Nov 11 AT 2:27 PM Dima Aryeh 43 Comments

Android 4.4 has hidden status bar battery percentage feature that’s utterly broken


A battery percentage is something many manufacturers have been including in their smartphones for ages. LG and Samsung integrated percentages long ago. Hell, even Apple threw that into an iOS update years ago. However, Google has been very behind the times with this one feature in AOSP code, leading to stock Nexus devices not having any clean way to display a battery percentage (a persistent notification is incredibly annoying).

In my personal opinion, a battery percentage these days is very important. Not quite crucial, but important nonetheless. In today’s society, you function only as long as your technology functions. A smartphone is a key part to this dependency. With smartphone batteries being generally poor, we need to know exactly how much juice is left so we can plan around it. Even my mother thinks a battery percentage is important.

Interestingly enough, Google has begun work on this feature in KitKat. It’s finally available in the frameworks of Android, but there is no option for it. Luckily, it can be enabled using ADB or even a special app without the need for root. And guess what? It’s broken.


Yes, something as simple as changing the color of the battery percentage eluded Google engineers and requires modification of SystemUI.apk to achieve. The number is white, so if your battery is above 30 percent, it will cover the numbers. We’ll never understand Google. But hopefully this will be added as an option soon, because it’s pretty important (and I know it isn’t that hard to implement, considering I’ve done it for custom ROMs).

If you want to give it a try, you can either use an ADB command or an app. Here is the ADB command:

adb shell content insert --uri content://settings/system --bind name:s:status_bar_show_battery_percent --bind value:i:1

adb reboot

You can also use an app that an XDA user created for this purpose. It just launches these commands automatically. Hit the source link to check out the app. And tell us, do you use a battery percentage?

Via: Android Police

Source: XDA-Developers

Dima Aryeh is a Russian obsessed with all things tech. He does photography, is an avid phone modder (who uses an AT&T Galaxy Note II), a heavy gamer (both PC and 360), and an aspiring home mechanic. He is also an avid fan of music, especially power metal.

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  • Eli Gaffke

    In the past few months of reading about the coming changes in Kit Kat I’m realizing how many things that I am used to using are Samdung Sense and not Android. My notification bar has been white, or whiteish for awhile. Having a battery percentage always showing is normal. Didn’t realize that it wasn’t. I just found out that the speak to shoot on my camera was a Samsung feature. I thought that was Android being awesome. Makes me wonder if I want to root.

    • Dima Aryeh

      Third party skins like Samsung TouchWiz add a lot to Android, no doubt.

      • Eli Gaffke

        I meant Touch Wiz not Sense. Been reading about HTC too much lately. They also about 50mb of RAM usage to. :’(

      • Steven

        It also makes it extremely confusing to users. You don’t know what Android really is… And then you switch manufacturers by upgrading to a “better” phone only to find out all the features you used are gone…

    • redraider133

      Everyone hates on manufacturer skins, but they add things that stock android is and has been lacking. Yeah they slow down updates, but some of the most minor things that stock is missing these skins have had for awhile now.

      • SGB101

        Sence in the early days android 1.6 on the HTC hero really made android look good and brought in a lot of missing features, Android slowly incorporated (copied) most of them.

        HTC was the front runners at this as they had been skinning Widows mobile for years and doing it well, since and win mo, looks very similar.

        There are some thing you miss once you go from any of the skins, to stock but you soon find an app to fill that need.

        I’m all in with CM, it offers all that stock does but with added flexibility.

        It could be argued and is, that stock is no longer stock, as Google is holding some features and apps for just the nexus line, so really its stock, with play service and nexus apps plus now skin.

        They are starting to spin off nexus as a brand, rather than dev device.

  • anonymous

    I like the white text on white battery % fill. If my battery is at 100%, I don’t care if it’s 100% or 90% or 98%.

    • Dima Aryeh

      It’s true that it looks nice. But it’s a poor design decision to have the numbers cut off. At 70%, you may not be able to read it. While that makes a certain amount of sense, it goes against basic design principles. It’s definitely an unfinished feature, but I’m glad it’s able to be turned on.

