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How to get more battery life out of your Wear OS smartwatch

Some days away from the home or office can seem like a constant battle against battery life: your phone is dying, your laptop is dying, and your smartwatch is dying. Despite all of the advances we’ve seen in tech in recent years, battery life doesn’t seem to be getting much beyond the standard 24 hours of use for a lot of devices.

Limited by the physical restrictions of their hardware, manufacturers are putting battery-saving tweaks into software instead, like the Low Power Mode you’ll find on the Apple Watch and the iPhone. These settings can actually make a difference, and they’re available on Wear OS, too.

In Victoria Song’s Pixel Watch 2 review last year, she mentioned being impressed by the improved battery life compared to the original — but today, that 24-hour ceiling is still in place. With my own Pixel Watch 2, I’m usually anxious about running out of juice before the end of the day if I didn’t charge it overnight — though I have found a few ways to eke out extra battery life. I’ll get into those below.

These steps apply to the Pixel Watch 2 with the latest Wear OS 4.0 installed. If you’re using a different Wear OS watch (like the OnePlus Watch 2 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6) these tricks should work the same way. You might find that the screens and menus you see vary in places because of the way different companies have adapted Wear OS.

Start with the screen

There’s lots to tweak in the Wear OS Watch app for Android.

To save battery, you can keep the screen dark for longer periods of time.

A lot of smartwatch battery drain is due to the screen, so it helps to have the display on as little as possible. Start by going to the Wear OS Watch app on your phone and tapping Watch preferences > Display and gestures to make changes.

  • Reduce the screen timeout delay so the display turns off earlier after you’ve stopped interacting with it.
  • Turn off the always-on screen option so the display isn’t using battery life when you’re not looking at it.
  • Turn off the tilt-to-wake option — this can be handy for checking the screen, but it can also be activated accidentally, which uses battery power.

With the always-on screen and tilt-to-wake options turned off, you’ll need to tap on the screen to see the time or anything else. It’s a compromise, but just about every battery-saving measure is, one way or another.

You can also adjust the brightness of the screen by swiping down on the watchface and tapping the brightness icon (the sun symbol). There’s also an Adaptive Brightness option here, which adjusts the brightness for you, depending on the ambient lighting — this can save you battery life, but not as much as having the display dimmed permanently.

Choose a new watchface

You can customize watchfaces to have as little on-screen activity as possible.

You’ll find plenty of different watchfaces to choose from.

Speaking of the screen, your watchface can make a real difference to battery life. It dictates how many pixels are illuminated, after all. Switching to a less busy, more minimal look is something you can try. Not only can you look for watchfaces with as little on screen as possible but you can also reduce the number of complications on each one.

  • Tap Watch faces inside the Watch app on your phone.
  • Swipe left and right to browse the watchfaces already set up. If you choose one of these, tap Edit to modify it (perhaps with fewer on-screen elements) or Use on watch to apply it to your wearable.
  • Choose Add new to pick another watchface from the gallery. When one is selected, you can edit its colors and complications before tapping Add to apply it to your watch.

Tone down notifications

Wear OS gives you full control over the notifications you get.

Only turn on alerts for the watch apps you really want to hear from.

Having your watch buzzing and beeping all day can be a drain on battery life, so if you can do without some of these notifications — or at least have them be less audible — you can get extra time between charges.

  • From the Watch app on your phone, tap Notifications.
  • Tap See all apps from last seven days, then change the Most recent drop-down menu entry to All apps.
  • Turn off the toggle switch for the phone apps you don’t want to hear from on your watch.

There are more features on your watch that you can edit. Swipe down on the main watchface, then tap the gear icon to get to Settings.

  • Tap Apps & notifications from Settings to change which apps installed on your actual watch can send notifications.
  • Under Sound and Vibration in Settings, you can control notification, call, and alarm volume and vibration levels. Dial these down to save battery life.

Turning off Wi-Fi can give you some extra battery life.

If you’re not expecting a call, you can limit watch vibrations.

If you head into the Settings page on your watch by swiping down from the top of the watchface and tapping the gear icon, you can disable a few more features to reclaim some battery life. There are trade-offs in each case, which you might (or might not) be willing to put up with. However, they could come in handy if you’re running low on battery.

  • Tap Location from Settings, then turn off Use location. This disables the GPS, so your watch won’t know where it is (for navigation, for example) if it’s not connected to your phone.
  • Tap Connectivity from Settings, then Wi-Fi, then turn off Wi-Fi. With this off, your watch won’t be able to connect to Wi-Fi directly — everything will have to come through your phone.
  • If you’re using an LTE watch, tap Connectivity, Mobile, and Mobile again, then Off. Your watch will no longer be able to get online via cellular networks.
  • Tap Google from Settings, then Assistant, and disable “Hey Google.” You won’t be able to wake up Google Assistant with your voice with this turned off, though you can still press and hold the side button.

You might need a bit of trial and error to work out which features give you the biggest boosts in battery life and which features you can live without if it means less recharging  — but you should find at least some of them helpful.

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