Oct 4 2016, 7:09 PM PDT
After weeks of hype, rumor and the occasional corporate miscommunication, most of our burning questions about the new Pokémon Go Plus wearable have been settled, but one open question still remaining is just how long of a run players can actually expect to get out of the Plus before having to replace its non-rechargeable battery.
No doubt for reasons of simplicity (and therefore cost savings), Nintendo elected to power the Go Plus with a CR2032 lithium coin-cell. While not everybody is pleased with this news, It's an understandable decision; incorporating a rechargeable battery brings with it the need for an extra external connector and a battery management chip, each of which would add cost and complexity to the design. Furthermore, the energy-dense lithium-polymer flat packs typically used in mobile devices have garnered a bit of a bad reputation recently, with reports of exploding mobile phones appearing with worrying frequency. For a device that doesn't need much power to begin with, it does seem sensible to forgo the hassle of an internal rechargeable battery in favor of something straightforward and user-replaceable.
The CR2032 included with the Pokémon Go Plus is a common type often found in calculators and watches. It's available virtually anywhere that sells batteries, doesn't cost much, and has never been caught exploding in anybody's pocket (in fact, even a short circuit — a potentially catastrophic situation for a typical LiPo cell — won't do much more than make the cell warm). Other than being a swallowing hazard, these cells are really quite user-friendly. However, this comes at a cost, namely that they don't hold all that much juice... which brings us back to the question at hand: how long can we expect the Go Plus's battery last?
The manual included with the device claims a life expectancy of "approx. 100 days". This would be quite a decent figure if it turned out to be true, but as the manual itself cautions, real world results are going to depend heavily on how one actually uses the device. A casual player who uses the Plus to hit a few Pokéstops on their way to class will no doubt have a much different experience in terms of battery life compared to a hardcore Pokémon Trainer playing for hours every day.
As a matter of fact, it seems some of those in the latter category are already running into trouble. One Reddit user reported that their Plus's battery was exhausted past the point of usefulness in less than two weeks, after they took the device on a road trip and occasionally left it running overnight to rack up kilometers from GPS drift. It's probably safe to say that this isn't what Nintendo imagined as an average use case for the product, but it's a concerning data point. A few other users have reported their batteries giving out around the 2-week mark as well.
Of course it's too early to start drawing any conclusions. We have yet to see the results from those on the more casual side of the spectrum (that is to say, their batteries haven't had time to die yet). It's also hard to know whether the results we have seen are a fluke (perhaps Nintendo bought a faulty batch of batteries) or a sign that heavy Pokémon Go Plus users will need to stock up on batteries. Only time will tell...