    • mickey corbett

      Even if Google didn’t finish it or if they ment it I think its great the way it is I don’t have to be stressing about the battery so early anyway ..and after a little while of use you can tell with just a glance anyway…and when it does come time for you to need to keep track …35 and down…its perfectly visable …hek I wouldn’t change it even when they fix it …mistake or not its a great idea…

  • Justin Shapcott

    Maybe that’s why it wasn’t enabled and there is not a place in the ui to enable it.

  • GrendelJapan

    Thanks for the article! As others have noted, maybe it’s intentionally designed that way.

    I completely know where you are coming from though. I have the same urge to constantly know what my battery percentage is, regardless of whether it is in the 90s or at 100%. Over the past several months, I’ve been second guessing this sense. Why do I care? When does it really matter?

    Maybe the design of it is trying to tell me, “Hey, it doesn’t matter right now. Don’t worry. I got this one. I’ll let you know well before you need to know.

    I sort of like it.

    • Dima Aryeh

      Once in a while, I turn off the battery percentage and go blind. It’s definitely refreshing, and gets rid of a certain stress. But sometimes, it’s just necessary.

      • Steven

        Maybe review the various battery apps, widgets status bar so cut all the functionality can be added with a free app

  • Obsolete

    “In today’s society, you function only as long as your technology functions.”

    What utter rubbish is this? Get a life, dude.

    • Dima Aryeh

      I work in the tech business :) if my phone/computer dies, I have no way of working. Technology is incredibly important, especially if you work with it to make a living.

      Also, try to keep comments civil. “Get a life” is quite rude and not the proper way to conduct yourself in our comments.

    • Leo

      Let a cellphone/smartphone crash during the day, or the computer that’s running half of the car go on the fritz and see how well you function then. It’s sadly true that we ALL depend on tech these days; we just may not realize how much.

    • mickey corbett

      Its not the writers fault that this is the way society is…wait till your standing in line and computers go down for whatever reason …even if you get arrested and the computers go down you can’t even be released on bail until they’re up again…maybe then you’ll be able to wrap your brain around what the writer is trying to say..

  • Steve Watkins

    From the looks of that screenshot, someone needs to send their phone back – 20% battery used in 30mins? Lol

    • Dima Aryeh

      He was probably forcefully draining it to get those screenshots to get his app up quicker. But that’s some crazy drain, I don’t think I could even force that on my Note 3.

    • Leo

      Or was it EPIC battery life that only drained 20% in 24 hours and 30 minutes? :)

  • Shizz

    While it is an issue that it isn’t visible when the battery is more than half way charged, isn’t that when it is least important to know the exact percentage. Although the percentage can still be checked by flipping the notification screen to settings. Admittedly hopefully next version will include some improvements!

  • Dch48

    I see nothing wrong with the way battery status is displayed in Android right now. I like the persistent notification. I can tell at a glance the approximate level of charge left. I don’t need the actual numbers.

    • Dima Aryeh

      Sorry, by persistent notification I meant third party apps that put a notification in your status bar. Another one.

  • Jelle

    Perhaps Google thought it wouldn’t be interesting to know the actual percentage unless it’s below 30%?

  • XanLoves

    The new status bar looks awesome, finally with all the icons the same colour!

    I would think google left out the % mod on the status bar to keep the clean simple look. You can easily see the % on the quick notification pull down. At a glance all I want is a rough estimate anyway, no?

    • bman

      This looks like my Android 2.1.x .. what a step backwards!!!

  • Android 4.5 Lipton Ice Tea

    Lets hope its the only flaw in 4.4 thats utterly broken

    • donger


  • mattcoz

    Why rag on Google for an unfinished feature being broken? Personally I use Powerline to show my battery percentage. It has the added benefit of showing on fullscreen apps, like games that are the biggest battery drainers. Btw, I think a very underappreciated feature of KitKat is the ability to drag down the top of the screen to temporarily show the status bar on fullscreen apps.

    • Dima Aryeh

      I’m not quite ragging on Google for not finishing an unfinished feature. It’s more of not understanding what could possibly lead them to design a feature that doesn’t work. It isn’t a bug, it’s broken design.

      Also, that is a great feature. TouchWiz has had it since 4.1, or maybe earlier. I’ve been swiping down to see the status bar in full screen games on Samsung devices for a long time.

