Apple Watch Ultra – the truth behind the battery claims

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Apple Watch Ultra – the truth behind the battery claims

 

For endurance athletes, the real claimed battery life of the Apple Watch Ultra is a mere 12 hours. So its star athlete from the announcement video, the ultra runner Ray Zahab, simply couldn’t use a Watch Ultra for his events like the 6-day Marathon des Sables over 156 miles without a nightly recharge.

Q: What? I thought Apple said it was 36 or 60 or whatever. But not 12.

A: Nope. Apple definitely says in the specs that Apple Watch Ultra gives “Up to 12 hours outdoor workout with GPS”. And it gets worse as that figure is reduced to 10 hours with LTE.

It gets worse still.

Apple’s tests used a separate Bluetooth heart rate monitor, which is interesting as it finally lays to bed the conundrum as to whether maintaining a BLE 5.3 connection was more efficient than using the internal oHRM. Now we know. That’s by the bye, the point is that if you don’t use a chest strap, the GPS battery life will definitely be less than 12 hours.

Then it gets even worse. Or maybe better. I’m not sure which. Here’s why.

Apple increases GPS accuracy with dual frequency reception. That definitely uses more battery juice, conservatively at least 10%. Yet when Watch Ultra was launched in the keynote presentation, it was specifically stated that most people could complete an Ironman with full precision GPS. Here’s an extract from the transcript:

For endurance athletes, the bigger battery makes a big difference. Of course, you can easily complete a marathon with battery life to spare. Using the new low-power workout setting, most athletes can do a 2.4-mile swim, plus a 112-mile bike ride, and then run a marathon to complete a long-distance triathlon with *full precision GPS* and heart rate.

First up the average Ironman completion time is  12:35:00. So for Apple’s claim to be true, it needs to be based on battery life of at least 12:35:00.

So let’s say that Apple has equated that time to its low-power, high-precision mode. ie by turning off the screen and using a chest strap. If instead, the Apple Ultra owner used the lower quality reception, battery life would increase to, say, 14 hours but that’s still in low power mode without an always-on screen.

Against all of that, I’d point out that earlier Apple Watch models could get similar GPS battery lives provided that the display was mostly inactive, so there is some hope of better performances in some circumstances with a new battery or by fiddling around with various power-saving settings.

So, I’m a little bit unclear as to what the battery life is with and without dual frequency or if the low power mode needs to be used to get 12 hours of GPS time.. Further, Apple seems to be slightly ‘toying’ with its various claims for example whether or not a Bluetooth chest strap is used.

Thoughts?

I’ll finish with Apple’s precise battery claims based on specific use cases. This is a good way to justify their claims and Garmin does a similar thing albeit more focussed on sports usage. The real truth will come in two weeks’ time when we have the watches to test.

All-Day Battery Life

Up to 36 hours

All-day battery life is based on the following use: 180-time checks, 180 notifications, 90 minutes of app use, and a 60-minute workout with music playback from the Apple Watch via Bluetooth, over the course of 36 hours; Apple Watch Ultra (GPS + Cellular) usage includes a total of 8 hours of 4G LTE connection and 28 hours of connection to iPhone via Bluetooth over the course of 36 hours. Testing was conducted by Apple in August 2022 using preproduction Apple Watch Ultra (GPS + Cellular) paired with an iPhone; all devices tested with pre‑release software. Battery life varies by use, configuration, mobile network, signal strength and many other factors; actual results will vary.

Multi-Day Adventure

Up to 60 hours

Multi-day adventure battery life is based on the following use while in Low Power Mode and with workout settings enabled for fewer heart rate and GPS readings (coming soon): 15 hours of workout, over 600-time checks, 35 minutes of app use, 3 minutes of talk and 15 hours of sleep tracking, over the course of 60 hours; Apple Watch Ultra (GPS + Cellular) usage includes on-demand 4G LTE connection and 5 hours connected to iPhone via Bluetooth over the course of 60 hours.

All-Day 4G LTE Battery Life

Up to 18 hours

All-day 4G LTE battery life is based on the following use: 90-time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 60-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth, over the course of 18 hours; Apple Watch Ultra (GPS + Cellular) usage includes a total of 18 hours of 4G LTE connection. Testing was conducted by Apple in August 2022 using preproduction Apple Watch Ultra (GPS + Cellular) paired with an iPhone; all devices were tested with pre‑release software. Battery life varies by use, configuration, mobile network, signal strength and many other factors; actual results will vary.

Talk

Up to 2.5 hours connected to 4G LTE

Workout

  • Up to 18 hours indoor workout
  • Up to 12 hours outdoor workout with GPS
  • Up to 10 hours outdoor workout with GPS and 4G LTE

Charge

  • About 1 hour to 80%
  • About 1.5 hours to 100%

Audio Playback

  • Up to 20 hours of playback from Apple Watch storage

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4 thoughts on “Apple Watch Ultra – the truth behind the battery claims

  1. The curse and brilliances of the OS wrapped into one article, battery vs performance.

    If you want to watch films/tv or surf the web get a phone – they are all large

    If you really wanted a small phone and they don’t exist get an Apple Watch

    If you want an fitness watch, get a “simple” fitness watch.

    1. some of the ads for ULTRA show people watching videos on it.

      yes a complex smart watch plus a simple fitness watch could be a good combo. although the complex smartwatch would likely also be a half decent fitness watch. sub in the word ATHLETIC for FITNESS and maybe you buy an apple watch (not ultra) and a coros or FR245.

  2. I have an AW7. I get about 2 1/2 days if I only do indoor workouts for an hour a day. When I do a 1 hour run with LTE/music. 1 hour indoor stair climbing, LTE/music, 1/2 lap swimming, LTE. I get about 30 hours between charges.

    The ONLY thing I have off is the always on screen.

    So the Ultra should give me quite a boost too that.

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