Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Presumably Randall was hired by a committee to propose a new flag for an unspecified country. His process editing the flag involved taking a screenshot of his design to export it, a mistake that went unnoticed by anyone until the flag was officially implemented.
Once the problem was pointed out, the design committee placed the blame on Randall, but could not immediately undo their decision until new suggestions had been submitted and a new committee could agree on another design. Thus the country is now stuck with this design, making it the only country with such a bar in the flag.
The title text mentions a compromise bill that will change the flag. This implies that the flag was approved with the status bar included. Apparently there is some controversy about removing the status bar from the flag, as the compromise bill proposes keeping the status bar and changing the displayed percentage of the battery from 39% to 100%. This is wordplay on the term "charge" as used in vexillology, where it refers to a figure appearing on the background of the flag. It may also be a reference to 1373: Screenshot.
 Flag design
The bar in notification bar, is a vexillological descriptor, as in the "Stars and Bars," a term used for the first flag of the Confederate States of America.
Flags are often minimalist and involve geometric shapes and solid colors. A notification bar at the top of the flag would clash with these design elements and look unprofessional. The flag in the comic is otherwise well-designed, conforming with a principle of heraldry and vexillology known as the rule of tincture: the "metals" consist of white, silver, yellow, and gold, while the "colours" consist of red, blue, green, purple, and black; anything in the "metal" category should only be placed upon a background of the "colour" category and vice versa.
The elements of the flag's intended design—the colors red, white, and blue; the use of stripes; and the star emblems—are the same that are used in the American flag the Stars and Stripes.
The elements of this flag are, however, also present in several other existing flags, like those derived from Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, and like the flags of Australia and New Zealand. They are also in the flags of North Korea, Liberia, and Malaysia. The flags from USA, Australia, Liberia and Chile have white stars, and those of USA and Liberia have white bars as well.
The low battery status might imply that the country is low on resources. It thus seems like people have taken the reference to modern times smartphones to their hearts and actually wish to have this very modern design.
But if they indeed continue with this idea, thinking that their country would look better with a full battery charge, they might also consider changing the 3G connection to the newer 4G version and giving the phone a full signal (5/5 instead of only 3/5 dots), and maybe also choose a time that would mean something rather than 5:48 PM. For instance noon/midnight, or 8:00.
The reason such a status bar could be missed in the first place could be that most people today look at pictures on their smartphones all the time, and thus their own phone's status bar is indirectly included at the top of all the pictures they see. People thus do not notice these status bars any longer as they are always there and clearly not important for the picture. Randall has mentioned before, in 1373: Screenshot, that he cannot take smartphone screenshots seriously if the battery of the device is low, as he cannot focus on the content, becoming afraid his own device is running out of power—a problem that only occurs if he sees it on his smartphone, as he then becomes concerned that it is his phone that is about to run out of charge. But in this status bar there is still 39%, enough not to cause immediate concern. His fear of losing his on-line connection like this was the joke in a the comic 1802: Phone released about a month before this one.
Since Randall was asked to create this flag, it seems most likely that he would have to be a citizen of this new country. It could thus indicate that a group of states have broken free from the United States to form their own smaller union of three states, one for each star. With the current political situation in the states after Donald Trump’s inauguration there has been some talk about states leaving the USA, and Randall has clearly been against the election of Trump, see 1756: I'm With Her. His choice of comic subjects seems to have been affected by the election result. Since Randall lives in Massachusetts, it could be this and two other nearby states that have formed their own new union of states, maybe the other two small states Connecticut and Rhode Island.
- [A two colored flag is shown. The left and rightmost parts of the flag are dark blue, and the center is red and each section has a large white star in its center. The colored parts are separated by thinner white vertical stripes. At the top of the flag, there is an off-white status bar like one found at the top of an iOS smart device. On the left it is displaying the strength of the connection (3/5 dots), in the center it is displaying the time and on the right there are three small icons the last is the battery charge:]
- 5:48 PM
- [Below the panel there are two captions]
- The design committee fired me once they realized that my editing process involved a screenshot, but it was too late.
- Until they change it, our new country has the only national flag to include a phone notification bar.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
Makes me wonder why he was doing this at 5:48 pm.
--184.108.40.206 20:56, 25 March 2017 (UTC)
A vote for me is a vote for bread on every table and a 73% battery level until the end of time! jameslucas (" " / +) 14:02, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
Given that the design is a screenshot, the flag could be part of an existing logo, e.g. of a U.S. sport association.--220.127.116.11 14:15, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
The comic states "our NEW country" so I removed the theory it could be a new US flag.
