Battery percentage is finally back in iOS 16 and it’s awful

Apple released iOS 16 beta 5 today and with it comes the long-awaited return of the battery percentage to the status bar. Unfortunately, it’s ugly as hell and unreadable to boot.

Previously, the battery percentage was shown to the left of the battery icon. However, Apple removed it starting with the iPhone X because there wasn’t enough room to cram it in thanks to the notch. To see the battery percentage, you currently have to scroll down to the Control Center. In iOS 16, Apple “solved” this problem by having the number appear inside battery icon.

(If you have updated to the latest beta version and do not see it, it is because it is not enabled by default. To turn it on, you have to go to the battery menu in settings and flip on the toggle battery percentage.. option too Seems to be unavailable On iPhone 11, iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 13 mini. This may change with future betas, but it’s breaks for now.)

It looks like it’s ugly to the eye—something you’d see on a phone circa 2011. From afar, it kind of looks like the number on a sweatshirt, not in a good way. However, I realize that this is my personal aesthetic taste. My biggest issue is that this new battery percentage figure also has functional issues as well.

Since the number appears inside the battery symbol, it should appear fully charged at all times for easy reading. So even if you have a paltry 10 percent battery on your phone, the code itself is still full. In the few hours I used this feature, it admittedly caused a short circuit in my brain. A full battery icon that reads 55? This just spoils the visual cues we are all used to.

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The whole purpose of the battery icon is for you to quickly understand, at a glance, how much juice you have left. Unfortunately, the “full” battery plus very small numbers are not easy on the eye. This is especially true if you already have low vision. It doesn’t help that the status bar was always difficult to read if you were using a light background. Of course, not everyone will have this problem. If you have 20/20 vision, it probably won’t bother you much. I happen to have severe astigmatism and myopia, and a few focus mode lock screens with lighter backgrounds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve misread the battery number at 50 percent as 5G instead.

This is not okay. I can’t read this at all.
Screenshot: Victoria Song / The Verge

Compare all this with the symbol for the spent battery. While the icon with no numbers doesn’t tell you exactly how much battery is left, it’s very easy to spot a rough pitch. It’s an intuitive design that needs no explanation. It’s a small consolation, but at least the battery icon keeps changing colors when Low Power Mode is enabled or your phone is plugged in. The former turns the icon yellow, while the latter turns it green with a lightning icon next to it. (Charging also happens to make the battery symbol and numbers bigger, and therefore, easier to read! Why not do this for normal mode too?!)

It’s as if Apple subjected us to this on purpose. The company is known for its tight control over product design – regardless of whether the changes you make are what people want. (RIP headphone jack.) Apple decided with the iPhone X that we don’t need the battery percentage in the status bar. It gave us what I consider a satisfactory solution with the Control Center. But we all demanded that Apple take back the battery percentage in the top right corner of our phones, and that’s what we got.

I will probably go back to turning off the battery percentage. After all, the drained battery icon works in the vast majority of situations. And the next time my battery gets dangerously close to zero, I’ll heave a sigh of relief as I swipe down to the control center, grieving what could have been.

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