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What the status and notification icons on Android actually mean

What the status and notification icons on Android actually mean

It seems that the icons in the status and notification bar get shaken up with every major Android update, sometimes changing appearance or disappearing entirely. If you find yourself not knowing what the two arrow and letters mean, for example, we're here to help make sense of these unintelligible glyphs. After all, what good are all these icons if you can't understand them. We've also added a word on using Android customizations such as Huawei's EMUI.

Status bar and notification bar: An important distinction

The status bar

The status bar and the notification bar are very similar, but in reality, they are two different things. The status bar is at the top of the display, on the right. The time, the battery status and current connections like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are displayed here.

On the left side of this strip, you'll find app icons to alert you to new messages, updates to the Play Store, and other notifications. Also, ongoing notifications can be accommodated here. So, if you listen to music via Spotify or Google Play Music, the corresponding icon will be displayed permanently. The sequence of the icons indicates how new or old the notifications are. The most recent notifications are displayed on the far left.

AndroidPIT Facebook notification settings 1
The status bar shows you the current time, the battery status and the connections. / © ANDROIDPIT

The notification bar and drawer

The notification bar contains notifications, which you can open with a wipe down like a curtain. On this notification drawer you swipe down, a lot of information is shown in a small space. You can preview a screenshot, read a WhatsApp message, see Facebook updates and more. You can then decide whether you want to open the app or remove the notification with a wipe to the right. Since Nougat, these embedded notifications are smarter than ever: You can now respond directly to messages without even having to open the app first.

In addition to the notifications, the quick settings are also located here. Here you can make settings quickly and efficiently. This allows you to enable and disable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other options. If you press and hold down an icon, you will enter the settings for this function. Most manufacturers offer direct access to the screen brightness setting.

Most manufacturers also customize the quick settings themselves. Therefore, there are always several options here. Fortunately, the selection can be personalized to your tastes and habits so you always have access to the most important settings for you. Also, you can always disable annoying or uninteresting notifications just by long-pressing an alert. This will open a small menu where you can choose how you want to be notified by the app.

The meaning of the icons

For each notification, an app icon is displayed, in addition to the icons for various system statuses. With each Android version, new changes arrive for each of these. Since Lollipop, Google's material design has had an influence on these icons. 

These small design changes can, unfortunately, create confusion. Sometimes an icon appears which doesn't immediately make its own meaning clear - which defeats the point of having it at all. Google also recognized this and provides a list of all of the material design icons. Here, you can clearly see which icon stands for what.

icone googl 1
Here are some of the most famous icons. / © AndroidPIT

The top picture shows the most famous icons, which you already know inside and out. Below are the icons for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, battery, clock and screen rotation. On the list, however, are not just the ones you're used to seeing every day, but all the icons of Android you could ever encounter. The reference list of every Android icon is divided into the following categories:

  • Action
  • Alert
  • AV
  • Communication
  • Content
  • Device
  • Editor
  • File
  • Hardware
  • Image
  • Maps
  • Navigation
  • Notification
  • Places
  • Social
  • Toggle

A word about Android customizations

As you well know, some manufacturers add their own customization software over the top of Android. Huawei has its EMUI, Oppo has ColorOS and OnePlus uses its OxygenOS. Whilst these customizations don't fundamentally change the way the status and notification icons look or react, you can often find options that are exclusive to the software you are running. You can see an example of what we mean in the image below, which shows Huawei's EMUI 8.0.

EMUI notifications
Status and notification icons on EMUI 8.0, the Huawei customization of Android. / © AndroidPIT

As you can see in the image, it is also possible to customize your drop-down status bar by dragging and dropping the icons you use and don't use so that only your chosen few show up when you pull down the status bar. Pretty cool!

These icons are the Android standard icons, but they can vary a bit from manufacturer to manufacturer. Have you ever seen a notification or an icon that you just can't figure out the meaning of? Describe it in the comments, and let us know what type of phone you have!

