Apple released iOS 16 beta 5 today and with it comes the long-awaited return of battery percentage to the status bar. Unfortunately, it’s ugly as hell and unreadable to boot.
Previously, the battery percentage was displayed to the left of the battery icon. However, Apple removed it from the iPhone X because there wasn’t enough room to fit it in thanks to the notch. To find out the battery percentage, you currently need to swipe down to Control Center. In iOS 16, Apple “fixed” that problem by making the figure appear within the battery icon.
(If you updated to the latest version of the beta and you don’t see it, it’s because it’s not enabled by default. To turn it on, you need to go to the Battery menu in Settings and turn on the Battery Percentage toggle. The option also seems not available on iPhone 11, iPhone 12 mini, and iPhone 13 mini. This could change with future beta releases, but for now it’s the breaks.)
It looks like an eyesore, something you’d see on a phone circa 2011. From a distance, it looks like the number on a sports jersey, and not in a good way. However, I recognize that it is my personal aesthetic taste. My biggest issue is that this new battery percentage figure also has functional issues.
Because the number appears inside the battery icon, it must appear fully charged at all times to be readable. So even if you have a measly 10 percent battery left on your phone, the icon itself still looks full. In the few hours that I’ve had this feature activated, it has indeed short-circuited my brain. A full battery icon that says 55? That just ruins the visual cues we’ve all grown accustomed to.
The whole purpose of the battery icon is to quickly understand, at a glance, how much juice you have left. Unfortunately, the “full” battery plus the tiny numbers are not pretty to look at. That’s especially true if you already have vision problems. It doesn’t help that the status bar has always been hard to read if you use a light background. Of course, not everyone will have this problem. If you have 20/20 vision, it probably won’t bother you too much. I happen to have severe astigmatism and nearsightedness, and some focus mode lock screens with light backgrounds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve misread the 50 percent battery figure as 5G.
Compare all this with the dead battery icon. While the icon without numbers doesn’t tell you exactly how much battery you have left, it’s very easy to calculate a rough ballpark. It is an intuitive design that hardly needs explanation. It’s a small consolation, but at least the battery icon still changes color when you enable low power mode or plug in your phone. The former turns the icon yellow, while the latter turns it green with a lightning bolt symbol next to it. (Loading also makes the battery icon and numbers bigger and therefore much more readable. Why not do this for normal mode too?)
It almost feels like Apple put us through this on purpose. The company is known for its meticulous control over product design, regardless of whether the changes it makes are what people want. (RIP headphone jack). Apple decided with the iPhone X that we didn’t need the battery percentage in the status bar. He gave us what he considered a satisfactory solution with Control Center. But we all asked Apple to restore the battery percentage in the top right corner of our phones, and this is what we got.
I’ll probably turn battery percentage back off. After all, the dead battery icon works in the vast majority of situations. And the next time my battery gets dangerously close to zero, I’ll let out a deep breath as I scroll to Control Center, regretting what might have been.