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4 min read 15 comments

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.

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.

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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.

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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

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!



Write new comment:

  • there are two, one green and one blue.they are square with with what looks like book pages with a red line over the top left has something that looks like a capital E. I could provide a screenshot if I knew where to send it

  • I have an icon that is a magnifying glass in front of a wifi icon. What does it mean and how do I get rid of it?

  • Ka S 1 month ago Link to comment

    I have a notification icon that look like a hand holding a tablet, but if I hold my device sideways it looks like an L. I'm using Lenovo yoga tab 3 plus, this icon showed up when the device updated to android nougot 7.1.1.

  • I have an icon that looks like N)) with the vertical lines of the 'N' curved like the brackets. Anyone know what it stands for?

    • Xero 3 months ago Link to comment

      It means NFC is enabled. I wondered the same, turned off NFC, and it disappears.

  • @google Feature request: Please add an entry to the Android pull-down notification menu that can be expanded to explain the meaning of all the icons on the right hand side. (Even the 'obvious' ones like battery, bluetooth, and NFC.)

  • I have a icon (en) that I have no idea what it is please help

  • One of those almost android free Obama phones the letter w the word wave and three horizontal wavy lines in the top status bar? Haven't found a clue! What do they mean? Only have photographic memory of them and don't remember exact position in status bar.

  • Vera H. 5 months ago Link to comment

    All icons are from "Font Awesome"

  • Thank you

  • This is were some software should be made available so you could customise it,like changing the status bar colour on the S8 models,as white buttons do not show up clearly,with any wallpaper you put on the phones,you can change the background but it's the button colours I want to change to Black or Red

  • Mark G. 5 months ago Link to comment

    I use the excellent app X-plore which is by far the best file management app, it has a handy wifi sharing which allows you to see your phones internal/external file structure on your tablet, anyway it has a cool way to activate it - drop down menu - wifi server icon.

    Peace 🖖🏼

  • Assem Dmc 5 months ago Link to comment
    check my website

  • Reg Joo 5 months ago Link to comment

    Customizing my phone with substratum makes the quick settings icons really shine, and every one that I have is self descriptive, absolutely no confusion here. If your rooted, and your phone supports it, use it.

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