The smartphone industry has a love-hate relationship with Apple’s design. Hate, because it consistently leads its competitors with product design, but love — because everyone else loves to copy it. Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas, however, and one tiny feature that OnePlus put into the latest version of its Oxygen operating system deserves to be immediately copied into iOS.
I speak, of course, about the option to put a battery percentage in the status bar, instead of a battery icon. This is less a “feature” and more a standard option that the iPhone X should have shipped with, but perhaps now that the most blatant iPhone-cloning Android manufacturer has added it, Apple will be nudged to do so too.
In case you haven’t bought into the notch life yet, here’s what I’m talking about: the iPhone X doesn’t have the battery percentage in the status bar. Instead, you get a battery icon that depletes with your battery status, which is about as useful as using a sundial to time a bobsled race at night. I know that space is cramped in the “ears” around the notch, and something had to go, but here’s an idea: put a tiny toggle in the battery settings that lets you switch the battery icon for a battery percentage, with numbers that change from green to red if you really insist on the visual cues.
This is clearly not a groundbreaking idea, and the ironic thing is it used to be one of Apple’s strengths. I remember that in the earlier days of Android, one of the things I hated the most was the lack of a battery percentage option in the menus. People used to download special battery percentage apps, which would put a persistent battery percentage notification in the status bar. It was an ugly hack, and the kind of thing that I used to reference when explaining why iOS felt more complete and better thought than Android.
These days, it seems like the tables are turned. Apple killed an objectively useful feature — seeing your battery status just by tapping on the screen — in favor of adding a new feature. Two steps forward and one step backwards, but that step backwards was easily avoidable. It’s certainly telling that the most blatant iPhone copycat company on the market is adding features that Apple should have had in the very first iOS 11 beta, but it’s not too late to fix things. We have months until iOS 12 will hit the mainstream, and this will only get more important as the notch takes over the entire iPhone line. Jony Ive, you know what you have to do.