Unlike regular watches that can last months and months on end off of a single cell, Smart Watches have a dramatically shorter battery life despite having larger, newer batteries.
The reason for this is that a regular watch need only send the occasional electrical charge to turn a simple motor, whilst a Smart Watch battery needs to power not only the screen but an entire operating system along with a bluetooth connection to a smartphone to operate.
This, combined with the small space available to place the battery, means that battery life is easily the largest flaw of the current-gen smartwatch.
It’s a real shame, too, as the one thing you need out of a watch that your phone may not be able to provide is reliability. Until this crux has rectified, we can only look at what’s currently available and decide what the best smartwatch will be for those who need the longer battery life.
The Pebble (Android & iOS) – 7 days
Being one of the first smartwatches, the Pebble is a cross-platform smartwatch with an emphasis on innovation.
Rather than focusing on making a “phone on your wrist”, the Pebble looks at what’s actually needed from a watch and provides just that. Most notable here is the use of an e-paper display, akin to those seen on eBook readers.
This- while not looking as incredible as a fully-fledged LED display- is actually a fantastic choice, as it means that the display doesn’t cause as huge a drain on battery as it does on other smart watches. The display pushes an update whenever necessary, and that can stay on the watch face without having to be constantly turned on.
The downside, however, is that the refresh rate is poor and the device doesn’t feel as premium as, say, an Apple Watch might. For some that’s a deal breaker, but at a price tag of £89 the Pebble is both more affordable and more functional (as a watch, at least) than any other on this list.
7 days is a long time to go without charge for a smartwatch this gen, and the second gen Pebble (the “Pebble Time”) has a colour display and refined interface while still retaining this high battery life, although is currently only available for pre-order.
You can purchase a Pebble here.
The Apple Watch (iOS) – 18 hours
If you’re on an iPhone and the Pebble isn’t at all appealing, then your only other option is to the official Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch officially came out earlier this year to a lot of praise; unlike with Android Wear, developers have had access to the API for quite some time (along with an understandable NDA), meaning that the device launched with 100s of apps readily available.
The Watch also has a trademark Apple design with some beautiful and robust materials used for the outer shell, although we don’t suppose that the glass screen will be very long lasting.
So, it may look and operate nice, but how’s the battery?
The answer: not bad, but certainly not a feat of technology either. According to Apple’s website, “All-day battery life is based on 18 hours with the following use: 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use and a 30-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth, over the course of 18 hours.“
That isn’t bad, and the inclusion of a 30 minute workout is a nice added touch (it is one of the major selling points of a smart watch, after all), but, again, it isn’t incredible. It’s standard. It’ll do.
Knowing Apple, we’ll likely have to revisit this part of the article a year from now when the Apple Watch 2 is released. Not that Apple is exclusive in yearly releases, as information on the Moto 360 2 is starting to come into fruition.
You’ll get a day of use out of your Apple Watch, and if that’s all you need then that’s fine. This isn’t good for, say, hikers or campers, however, and so might steer people more towards the Pebble for their wrist-based iPhone companion.
You can check out the Apple Watch here.
Moto 360 (Android) – “All day”
The Moto 360 was one of the first and largest contenders when Android Wear came out last year.
It’s a nice device; packing 512mb of RAM, a 205ppi rounded display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to prevent it from smashing when outdoors and features a variety of different wrist straps.
The battery is, much like the Apple Watch, “okay”. It’s 320mAh and, according to their website, lasts “all day” (although there isn’t a good analysis as there is with the Apple Watch so this is largely subjective). It’s likely that it lasts 15 – 20 hours depending on use with probably up to 30 hours at a reach for those who don’t check their notifications often.
What makes the Moto 360 significant, however, is the inclusion of a wireless QI charger in the box.
The QI charger is a shiny, rounded mount that plugs into the mains. Thanks to the development of wireless charging, you can literally drop your 360 on the charger before you go to bed and it’ll charge without needing to be plugged in via USB.
This is a hugely understated advantage of this watch as it completely takes away the hassle of charging; simply plug your QI charger next to your desk and mount it whenever you’re not likely to be checking it. This way you’ll be able to continuously use the device without worrying about the battery.
Of course, this still doesn’t fix the battery. Regardless, it’s fairly short and certainly not suitable for campers or hikers, which is a real shame.
You can take a look at the Moto 360 here.
LG G Watch (Android) – 36 hours
The LG G Watch was another champion of Android Wear when it was first released. What the other devices got wrong, however, the G watch got right: the battery capacity.
It isn’t as pretty as the Moto 360 or Apple Watch, but it lasts half a day longer and has a 90mAh bigger battery than the former (that’s a 28% increase!) and has just as much power (512mb RAM, 4GB internal storage, IP67 resistance to water (1 meter for up to 30 minutes) and dust).
No, it still isn’t good, but it isn’t bad either. It’s better than the Apple Watch or 360, which is good. Once again it’ll be unsuitable for campers but the extra time may make it usable for hikers who will need to rely on the maps app or otherwise the GPS / barometer.
You can view the LG G Watch here.
Garmin Fenix 3 (Android & iOS) – up to 5 weeks
The Garmin Fenix is definitely one of the lesser known smart watches. It’s in its third generation and so has had more than enough time to add in new features and iron out bugs.
Featuring a ridiculously huge array of functions, the Garmin Fenix 3 can be used in the harshest conditions for sports, camping, hiking as well as as a GPS device and notification checker. It’s truly the pinnacle of smart watches if you’re at all athletic or are likely be outdoors a lot.
Its battery is where it really shines, boasting up to 50 hours in “UltraTrac” mode (connected via bluetooth to a smart phone with GPS turned on) or up to 5 weeks in watch mode. This is the best battery of all smart watches currently available.
You can purchase a Garmin Fenix 3 here.
SGW100-1V – 3 years
The SGW100-1V doesn’t require a smartphone. You can’t check your mobile notifications, play games, send text messages/emails or install apps on it. What it does have is a compass, thermometer, backlight, world time function (with 29 time zones!), the capacity for 5 alarms, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, an hourly time signal, a calendar (until 2099, anyway) and, most importantly, a 3 year long battery life.
Okay, no, it isn’t a “smartwatch”, but at this stage in their development smartwatches just aren’t appropriate for all needs. It’s a shame, because (running a website called “TechSpartan”) we love technology.
But, you’ve got to be realistic, and until a time when a smart watch can last a week or even more than a couple days, a lot of people will be turned off from buying them.
This isn’t a bad thing, as the poor reviews of smart watches are largely based on their abysmal battery lives, and so late 2015’s / early 2016’s brand of 2nd generation smart watches should heavily emphasise battery life.
For now, they’re a novelty; they’re “cool” and do everything you’d want them to. Being able to yell a location into your wrist and getting an instant route mapped out for you is sci-fi-esque, only adding to the excitement of it all. For that, smart watches are great, but for people who seriously need functions like GPS, a thermometer and, of course, a method of keeping time, they aren’t good enough just yet.