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 / © NextPit

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.

android 10 icons
Here's how the icons look at Android 10 / © NextPit

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 / © NextPit

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 / © NextPit

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!

Latest articles at NextPit

Recommended by NextPit


Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing
Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing

  • Cool!

  • storm 3 months ago Link to comment

    Behold the evil of manufacturer skins who deviate into the paths of confusion and self-prioritization over user choice and control. Shun them.

  • luc 4 months ago Link to comment

    Ik have a downloadsymbol with next to it a red dot. It keeps on appearing even after restart. Anyone knows what it is and how you stop it?

  • Yvonne 4 months ago Link to comment

    I have a blue circle with a line through it by the telephone number that called in.

  • I have a broken sided triangle - what does that mean

  • What is the hand and dot notification mean?

  • LG G8 - I have an icon that just starting showing up on the status bar. It looks like a phone on its back with maybe what appears to be the word MUTE or VALU with a curved line at the top. As far as I know nothing is muted if that is what is says (too small to read).

    • Linc 5 months ago Link to comment

      That icon is your wifi calling icon..it means you are connected to wifi and that you are using your internet connection to make and receive calls. You can turn that off under settings if you lime.

    • scb29 1 month ago Link to comment

      Linc this is not the icon swally2 was talking about. The wifi icon does not have text in the middle, just the handset and half circles.
      swally2 the text in the middle is "VoLTE" and stands for Voice Over LTE. This means you can make HD voice/video calls over your (4G) LTE network without any 3rd party apps.

  • I have an icon that pops up quickly and disappears so I cannot find the app or thing it belongs to. It's on the left side and shows the head and bust of a person with 2 or 3 curved lines running vertically on the right side. I have an LG V30 upgrade to 9.0 if that helps.

  • ressa 8 months ago Link to comment

    On the right hand side top bar. a square with symbol that resembles a N. Samsung note 10. Please help. ( It is next to my alarm icon for a reference as to location.

  • mcadwell 10 months ago Link to comment

    I have a disability and have an extremely difficult time seeing the tiny icons. They were much bigger on my previous phone. How does one make these icons big enough to see?

    • mcadwell 10 months ago Link to comment

      I would be very appreciative if anyone could help me with this. I can't use them the way they are. Thank you.

  • I have an icon on the upper left of my screen that looks sort of like an EKG sign. Can anyone tell me what that one is? Please!

  • After an update I have a green square with android robots head, at the top left of my screen any ideas??

  • I have a symbol that looks like a spider with a T inside it???!!

  • I have a symbol on the top rhs next to the sound on/off icon. I looks like a triangle with a small gap in each side and 2 arrows inside, pointing up and down. No idea what this is

    • I have the same thing on my phone and haven't been able to find out what it is yet. Let me know if you find out. Thanks jaxaccord@gmail.com

    • Marie Nov 9, 2019 Link to comment

      It means your data saver is on. Go to connections under settings, then data usage. You can toggle it on or off

Show all comments
Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing