watchOS 7.3.1 repairs serious Apple Watch charging problem

Power Reserve reduces drain on your Apple Watch’s battery. But there’s a bug.
Photo: Cult of Mac

To prevent your Apple Watch Series 5 or Apple Watch SE from refusing to charge when it’s in Power Reserve, you need watchOS 7.3.1. Apple rushed this update out on Monday specifically to fix this bug.

Any Apple Watch hit with this bug drains until it’s dead, and can‘t be recharged. But Apple will repair the affected devices at no cost.

The official release notes from Apple state, “watchOS 7.3.1 addresses an issue that prevented some Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch SE devices from charging after entering Power Reserve.”

Power Reserve lets you see the time on your wearable without putting too much drain on the battery life. It kicks in when the device drops below a 10% charge, and it becomes necessary to press the side button to show the current time. Other functions are disabled too. Apparently, sometimes that includes charging on some models.

This was an urgent enough of a problem that version 7.3.1 never went into developer or public testing. It went straight to release.

A free fix is available

Apple says the problem only affects “a very small number of customers with Apple Watch Series 5 or Apple Watch SE models running watchOS 7.2 or 7.3.”

If you think your wearable if affected, Apple suggests placing it on the charger for at least 30 minutes. If it still won’t charge, contact Apple Support to arrange mailing in the hardware. Watches that are affected are eligible for free repair, according to Apple.

Install watchOS 7.3.1 today so it doesn‘t happen to you

Monday’s update can be installed directly onto the Apple Watch, as long as the wearable is connected to Wi-Fi. From the Settings app, just navigate to General > Software Update. Then tap Download and Install.

Alternatively, this update can be installed from an iPhone by opening the Apple Watch app and going to My Watch > General > Software Update. Note: Cupertino says the Apple Watch needs to be connected to its charger during installation.

It comes several weeks after the release of watchOS 7.3, which added support for the new “Time to Walk” fitness feature and more. Apple us already testing watchOS 7.4, which will allow users to unlock their iPhone if they’re wearing their Apple Watch.