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  • I have a thick white circle thr3 quarters Colored with a cross in the middle. ?? Never changes

  • The first picture above shows multiple notification icons from the same app, for example: there appears to be 4 youtube icons and two Instagram cons, etc. With Android 8 and 9 this is more of an issue because now there is only room for four notification icons along with a dot indicating overflow. I'm using Android 9 and to me this makes no sense. Just now I got a audible email notification. I looked at my screen and in the notification area I see one notification icon for a text message and three notification icons for The Guardian followed by a dot. Why am I being told I have three notifications from the Guardian and no sign of the email notification? Wouldn't it be more efficient and practical to show one notification icon for each app, for example: One text message icon, one Guardian icon and one email icon? This is how it was done up to Android 6 I believe. Who makes these decisions and changes that makes no sense?

  • B83201 2 months ago Link to comment

    How do I upload a photo of the icon I'm wondering about? It looks like a rectangle with a circle on top.

  • Joffre 2 months ago Link to comment

    i have one icon i dont know what it is yet, its two hands holding a battery, you can check this screenshot, please help me. ibb.co/HCJ8760

  • Ricky 3 months ago Link to comment

    I have 2 icons I haven't been able to find out what they are, hopefully one of you can. 1 icon is like the recycling triangle with 2 arrows in it, 1 pointing up , 1 pointing down. I would like to know what it is. Second icon is a phone like I'm in a call but it's got the wifi signal top right and below it, it's a 1. Keeps freaking me out thinking I'm in a actual call atm. It's a Samsung A7, 2018.

    Found out by trial and error, that the triangle icon is for when you have Data Saver active. Why isn't that icon shown in the large icon database in the post...

    Would still like to know about the phone icon though

    • The phone icon with WiFi icon above is for the WiFi Calling feature whereby the phone can fallback to WiFi if you are making a call and both WiFi and Cellular are available.
      All you have to do is enable the WiFi calling feature on your phone and place a call just like you would with cellular infrastructure. You may have to register the physical address of where the WiFi connection is so
      as to facilitate finding your location in a 911 emergency call scenario.

  • I'm seeing a circle enclosed in a broken circle. First time was today.

  • A head with three commas after it keeps randomly flashing in my notifications. Makes no sound and isn't there for even a second. Looks like a person listening but idk what it is. Galaxy note 8

  • What does battery unknown mean ? What is it about? thanks!

  • Dja138 6 months ago Link to comment

    Any idea what an icon that looks like a car speedometer is on a huawei p20 pro please? I would post a screen shot but it's not
    Update:-, It was the performance mode icon.

  • I have a single white vertical line by my wifi indicator icon in status bar. Only there when im on home screen or in app drawer, disappears whenever i use any other apps. It should be visible in my profile pic. I didn't know how else to show anyone. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • My experience with that is that the verticle line is actually an exclamation mark which is telling you to do something such as login to the WiFi hot spot. That is what my Samsung Galaxy A520 does when I need to login to get internet connectivity. I think this typically when you have an open hotspot with no wifi connection security but there is a guest login action you need to take to actually get internet connectivity

  • Itzi 7 months ago Link to comment

    In the top left appears an icon of a person (shoulders up) with 3 "broadcasting" lines on the right side, it pops for a few seconds and then dissappear... What does it mean???

    • Hi Itzi! The icon you are referring to is used by Google Maps, and it is a notification that the app is updating your shared location. This will only appear occasionally if you are actively sharing your location with another user. Hopefully this helps!

    • Same... What is this?

  • Hello I have a envelope looking icon with a heart with it. What is that icon?

  • I have a triangle on the right top side of my phone. I cannot find a picture of it anywhere. What does it mean? It just showed up one day

  • I have a signal icon that has a little home above it with a open paran rotated 90 degrees clockwise and bouncing up and down on top of the house. I have a Samsung 4g network extender. Is this the new icon to show that I am connected to said extender?

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