As we get closer to the nebulous “early 2015” release date for the Apple Watch, nuggets of information about the new product have started to slip out to the public at last. While the exact ship date for the device remains a mystery, inside sources have given us hints as to what to expect in terms of battery life and overall performance from Apple’s new wearable. A report published late last week indicates that the first-generation Watch will face some of the same challenges of other smartwatches, most notably in terms of battery life, which could be as low as just 2.5 hours. The question is, is that enough for a device of this kind?
According to sources, Apple has not made any significant breakthroughs in terms of power consumption with the Apple Watch. In fact, the company is hoping that they can match most other wearables on the market by providing a full day of usage between charges. That is currently defined as being able to provide approximately 2.5 to 4 hours of “active” app usage, and 19 hours of combined active and passive use. Additionally, it is believed that the Watch will be capable of about 3 days of stand-by time, and 4 days of battery life while in “sleep” mode.
According to the report linked to above, Apple has been putting the Watch through its paces using its own in-hourse apps, as well as third-party submissions. They have reportedly found that with “heavy” use, the battery will die after about 2.5 hours when using apps that are processor intensive such as games. The battery life can be extended to about 3.5 hours with more standards apps and notifications, which will likely be the mainstay of the Watch experience.
At first glance it would seem that 2.5 hours of battery life should be a massive red flag for potential customers. On paper, that doesn’t sound like much time at all. But the reality of this product is that it isn’t meant to be used for long periods of time throughout the day, but will instead be frequently glanced at to read notifications and other information sent to the display. Those interactions are meant to mostly last for just a few seconds each, with the occasional longer usage when replying to a text message, glancing at photos, or the like. All of those short interactions probably won’t add up to a total of 2.5 hours of total use for most users, on most days. That means that while the short battery life is a cause for concern, it probably won’t impact the majority of Watch owners.
One of Apple’s major goals with the Apple Watch is to create a product that can help wearers improve their levels of fitness, while also tracking their progress over time. According to the report, the device is capable of being used in this capacity for up to four hours of continuous exercise before needing a recharge. Once again, for the vast majority of us, that should be plenty of time to complete our workouts and still give us plenty of power to spare for use the rest of the day as well.
I have no doubt that there will be early adopters for the Apple Watch who will need to recharge their watches throughout the day. Just like with smartphones, here will always be power-users who will burn through their battery life far faster than the average user. For them, the 2.5 hour run-time will probably be incredibly frustrating, but for most of us the battery life should be sufficient to get us through the day with typical use.
Of course, all of this battery life data is coming from anonymous sources who claim to have inside information about the Apple Watch. Considering the track record for 9to5 Mac – the website that originally broke this story – is very solid, there is probably some credence to the report. But until we get our hands on an actual working Apple Watch to test for ourselves, we won’t know just how well it performs. It is possible that the final product will have a more finely tuned operating system and a better battery, increasing the time between charges considerably.
While the battery life of the Apple Watch may be fairly unimpressive when compared to the competition, the performance of the product should be head and shoulder above anything else available. According to the same sources cited in the article above, the processor inside the first generation Watch will be on par with the A5 chip that powered the iPhone 4s and iPad 2. On top of that, the screen will be a Retina-level display, which should deliver crisp, clear images and vibrant colors. Initially the iPhone that the Watch is tethered to will do most of the heavy lifting in terms of processing power but over time, as WatchKit matures, I’d expect the device to start handling some functions on its own.
Rumors currently suggest that the Apple Watch will release in March, with retail training for Apple Store employees set to take place around mid-February. That would certainly fall within Apple’s “early 2015” timeline, but at this point nothing is confirmed. For now, we’ll all just have to wait for the official announcement to be made, but until then, we’ll just have to put up with our current “dumb” timepieces.