The most recent sovereign state, according to Wikipedia, is South Sudan created in 2011 so we could assume Randall never intended to talk about a real-life country 18.104.22.168 14:25, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
- It could be referring to new country proposals by techno-libertarians and the like?  -Jules.LT (talk) 14:32, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
- for instance https://www.cnet.com/news/asgardia-will-be-a-new-nation-in-space-and-you-can-be-a-citizen/ WhiteDragon (talk) 14:44, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
Note that official flags have an aspect ratio of 3:2 (with a few exceptions, like Switzerland and Nepal). The proposed flag including the notification bar measures 474 x 316 pixels (3*158 x 2*158 pixels), following the standard. If one removes the notification bar the resulting flag is somewhat wider than the standard. 22.214.171.124 15:06, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
- Those "few" exceptions include 106 of the 189 or so sovereign states. Even that overstates the popularity of 3:2 since some nations have multiple different official flag specifications for different uses or users. --126.96.36.199 15:29, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
- When I measured it, I found it to be 314 pixels tall - about pi * 100, which I feel is no mistake. 188.8.131.52 18:04, 8 April 2017 (UTC)
According to Apple's own documentation, this kind of bar is referred to as a "status bar", and not a "notification bar". --Jonhaugen (talk) 15:28, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
- Key word: Apple. Notification bar is a term used more commonly in Android, largely from the time Android had a pull down notification tray and iOS didn't. 184.108.40.206 02:02, 25 March 2017 (UTC)
Since the screenshot is part of the editing process, I don't think this can be interpreted as a mistake. It probably is entirely deliberate. The joke relies on the fact that most of the times when this bar appears, it is a side effect of the way the relevant data (the rest of the image) has been obtained, rather than part of the information itself. Actually, not only can the bar be ignored most of the time, but this is so often true that some people may not pay any attention to it at all. The committee's mistake might not have been that they failed to understand that Randall actually meant for the bar to be there, they might have not noticed it at all (even more likely if they looked at the image in full screen on a similar device). 220.127.116.11 16:08, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
The real reason for firing him would most probably be that he made the committee and any decision making bodies up the chain look unprofessional. He may have missed it or intentionally trolled them, but it seems the status bar made it through the committee and all the way to becoming official without getting noticed. That sort of publicity will result in heads rolling, starting with the easiest target, the designer (depending on the state maybe literally, but if he was just fired it's probably not that type of system).--18.104.22.168 18:07, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
What kind of barbaric country still relies on 3G? It's like we're going back to the stone age!
I think this new flag represents a part of USA (3 states) that has either split with the rest due to the current president or are the three states that was left after the other 47 left. This makes sense with Randall's views of Trump and the colour stars and stripes is so clearly a reference to the Stars and Stripes also given Randall is from the states and as he was asked to make the flag. Maybe it is Massechusets, Conneticut and New York that had formed an independent country? ;-) --Kynde (talk) 19:30, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
- The United States of Macutny had better be prepared for a long war with the remaining USA over access to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. - These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 20:28, 25 March 2017 (UTC)
- I sure hope those are the states he picked! But also, Connecticut annexes Rhode Island. - Lieutenant Zipp
Is the notification bar a standard one for some OS or common system, or has Randall invented it? Probably not an interesting comment, but I'm curious if that layout actually exists. Would seem an awful waste of screen real-estate devoting a third of the bar to an almost meaningless "signal strength" metric -- 22.214.171.124 20:29, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
- The bar is the one redesigned in iOS 7. The off-white coloration, layout, and even the specific icons beside the battery display are taken from that interface. The issue with the wasted space of the cellular strength meter is even worse on an actual device, where the name of your service provider (or the word "iPad" on, well, an iPad) is also displayed at all times. ~AgentMuffin
A construction sheet for the XKCD 1815 flag (excluding notification bar)Locoluis (talk) 22:32, 25 March 2017 (UTC)
Has anybody noticed that the flag perfectly represents the overall politican division of the current US with the blue states on the coast, and the red states in the middle? 126.96.36.199 08:59, 27 March 2017 (UTC)
Is it just me but the 39% could be a take on the current approval rating of the US president and the 3G to the 3 branches of government?188.8.131.52 10:16, 27 March 2017 (UTC)
Could this also not be a dig at the hopelessly tech illiterate (mostly, in my humble experience iPhone users) who habitually take screenshots rather than saving an image to disk? And continue to do so even after it's pointed out to them that they don't need all that cruft. That saving to disk is so simple makes it doubly hilarious and vexing. --184.108.40.206 12:24, 27 March 2017 (UTC)
If the Netherlands (or insert country or state known for their "relaxedness" here) were to update their flags with a status bar they would 'obviously' choose 4:20 as their time ;) 220.127.116.11 13:53, 29 March 2017 (UTC)cdm
Any heraldry nerds want to take a crack at cleaning up my attempt to blazon the flag?
- Azure between two Mullets Argent on a Pale Gules fimbriated Argent a Mullet Argent; on a chief Argent all Sable: in dexter three Roundels two Annulets and the Letters "3G", in centre the Letters "5:48 PM", in sinister a Chevron turned bendwise sinister a Clock the Letters "39%" and a Battery turned sinister D5xtgr (talk) 01:36, 2 February 2018 (UTC)