one easily without waking anyone around you.

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I had a Kickstarter edition Pebble that I wore every single day until the G Watch came out. But no, I didn't use it as a "silent" alarm.

I'll give you the fact that you can't charge it during the same time that I would. But when exactly do you charge the watch then? If you're wearing it throughout the nights, you'll have to charge it during the day at some point, right? Even if you got multiple days worth of battery life, you'll still have to take it off during the day, so you can just do that now still can't you? Just have to do it daily instead of every few days.

I just tried a reminder and it vibrated my watch like any other action. Raise hand to turn screen on and there's my reminder.

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I already can't see my phone screen outside in the sun when it's on as bright as it will go. I still think these watches are the 3D TV fad of the mobile industry and will fizzle out at some point.

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Uh, no because there actually is a segment of the population that wants these devices. It may never be a huge category but there is demand. There's a reason pebble was able to raise $10M on kickstarter. On the other hand, 3d tv was entirely a manufacturer driven feature.

I've got the Samsung and I'm getting about 16 hours on a charge. The one thing that drives me bonkers and I can't help but feel hurts battery life is the steps tracker. I've tried everything to turn it off. It still pops up. I don't need nor want it. Any ideas on how to disable/turn off/remove?

Come on Moto 360! You're my last hope for good battery life and possibly a display I can see outside! Otherwise I might have to pass on the first crop of Android Wear watches.

Typed on tiny keys just for you

Turning off the always on feature is a big power saver. On good days with the screen always on I'd end the day with under 30% batt. On bad days I'd be dead by 3pm. Turning off this feature and I'm easily above 85% at the end of the day. It's not an inconvenience either because raising your arm or simply taping the screen works fine.

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I can start day at 7 and get through till 10pm with 30-40% on my g watch. I have screen off and bright at 1 but how do u turn the OK Google off I always tap screen anyway to do command

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So any stories from people on if they are actually getting better battery life on smart phones from heavy use of android wear vs smartphone and much longer screen on times from constantly checking it
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With the Gear Live, you can also turn it off at night if away from the charger.

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You can do this with the G Watch as well. Turn it off from within the settings, and turn it back on with the button by the charging contacts.

My biggest gripe over tizen is the slow ass s voice features. send a text............................what's your message........hello..................................5 min later would you like to send?...........yes. ............5 min message sent.

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I get about 2 days with my G Watch, screen always on and brightness full. I don't get a ton of notifications and that's probably why but on days that I do and I notice my charge is low and I "may not make it" I turn down the brightness and screen always on to off and it stretches me those last few hours with a few %'s to spare.

EDIT:
I should also point out I disconnect it at night and sometimes power it off so it's not using any juice while I sleep.

8 hours to two full days is a pretty big swing (like 4-5x increase in useful life), nice tips. I imagine paring down the notifications a bit ends up being more productive in the long run anyway, if you're getting constant notifications that you're almost always ignoring you're liable to get in the habit of ignoring the watch in general, thus defeating it's purpose

I think the update to Android L with its battery optimizations will really help Android Wear as well

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The benefits are clear enough, but even with careful management, these devices still need nightly charging.
Throughout a typical day we experience (or work in) radically different ambient light levels. The missing element in smart-watches seems to be transflective or dual mode screens; possibly with far more sophisticated sensor managed operation than we have seen to date.
In this respect, the pebble approach still seems a lot better. I wonder how much better next years devices will be.

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I really wish they'd stop perpetuating this invisible screen myth. I live in Denver, CO, the mile high city, one of the brightest places in the US. We're close to the sun and we get a lot of days with crystal clear skies and zero cloud cover. I can read my device outside at brightness 3 (it's tough, but not invisible). If I crank it up to max, I can easily read it in the brightest direct sun. Use an app called WearBright, say OK, Google start brightness, touch the screen. It sets it to max brightness. Do what you need to do outside, do the same process again, and it will set it to your normal brightness setting. Also, the plain old "digital" watch face seems to draw a lot less power than the other ones in my testing.

I've had a LG G Watch almost since they first appeared. I have no idea what anyone is talking about with battery life being a problem or an obstacle. Both my phone, Samsung Galaxy S4, and the watch can last an entire day connected without a need for charge. I have work emails, personal emails, twitter, Washington Post, traffic updates, facebook, and text all coming on a consistent basis and my batter has never died or been below 10%. And even on such an occasion it takes no time at all to use the charging cradle while you sleep to recharge the device.