      • Eli Gaffke

        Once again I thought that was Android and not Touch Wiz. I do know I was about to throw a HTC One against a wall because the notification bar was useless. It felt like I was using iOs.

      • mattcoz

        I think they most likely either put it in there just to see if it worked or they put it in there in the early stages of KitKat development, before they changed the icons to all white. White text over a blue icon would have definitely worked, that’s basically what I had been using. They probably could have come up with something better, maybe black text or a black outline around the white text, but it obviously wasn’t a high priority for them. Btw, I’m certainly not saying they’re perfect when it comes to design, particularly with the new status bar. Makes no sense to me why the icons don’t have some kind of shadow for when they’re displayed in immersive mode over a white background. They system bar icons have a shadow, the status bar icons should too.

        Yeah, I had an app that let me swipe the status bar down too, but this implementation is better.

      • mickey corbett

        The way Samsung does it if flawed compared to Google’s way of dealing with having access to status bar during fullscreen apps or movies ..check it out before you so proudly toot the horns of your Samsung …its so funny how when people see commercials they just have to have that product …it got me too.. But after using stock android devices there’s no comparison… Don’t get me wrong if you like Samsung great but get your info right before you brag

  • Paxmos

    “And guess what? It’s broken”….LOL

  • Anuj Diwan

    Maybe Google thought that it would be important to know the exact percentage only when it is under 30% so that exactly how much more can be juiced out before the battery dies is known? Anyways, one can always see the percentage in the Quick Settings pulldown.

  • FrustratedAndroidEe

    The more I read this blog & read about the Nexus 5 shortcoming, the more the iPhone is calling me to leave my Android mess and problems behind.

    There are dozens off apps that will put your percentage in the statusbar. Why Android team ccan’t figure it out in beyond mes

  • DragonPhyre

    Wireless Charging pads. Buy some. Forget you even have a battery in your phone.

  • rashad360

    That would have been a welcome addition to Android, oh well. Custom ROMS do it just fine, I’ll stick with that.

  • Harold Goldner

    I almost always mod my ROMs to show battery percentage (in numbers large enough for me to read without reading glasses). I really don’t care if there’s an icon at all. Fortunately, there are a few Xposed framework mods that fix this even if the ROM doesn’t..

  • android os 4.4

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  • Peter @Powerpax

    What a hot mess android is, not like the iphone is any better, with the new updates and blackouts, i’ll take android any day

  • mallen

    Did you seriously ridicule googles programmers for not getting a feature right, that they intentionally left completely hidden and disabled? I’m going to throw this out there, did you ever consider that they are not finished yet. That multi color status bar icons are NOT an android feature and are more work than the icon. If I had to guess,I’d say this was just a quick and dirty test to make sure the back end was working. In fact,there may be little the guy who wrote this can do at the moment,but wait. Remember, there are TEAMs of programmers on specific projects. Its not just a bunch of people doing whatever they want.

    In short,Doug’s job is to write back end code to supply the data to the next gen status bar to make smarter status bar icons.

    Eds been told,among other things to work on displaying smart configurable icons up there. But he also has a bunch of other work. The status bar has a deadline of October for the nexus 6 launch, while thos other things, like the big fixes have deadlines in a few weeks.

    Doug has a bit of spare time after getting a project done earlier than expected,so he writes the code to supply battery information. But he needs a way to display it so he hacks out a simple battery meter icon with a hidden setting to enable it. In fact, it causes no problems and the code gets tested with it, so he leaves it in as a surprise for us advanced users.

    And get a ridiculed because the non feature was not perfect. Well, why do you think its not enabled.

    In ow, Ed could hurry up and get the rest done, but then he’d get yelled at , why did he spend all that time on a feature that’s on the roadmap for October, when he has not finished fixing that security bug (the one the are keeping quiet about) that has a due date of two weeks from now, but really , he’s been told to make it a top priority and get it done asap because while the guy who found its presenting at a security conference in two weeks, its quite possible someone else knows and is already working up an exploit to that uploads a piece of code that flashes over your radio ROM using a coil placed on the bottom of a counter or table through the NFC traceiver,and steals your Sims encryption key,and leaves your phone a brick while its at it. And why don’t they have someone else do it. Actually, they did , that’s why Ed has it now. The thing is , there are a thousand other things that need to be done, and and they are prioritized.