Turn your phone’s damn battery percentage off
Attention is a kind of love.
Except when it’s directed toward your iPhone and its unending series of notifications, at which point, if you’re anything like me, is nothing more than a specific kind of anxiety unto itself: “Why am I staring at this thing so much, and why’s it making me feel awful?”
To really fix this, you’d need a psychiatrist. But! One modest, simple change could help put a stop to this:
Stop your phone from displaying the percentage of battery life it has left.
That little number, affixed to the top-right of your screen if you’ve enabled it*, is a countdown clock of disaster and doom, kept minutes away from midnight only by the repeated jamming of a power cord into your device’s greedy little maw. Seeing this percentage may invite obsessive charging; I find that stress starts creeping in around 64 percent.
And sure, it seems like there’s a logic to turning the percentage on. Knowing exactly how much battery life you have left helps you figure out when you’ll need to haul ass to an electrical outlet. Say you’re leaving the office with 30 percent left: You’ll definitely have enough juice to browse the internet on your commute and make an emergency call if, for example, a wayward Humvee runs over your ankle and you need to go to the emergency room. You’ll probably have enough to play a game in the ambulance!
Leaving with 2 percent, though? R.I.P., friend. If that Humvee runs you over, you’ll bleed out and die, alone — from an ankle wound — on the side of the road.
But indeed, the logic is only seeming. The battery icon, without a specific percentage number, gives you all the information you need, but not enough to drive you Shining levels of crazy. Here’s how it works:
– When you’ve got half your battery life left, the indicator will appear half-full; you’ll make it home without a charge.
– If it’s red and nearly empty, perhaps plug your iPhone in for a few minutes before leaving.
Again: That’s it.
There is no purpose to the numerical value.
What does a number offer you that this icon cannot? Nothing! Unless you’re trying to diagnose exactly how much battery life having Snapchat open on your screen for five straight minutes will consume (the answer is one entire percent), there’s no meaningful gain to the numerical value over the icon.
We’re trained, by our phones and the software they run, to obsess over numbers. How many likes did your post get? How many unread emails do you have? How many iMessage notifications did you miss while you were asleep?
“Convenience” excuses all these numbers, which are often designed to command your attention to the benefit of companies like Facebook and Apple. Social media apps profit when a number convinces you to spend more time in in your feeds, on their platforms. And tech manufacturers stand to benefit if you’re so obsessed with your battery life that you buy new charging peripherals or, eventually, a new device.
And that’s fine, kind of, as long as we’ve at least got some options. And indeed we do! Untether your mind from your phone. Disable the battery percentage indicator. Liberate yourself.
[I also try to cut out "badge notifications,” those encircled numbers you see on apps when they have something new to show you, but you do you.]
The overall idea here is nothing more than to be smarter (or: mindful, if you’re like that) about how you approach the things in your life that generate endless, nagging data. Maybe you’re not an anxiety-stuffed, phone-obsessed, fidget-spinning meatbag like I am; that’s great! But if you suspect you might be, well, take a baby-step, and turn off one number at a time. You’ll thank yourself.
* Yes, okay, I invited this. By default, your iPhone will simply show you a little battery icon that depletes over time. This is much better! It seems Apple knows a thing or two about designing an operating system that doesn’t make you want to dropkick your own brain (sometimes).