For an operating system as simple as iOS, it’s surprising how much stuff can appear in the 20px status bar almost always visible when using an iPhone or iPad. Ever since the Apple Watch came out, I’ve had a bit of a pet peeve that the Bluetooth symbol is always visible there as I’m always paired to the watch.
Is it really necessary to show me something that is always there? This leads me into a feature request that isn’t a critical new addition to the system by any means, but a small refinement to polish the iOS experience. I believe the status bar is too cluttered with redundant information and would like to see Apple make it tidier and less busy …
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A lot of icons and symbols can appear in the status bar. There’s the cellular signal strength, the WiFi / Personal Hotspot indicator, the Bluetooth glyph, the Do Not Disturb crescent moon, the network activity loading spinner, the clock icon signaling an alarm is set, the Location Services indicator, and several others.
There’s also the carrier name on the left, the centered time display and the right-aligned battery indicator. It doesn’t take too many of these to be visible for the status bar to get crowded. The screenshots and mockups are taken on a 4.7 inch iPhone, which is what most customers buy. This ‘issue’ may be less noticeable on an iPhone 7 Plus sized device in day-to-day use.
iOS includes some limited customization options here already, namely you can choose whether the battery indicator includes a percentage or not. This means you can save some space by only displaying the battery meter, not the text as well. I’d like to see this kind of toggle available to more system status bar items.
I think a lot of people want to be able to hide the carrier name, myself included. I know what carrier I use and pay for, I don’t need to be shown. I get to see the name ‘LIFE’ constantly with its distracting choice of capitalization. At least my carrier has a short name, it’s worse if your cellular service provider has a longer name that takes up a significantly wider region of the status bar. If it’s too long, it will even marquee scroll on the lock screen.
In the same vein, it has bugged me since iOS 7 that the signal strength indicator was changed from a compact bar chart into a very-wide collection of five separate circles. I didn’t include this in the mockup but I would welcome a redesigned (less overbearing) appearance here.
One of my leading complaints is the Bluetooth indicator. If you wear an Apple Watch every day like I do, it just feels so redundant to see the logo in the status bar every single moment. I prefer the way watchOS handles reporting the Bluetooth connection; if an Apple Watch is successfully communicating with a paired iPhone, the watch face displays no indicator at all. You only see a status item, a red phone glyph, in cases when the Bluetooth connection is broken and there is an error.
I’d love to be able to remove it from the status bar in iOS, or at least have it not show if the only connection is an Apple Watch. On the Mac, I have full flexibility. I can option+drag the Bluetooth widget out of the menu bar if I find it unnecessary, as you can with almost all the Mac status items. The same kind of feature could be exposed in an iOS Settings pane. An alternative design would hide the Bluetooth icon when the Apple Watch is paired, presenting a red error icon when an Apple Watch is not connected.
Showing Location Services icon has merit, as it is only visible whilst an app or service is using my location, so I don’t really have a problem with that one as it is providing relevant information. I would argue the Alarm Clock indicator is not necessary, though. I am in control of setting alarms, I know if one is set. It’s different to Location Services which are activated by external factors (the whims of the application).
I would love to have a ‘Show Alarm Clock In Status Bar’ preference that I could disable. Arguing that the alarm clock has special priority is a slippery slope in my view, as there are plenty of other things that are significant events but don’t get a place in the status bar (timers, calendar events, reminders, scheduled email for instance). The Do Not Disturb crescent moon is another icon I would consider removing; whether Do Not Disturb is enabled or not can be checked at any time using Control Center. The same is true for the orientation lock.
By the way, Apple has done some of this spring cleaning before. iOS used to put a Play icon in the status bar whenever music was playing, this was removed with iOS 7 assumedly because it is a redundant icon as the user is well aware when music is playing.
As I said in the introduction, this feature request isn’t about something so critical to the platform that iOS must get it. Some of it is a difference in design opinion, there are subjective decisions at play. Adding toggles to Settings isn’t zero-cost either. That being said, I would like to be able to make my iPhone status bar less cluttered — and I don’t think I am alone.