Losing battery in the middle of using a device is already exasperating. But not knowing when you might actually lose battery is especially infuriating. That’s why phones and laptops have battery indicators, inaccurate as they may be, to at least give users a clue when it’s time to start scrambling for a charger. Bluetooth accessories, on the other hand, are a different matter. Fortunately, Android might, in the near future, finally get a status indicator showing just how much battery your speaker or keyboard has left before it cuts your conversation or your productivity short.
Technically speaking, it has always been possible to know the battery level of Bluetooth devices. That functionality is, after all, part of the Bluetooth standard. But while devices may support giving out that information, it’s still up to the operating system or software to ask that data. By default, Android doesn’t.
Or rather, vanilla Android, pulled from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) codebase doesn’t. That means Nexus and Pixels, as well as near-vanilla OEM phones like those from Motorola and Sony have no way, by default, to connected Bluetooth devices for battery levels. However, modified ones like those from Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, and even OnePlus do. That’s because it’s possible to do so, and some third-party apps offer that functionality indeed.
Soon, however, it won’t be necessary to use third party apps and hacks. XDA observed that code has been introduced to the AOSP code base that adds API to query and show battery levels. Data is returned as a number between 1 to 100 or -1 for “disabled”. With these APIs, OEMs and app developers have a uniform way to get that info and display it as they want, from the familiar battery icon to custom widgets.
The question now is “when?”. Definitely not for Android 8.0 “O”. That door has already closed long ago and the API has already been frozen, meaning no new features can be added. Hopefully, Google has an 8.1 release planned in the immediate future so users won’t have to wait another year for Android 9.0 to introduce the feature.