The Psychology of Your Battery Level Indicator… Or When to Believe That Yellow Bar

batteryHave you ever looked at your phone’s battery indicator after lunch and thought: “Great! My phone’s good ’til after dinner.”

And then, about 2:00, you see a yellow bar on your phone’s battery indicator and can’t figure out what must have happened.

Why did the battery power drop so quickly? Maybe you need to change your habits so you don’t drain your battery as fast. However, if you aren’t doing anything out-of-the-ordinary to drain your battery, then understand that the indicator is “designed” on some psychological premises.

When you owned a flip phone you might have charged your phone once a week or once every two weeks, but with smartphones and all their applications, your battery will usually only last a day or two. The manufacturers knew smartphones would put more of a demand on a battery. (An iPhone battery is more powerful… and the phone is heavier as a result.) They knew users would want their phones to be lightweight, able to handle multiple apps, and last all day.  They decided to  use a little psychology.

Battery Indicator Psychology

Unlike a gas gauge on your car, the battery indicator is not really showing you what is happening to your battery power level.  (About that new car… better check the notes at the bottom of this post). When you’re down to 90% power your indicator may still show 100%. When your indicator reads 50% your power may actually be closer to 30%. This is similar to creating a half-full versus half-empty view about your battery (and about your phone). After all, they want to keep you as a customer.

Get a widget!

I recommend using a widget on your phone or tablet that indicates the real status of your battery. Here’s what you can do:


This image is available in Flickr’s Creative Commons.

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