What the Apple Watch needs in 2021 is a battery that lasts longer than a day

Commentary: It's 2021, and it's time Apple gives us some better battery life.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

The Apple Watch can't stay on my wrist all the time... because of the battery.

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

More than steps, more than active minutes, I've been focused on making sure I get enough decent sleep each day. That's been an issue working from home for so much of 2020-2021. Apple's latest watch and WatchOS software focused, among other things, on adding sleep tracking that could help make bedtime schedules more regular. It sounds great. Except... the Apple Watch's battery life gets in the way.

I could say that the Apple Watch needs new health sensors, or some other medically approved metric like blood pressure. (I have high blood pressure, so that would be nice, if unrealistic right now.) But really, first, it needs better battery life. Of all the fitness trackers and wearables I've alternated between over the last year -- the Oura Ring, Fitbit Sense, Amazon Halo band and Withings Scanwatch -- the Apple Watch has been dead last in battery life.

You, the Apple Watch owner, may say: charge it every day, no problem. It's not so easy when you're wearing it all night and supposedly tracking your sleep, though. The watch can run for a day and a half straight on a charge, in my experience, but then it's a matter of figuring out when that moment would be: while showering? While sitting at my desk? It needs at least half an hour to gather up a reasonable amount of charge. 

More battery life isn't always the perfect answer, either. It's easy to lose track of how many nights more a ring or a watch can last. I find I miss a day or two of tracking with Fitbits, or Oura, or the Halo Band, or anything else that I don't charge daily. Still, having more days, or even hours, of battery life helps. Apple could incorporate a lower-power mode or a new chip that helps with battery. Or, maybe, put in a larger battery. Or add some sort of battery watchband, which would be the equivalent of that iPhone battery-bulge smart case.

That being said, don't expect a new watch until the fall, just like always. Apple did release its Apple Watch-connected Fitness Plus service last month, and maybe it has more connected services like that in store for 2021.

I'll just say that the Apple Watch works pretty perfectly for me right now. Except for the battery life, of course.

Read moreTackling my lockdown weight gain with Apple Fitness Plus

There are lots of other ways the Apple Watch could improve. It could become a better remote for connecting to phones and computers. (I use the Camera remote all the time to start and stop self-shot videos, but I'd love more.) It should have some sort of biometrics, like Touch ID. It could have a real, true watch face store.

I'd give those up for a better battery life. If the Apple Watch just gets one new thing in 2021, let it be that.