Apple’s low power mode for new watches

When Apple revealed the Apple Watch Series 8 on Wednesday, it introduced a new low-power mode feature that lets the wearable double its battery life by turning off a few attributes.

It won’t be limited to Apple’s latest devices, though during the presentation; Apple said low power mode is coming to “the Series 4 and later” with watchOS 9, which is launching September 12th.

The company didn’t say whether the mode would be as effective on older devices as it claims it will be on the Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra – Apple says its more oversized watch will be able to go from 36 hours of runtime to 60 with the mode turned on. But based on what we understand about how it works, it’s clear that it’ll be less effective on at least a few models.

Low power mode conserves juice by turning off the always-on display; workout autostarts, heart health notifications, and more while keeping things like activity tracking and fall detection switched. Unfortunately, while turning the screen entirely off will improve battery life on some of Apple’s watches, it won’t do much for the Series 4 or either model of the SE they don’t have always-on displays, to begin with.

Apple didn’t respond to The Verge’s request to comment on what types of features it’ll turn off on watches like the new SE or whether the characteristics are coming to the budget model. The SE does fit the description of “Series 4 and later,” but low power mode isn’t mentioned on the SE’s product page.

Despite the caveats, it’s nice to know that there’ll soon be a way to eke out at least a little more runtime on your older watch without having to switch into the ultra-bare-bones power reserve mode, which only displays the time when you press the watch’s side button. That’s especially true as these devices and their batteries get older though it’s worth noting that Apple will service watch batteries for $79 if you want to make your Series 4 last as long as possible.

Low Power Mode reduces your iPhone or iPad’s power when the battery gets low.

To switch Low Power Mode on or off, proceed to Settings > Battery. You can also change Low Power Mode on and off from Control Center. First, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls, then select Low Power Mode to add it to Control Center.

An iPhone on the Settings > Battery screen. Low Power Mode is turned on, and there’s a yellow battery icon in the status bar.

When Low Power Mode is switched on, your iPhone or iPad will last longer before you require to charge it, but some features might take an extended to update or conclude. Also, some assignments might not work until you swap off Low Power Mode or till you charge your iPad or iPhone to 80% or more.

Low Power Mode reduces or affects these components:

  • 5G on iPhone 12 models (except for video streaming) 
  • Display refresh rate which is limited up to 60 Hz on iPad and iPhone models with ProMotion display2
  • Auto-Lock (defaults to 30 seconds)
  • Display brightness
  • Some visual effects
  • Email fetch
  • iCloud Photos (temporarily paused)
  • Automatic downloads
  • Background app refresh

The battery shown in the status bar will be yellow when Low Power Mode is on. You’ll notice a yellow battery icon and the battery percentage. After you charge your iPad or iPhone to 80% or higher, Low Power Mode automatically switches off.