Apple released beta 5 of iOS 16 today and with it comes the long-awaited return of the battery percentage in the status bar. Unfortunately, it’s ugly as hell and unreadable to boot.
Previously, the battery percentage appeared to the left of the battery icon. However, Apple removed it from the iPhone X because there wasn’t enough space to cram it in thanks to the notch. To know the battery percentage, you currently have to swipe to the control center. In iOS 16, Apple “fixed” this issue by making the number appear in battery icon.
(If you’ve updated to the latest beta version and you don’t see it, that’s because it’s not enabled by default. To enable it, you need to go to the Battery menu in Settings and enable the battery percentage toggle.The option also seems unavailable on iPhone 11, iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 13 mini. That might change with future betas, but those are the breaks for now.)
It looks awful – something you’d see on a phone circa 2011. From afar, it looks a bit like the number on a sports jersey, and not in a good way. However, I recognize that this is my personal aesthetic taste. My biggest issue is that this new battery percentage also has functional issues.
Since the number appears in the battery icon, it should appear fully charged at all times for readability. So even if you have a paltry 10% battery left on your phone, the icon itself still looks full. In the few hours I had this feature, it admittedly caused a short circuit in my brain. A full battery icon that displays 55? It just annoys 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 and the tiny numbers are not pleasant to look at. This is especially true if you already have poor vision. It doesn’t help that it’s always been hard to read the status bar if you’re using a light background. Of course, not everyone will have this problem. If you have 20/20 vision, this probably won’t bother you much. I happen to have severe astigmatism and myopia, and a few focus mode lock screens with light backgrounds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve misinterpreted the 50% battery figure as 5G instead.
Compare all this to the icon of the battery draining. While the icon without a number won’t tell you exactly how much battery you have left, it’s so easy to determine an approximate stage. It’s an intuitive design that hardly needs any explanation. It’s a small consolation, but at least the battery icon still changes color when you activate low power mode or plug in your phone. The former makes the icon yellow, while the latter makes it green with a lightning bolt symbol next to it. (Charging also makes the battery icon and numbers bigger, and therefore much more readable! Why not do this for normal mode as well?!)
It almost feels like Apple subjected us to this on purpose. The company is known for its meticulous control over product design, whether or not 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 clamored for Apple to restore the battery percentage to the top right corner of our phones, and we got it.
I’ll probably go back to disabling battery percentage. The draining battery icon, after all, works in the vast majority of situations. And the next time my battery gets dangerously close to zero, I’ll take a big sigh as I slide back to Control Center, crying what could have been.