The Apple Watch 9 is a superb device – but I’d love to see a better battery

Smartwatch battery life could, and perhaps should, be better than it is.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is an exceptional device, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed using. It does everything it is designed to do brilliantly, looks great, and has one of the best screens of any device I’ve tested.

But, from a personal perspective, there’s one issue that means the Watch 9 falls short of perfection. And it’s an example of a broader issue that means for some people, a fully-fledged smartwatch won’t be the best device to wear on their wrist. 

apple watch series 9Credit: Saga Exceptional

If you regularly wear a traditional timepiece, you may have had to change the battery once in a blue moon. Or in some cases, never. But that’s certainly not the case with a smartwatch, where you’ll probably need to charge it every day. Here’s why I find this frustrating.  


A potted history

Smartwatches were once a niche device, ranging from the aptly named Garmin Forerunner 201 in 2003, to the Sony Smartwatch of 2012. None of these really caught the public imagination and were often difficult to use. 

It all changed when Apple released the first Apple Watch in 2015. Smartwatches were suddenly mainstream, and the rise in their popularity has been incredible. According to reports from as early as 2017, the Apple Watch was the bestselling watch of any kind in the world. There are plenty of other smartwatch brands out there, too: Samsung Galaxy, Fitbit, Garmin and Google, to give just a few examples.  

Smartwatches aren’t really something that can be considered new any more, having had the best part of a decade as a mainstream consumer device. And in that period, battery life really hasn’t changed much. 

To use the Apple Watch as an example: the very first Apple Watch from 2015 had a battery life of up to” 18 hours. Now, more than eight years later, the Apple Watch Series 9 has battery life of…”up to 18 hours, or 36 in Low Power mode”. Despite the best part of a decade, advancements in microchips, improved processing efficiency and more, the battery life hasn’t budged. 

A common problem

In fairness to Apple, they are by no means the only smartwatch brand that struggles to offer battery life beyond 24 hours in many of their devices. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 manages up to 40 hours and the Google Pixel Watch 2 offers up to 24 hours (with an always-on display active).  

But there are some devices that perform better. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 offers up to 36 hours of normal” use, and up to 72 hours with low power settings active. It is, however, larger and more expensive than the Apple Watch Series 9.

The Fitbit Sense 2 lasts up to six days between charges, while the Garmin Venu 3 can last up to two weeks without needing a recharge. There are other options that have even stronger battery performance than these. But the point is that such short battery life is partly a choice. And it’s a choice that has consequences. 

Why battery matters

Battery life is dependent on a variety of factors, and as we said in our Apple Watch 9 review, we were able to eke out two days between charges. But if you are a particularly heavy user, who, for example, makes and receives calls via your watch, uses GPS to track a daily run, uses plenty of apps and has the always-on display active, chances are you’ll struggle to last a day between charges. 

For some people, this won’t be an issue. But if you’re someone who wants to track all the myriad health metrics available on the Apple Watch (or many other smartwatches) then it’s frustrating that you have to remember to keep topping up the charge, lest your watch dies in the middle of the night, or mid-workout. This can be very frustrating. 

As these devices become ever more valuable as health-tracking devices offering features such as ECG (electrocardiogram) readings, and even medication tracking to make sure you take your prescription at the right time, we risk becoming increasingly dependent upon them. And at the same time, the potential consequences of a flat battery become more significant.  

Having to be hyper-vigilant about the remaining battery on your smartwatch isn’t the point of owning one, and a watch with better battery life removes a lot of that potential anxiety. Even when you get a low-battery warning, you know you’ll have – at worst – several hours to find an opportunity to charge it. 

Why are some smartwatch batteries so poor?

The reason that some smartwatches suffer from a limited battery life comes down to two main factors: form and functionality. 

In terms of how a smartwatch looks, there is a balance to be struck between battery life and size. A bigger battery means a larger device overall, which comes with its own drawbacks in terms of who might wear such a device, and how comfortable it feels to wear. 

