macOS Update Removes Battery Time Remaining Estimate on Laptops

Okay, this one’s weird. Apple says the battery estimate on laptops is inaccurate. So rather than fix it, they’ve removed it in the macOS 10.12.2 update.

Over at The Loop, Jim Dalrymple has some info he got from Apple. He says:

The reason for removing it is very simple: it wasn’t accurate.

Apple said the percentage is accurate, but because of the dynamic ways we use the computer, the time remaining indicator couldn’t accurately keep up with what users were doing.

Michael Tsai, on his blog, says:

I tend to think that an inaccurate (but constantly updating) estimate is better than none. Otherwise, people will have to make their own estimates, which takes attention and is likely to be even less accurate. I never liked how the estimate claimed to be accurate down to the minute.

And John Gruber opined, on Daring Fireball:

This is like being late for work and fixing it by breaking your watch.

Here’s the problem: it’s never, ever been accurate. I have a 12″ MacBook, which is, right now, 93% charged, and it says that I have 4:43 remaining. This is for a laptop which, at the time it was sold (it’s about 18 months old), claimed “all day battery life.” I’ve kvetched to AppleCare about this, notably because Time Machine was using a lot of battery power, and I eventually gave up. They were unable to resolve the issue, and kept bouncing it around to different senior advisors. (When they followed up at all; I had to set up three different cases, because the first two senior advisors just dropped the case and never got back to me.)

I don’t actually know how long the battery on this Mac lasts. And I never will. But I know that it is longer than the estimated amount of time. Since I wrote 4:43 above, the estimate has changed to 5:03, and I’m not doing anything on the laptop (I’m writing this article on my iMac).

This, in my opinion, is an example of Apple totally screwing something up. They sell these devices estimating their total battery life in hours, yet they can’t even have a way of showing people a more or less correct amount of time remaining? Removing the battery indicator is like telling someone to put some food in the oven until it’s cooked, rather than saying for how long. (Oh, and the battery indicator on my MacBook now reads 5:33. And it’s not doing anything.)

Want an easy way to find out how much time you have left? Open Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities), and type this command, then press return:

pmset -g batt

As you can see, my battery time remaining now estimates at 5:53.

Battery terminal

Or use Bjango’s iStat Menus, which is a great way of keeping tabs on your Mac. It has a battery module; here’s what it looks like:

Istat menus battery

Yep, my MacBook now says 6:03…

Note: Many people are saying that since iOS doesn’t indicate the remaining time, why should a Mac do so? There are very different use cases between the two types of device. In most cases, you don’t use an iOS device continuously (I know, some people do “real” work on an iPad…). As such, the remaining time isn’t much help when you use your phone for a minute here, five minutes there, etc. With a laptop, you are more often working for longer periods of time, so it’s essential to know how much time you can work before you have to charge the device.