Today, Apple published iOS 16 beta 5, which includes the eagerly anticipated return of the battery % to the status bar. Unfortunately, it’s also illegible and hideously unattractive.
Before, the battery symbol was accompanied by a battery % indicator. But due to the notch, there wasn’t enough room to fit it in, so Apple did away with it starting with the iPhone X. You presently need to swipe down to Control Center to view the battery level. The figure now appears inside the battery symbol in iOS 16, which is how Apple “fixed” the problem.
(If you have the most recent beta version installed but are still unable to view it, this is because it is not activated by default. You must open the Settings menu and choose the Battery option before you can turn it on. Additionally, the iPhone 11, iPhone 12 mini, and iPhone 13 mini all seem to be devoid of the feature. Future beta versions may modify this, but for the time being, those are the breaks.)
It looks hideous, like something from a phone from about 2011. It kind of resembles the number on a sports shirt from a distance, and not in a good way. I am aware it is just my personal aesthetic preference, though. My major complaint is that this new battery % figure also has technical issues.
The number must always seem fully charged to be readable because it is included inside the battery symbol. Therefore, even if your phone’s battery life is only 10 percent, the symbol itself still seems to be full. I’ll admit that in the brief time I’ve had this function on, my brain has short-circuited. 55 on the full battery icon? That only messes up the visual signals to which we have all grown accustomed.
The battery icon’s sole function is to let you quickly determine how much power you still have at a glance. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to read due to the “full” battery and the extremely small digits. That is especially true if your vision is already weak. It doesn’t help that if you select a light backdrop, the status bar has always been hard to read. Naturally, not everyone will have this problem. You won’t likely find it to be too bothersome if you have 20/20 eyesight. In addition to a couple Focus Mode lock screens with light backgrounds, I also happen to suffer significant astigmatism and nearsightedness. I lost count of the number of times I mistook the 50% battery level for 5G.
Consider the battery symbol with a low battery. The numberless symbol makes it impossible to determine your precise battery level, but it is quite simple to estimate a general range. Its simple design scarcely needs any explanation. At least the battery symbol still changes colors when you activate low-power mode or plug in your phone, which is a little consolation. The icon becomes yellow in the first case, and green in the second, with a lightning bolt next to it. (Charging also increases the size and readability of the battery symbol and numbers, making them much easier to see! Why not do this for the default mode as well?
We almost get the impression that Apple did this on purpose. Regardless of whether the improvements it makes are what customers desire, the corporation is renowned for its careful control over product design. (Adieu, headphone jack.) With the iPhone X, Apple made the decision that the battery % on the status bar was unnecessary. With Control Center, it provided us with what it judged to be a workable option. But despite our collective cries for Apple to reinstate the battery % in the top right corner of our phones, we only received this.
I’ll probably return to turning off the battery percentage. After all, the decreasing battery icon functions in the great majority of circumstances. And the following time my battery is perilously near to running out, I’ll sigh heavily and swipe down for Control Center while lamenting what might have been.