With every new generation of smartwatch, there is usually the addition of at least a couple of new features that demand more power. And there is an expectation among consumers that new devices come with new features. The more a smartwatch can do, the more power-hungry it’s likely to be. The Apple Watch Series 9 offers a bright display, apps, and a host of health and fitness-tracking features. Other devices with superior battery are often much more limited in terms of the functions they offer. 



What we are seeing is a trade-off between these factors, and better battery. While processors are growing ever more efficient, the gains this leads to for battery performance are offset by new features. And clearly, it’s a trade-off that consumers are – broadly speaking – willing to live with, given that these devices are so popular. After all, many of us put up with charging our phones every day, so is this really any different? 

Finally, there are also cost factors to consider. A bigger battery means more lithium, a larger case means more steel, or aluminium, or other materials. This will mean higher costs, which, ultimately, will be passed on to us, the consumer. And if a smartwatch costs too much, people simply won’t buy it.  

Is a better battery too much to ask for?

With everything that smartwatches are capable of, they can be an incredibly useful tool to wear on your wrist. But I find it surprising that with almost a decade of research and development from some of the biggest companies in the market, we still see so many premium devices struggling to offer battery life beyond a day. 

Of course, we can accept that some devices with fewer features or a less colourful display are always likely to have a longer battery than a more feature-filled smartwatch. But even so, we are seeing devices from Fitbit and Garmin pushing battery life to a week and beyond. It doesn’t feel unrealistic to ask the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google to produce smartwatches that can last a bit longer and leave us all feeling more confident that they will do the jobs we need them to, when we need them to.  

And from a consumer point of view, an Apple Watch that lasts five days would be about as close to perfection as it gets. Until then, we each have to make a personal decision over what’s more important: better battery, or more features? 

Featured product

Apple Watch Series 9

RRP: From £399

Apple Watch Series 9

Alternatives to a smartwatch:

Of course, while smartwatches can do a lot, the reality is that most people will use only a fraction of all those features. If youre wondering what other options are out there, here are some suggestions: 

Fitness trackers

If youre looking to track your health and fitness, but you arent bothered about making calls, sending texts and using apps on your wrist, then one of the best budget fitness trackers might offer everything you need. These devices tend to be slightly smaller and lighter than a smartwatch, and usually considerably cheaper as well. The best budget fitness trackers typically cost less than £130, and some of them, such as the Fitbit Charge 5 and Garmin Vivosmart 5 are excellent.

Featured product

Fitbit Charge 5

RRP: £129.99

Fitbit Charge 5

Featured product

Garmin Vivosmart 5

RRP: £129.99

Garmin Vivosmart 5

Hybrid smartwatches

A slightly more niche device is the so-called hybrid smartwatch. These devices look much more like a traditional watch and offer a few smartwatch-type features. Theyll usually have an analogue display, which means battery life tends to be considerably longer than that of a conventional smartwatch. The Withings ScanWatch 2, for example, can last up to 30 days between charges. 

Featured product

Withings ScanWatch 2

RRP: £319.95

Running watches

If you’re a devoted runner, you might be weighing up whether to choose a Garmin or Apple Watch, or maybe even whether you need a fitness tracker or a running watch 

The best running watches offer a host of running-specific features, including cadence, stride length, vertical oscillation, and much, much more. Crucially, they often have much greater battery life than a conventional smartwatch, which is invaluable if you’re going for a long run with GPS turned on. Top-end Garmin running watches, such as the Forerunner 965, can last up to 23 days in smartwatch mode.  

Featured product

Garmin Forerunner 965

RRP: From £599.99

Garmin Forerunner 965
Steven Shaw

Written by Steven Shaw he/him


Steven Shaw has been a freelance writer for a variety of outlets, most notably TechRadar. His degree in Medieval History prepared him less adequately for his career than you might expect, but the years spent working in technology focused retail were much more helpful.

Outside of work, Steven is passionate about health and fitness, and particularly enjoys high-intensity interval training, weight training, and increasingly, spending time recovering. Steven loves reading, films and a wide variety of sports. A particular highlight was watching Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar batting together in an exhibition match.

He wishes he could travel more. He can also tell you a lot about the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Carolingians. Most of his non-work time is spent with his young children, who are the living embodiment of high-intensity training.