Apple Watch low power mode — what it means for your smartwatch's battery life

Apple Watch 8 low power mode
(Image credit: Future)

Low power mode for Apple Watch is the biggest change to the Apple Watch’s battery life in years. While the smartwatch did already have a last-ditch Power Reserve setting, now users can be more proactive in preserving battery.

Apple announced low power mode with the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra, but the feature actually works with existing devices updated to watchOS 9 — the Apple Watch Series 4 or newer, or all the watchOS 9 supported devices.

But what does it do? The short answer is it extends the Apple Watch’s battery life. And as someone who’s used the Apple Watch for many years, low power mode addresses one of my consistent complaints.

The Apple Watch has remained synonymous with a 18-hour or “all day” battery life, even with many of the best smartwatches on the market right now lasting several days on a full charge. Now, with low power mode, the Apple Watch starts to catch up, staying powered up 36 hours per Apple’s estimates. The Apple Watch Ultra, meanwhile, can last up to 60 hours.

Apple Watch low power mode: What does it do?

Certain features are sacrificed in order to make the Apple Watch last more than two days. The most significant of them is Always-On Display, which has been available for Apple Watch Series 5, (and is a feature of the iPhone 14 Pro, by the way.) Since the Apple Watch SE (2022) doesn’t have an Always-On Display, it won’t make a difference for the new $249 smartwatch.

Low power mode for Apple Watch also disables background heart rate monitoring and blood oxygen readings (Apple Watch Series 6 and newer.) It stops automatic workout tracking for the eligible exercise types, too. 

Launching a workout by default will turn off low power mode, but you can also toggle on ‘Low Power Mode’ in the Workout menu in Settings. When this is enabled, it limits heart rate and GPS demands during workouts where you don’t require as precise data. Walking is a good example of a workout you’d want to use with low power mode, while race training is not. 

Finally, Cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity will be limited in low power mode for Apple Watch, with the Apple Watch checking for important notifications every hour.

How to turn on low power mode on Apple Watch

To turn on low power mode, swipe up to open the Control Center on your Apple Watch. Tap the bubble that shows your battery percentage and toggle on low power mode. 

You'll be prompted to review the impact of low power mode, with the option to turn the feature on or turn it on for a certain duration. You can turn on low power mode for 1 Day, 2 Days or up to 3 Days.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.