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This article was published on January 24, 2015

Why smartwatch battery life matters more than smartphone battery life

Why smartwatch battery life matters more than smartphone battery life
Roberto Baldwin
Story by

Roberto Baldwin

Roberto Baldwin was a reporter for The Next Web in San Francisco between April 2014 and March 2015. Roberto Baldwin was a reporter for The Next Web in San Francisco between April 2014 and March 2015.

Every day I wake up, wander over to my desk and unplug my phone from the wall. I’ll be lucky if it makes it through the day without needing an additional charge. The same thing happens with smartwatches: you wake up, unplug it, and wrap it around a wrist and you’ll be lucky to get to 8 pm without needing a charge.

I have external batteries and battery cases for my phone(s). Sure, I can also plug it back into the wall, but for the sake of mobility, these little accessories of power mean I can keep using my mobile phone as a mobile phone. With a watch, the main reason you bought it is now moot.

The problem is, unlike a smartphone, while charging a smartwatch, it’s nearly worthless for the problem it is intended to solve because it’s no longer on your wrist. It’s over there in the corner plugged into an outlet or one of your external battery packs in your pocket or bag. In either case, it’s no longer a watch. It’s a tiny, underpowered phone accessory that’s taking up space.

Apple Watch

Or if the watch supports it, you can just run a wire up your arm from battery pack like an IV of electrons. It’s always been your dream to be part of the Borg right?

The current Apple Watch rumor says it’ll only have 2.5 to 4 hours of  active use according to 9to5 Mac. If true (and really, we don’t know), it’s not really that big of a surprise when Android Wear watches only make it through the day if you’re extra careful with your use.

Of course there’s also Bridget Carey’s wacky idea that is sure spawn a thousand Kickstarters:

A big thank you to Bridget for dooming all tech reporters to an onslaught of Kickstarter pitches about battery cuffs.

It would be awesome if these smartwatches had better batteries. Hell, it would be awesome if most smartphone batteries lasted longer than a day. But, the technology isn’t there. You want more battery life, you need a bigger battery.

While mobile technology like CPUs and displays get better and better, battery tech has plateaued. You just can’t cram anymore life out of the current lithium-ion technology. Oh, there’s people trying. They’ve been trying for years.

The person that cracks the battery problem will be the first person with enough money to buy an entire country.

Battery life

Until then, companies are stuck trying to cram awesome features into a form factor that barely has the room for the battery needed to run all those awesome features for more than a few hours.

The Pebble and Basis Peak are both examples of smartwatches that last more than a day. But they’re both rolling e-ink displays and the Peak is really geared more for tracking your health than tracking your Twitter followers and answering your phone from your wrist.

For some reason people want those notification features along with a battery-sucking brilliant color display on their wrist. Or at least companies think people want that.

But literally at the end of the day, all those features are worthless if you have dead piece of technology on your wrist because you kept checking your Twitter favs. Meanwhile, your smartphone has all the digital distractions you need and it’s right there in your pocket with a big battery and more features.