Visual description of the icons on an Apple iOS device

Visual description of the icons on an Apple iOS device:  Rita’s iDevice Advice for June 1, 2020

Master list of the icons on an Apple iOS Device

Apple’s iOS software is an extremely visual environment, with icons that VoiceOver has been programmed to describe. An icon is a picture or symbol on the screen, used to represent an application, action, or a status message. This article will attempt to describe what a sighted person sees when looking at his/her iOS and iPad OS device. Having a basic understanding of these visual concepts can help non sighted users explain and teach iOS to those who can see, as well as providing an easier means by which Voiceover users and sighted users can relate to each other with regard to the iOS interface.

Please keep in mind that the descriptions presented in this document are based on initial layout, which you might see if you purchase a new iPhone or iPad and set it up as new, rather than restoring from a back-up. As you, or other people, use your device, changes may be made, additional apps may be installed, thus adding new icons, and much more. Additionally, the layout and descriptions presented here represent the current configuration as of iOS 13 and iPad OS. Much can change as new software updates are released. That said, the information in this document is subject to change or to be inaccurate.

General Overview:

When your Apple device is asleep, you can wake it up in one of several ways as described in the user guides, such as pressing the Home or Sleep/Wake button, or tapping/lifting your device. You are then immediately presented with the Lock Screen. This screen displays a padlock icon in the center of the screen, with the padlock either open or closed, depending on the current lock state of your device. Directly below that are the current time and date, one above the other. This Lock Screen also displays any notifications you may have received while your device was asleep. Select models also display a flash light icon in the bottom left, and a Camera icon in the bottom right. By default, devices with Face ID hide notification preview text until the device is unlocked.

From here, you can place your finger on the Home Button (devices with Touch ID), or glance at your device (Face ID devices) to unlock your iPhone or iPad. If necessary, you can slide up with one finger, using the bar at the very bottom center of the screen, to go Home. This places you on the Home Screen.

The Home Screen is divided into four distinct elements. These include:

– App Icons

– Page Selector

– Dock

– Status Bar

Giving special locations on the screen for the fixed elements can help sighted people find them.  For example, the Status Bar is at the top of the screen and the Dock is the bar with app icons across the bottom of the screen. It displays the same app icons, no matter which Home Screen page you are on. The Page Selector is just above the Dock, and the App Icon area, located between the Status Bar and the Page Selector, is a grid of icons, representing all the apps installed on your device.

The Status Bar (Top left and right of screen; not a physical bar):

Many different icons can show up on the Status Bar, depending on what services you have, etc. For example, an airplane icon will replace the WiFi icon if your device is in airplane mode.  LTE, 3G, 4G, 5GE, or others may show up depending on your current cellular service. There are indicators for personal hotspot, a call indicator when a call is in progress, location services icon, etc. 

Normally on the top left side of the Status Bar, the time is in numbers, like a Digital readout.

Further to the right, the Cellular signal strength is represented by vertical bars. The stronger the signal, the more bars are represented (a maximum of 4 bars can show up).

To the right of that is the Wi-Fi indicator which is two downward curved lines pointing with a dot under the two curved lines (some people call this graphic for WI-FI a Rainbow). The stronger the Wi-Fi signal, the more parts of this graphic appear filled in.

At the far right is the Battery indicator which is like a double A battery lying on its side and the center is filled with the level of charge which changes as the charge is used up or replenished.

Note that the Status Bar also appears at the top of the Lock Screen.

App Icon Area:

The majority of the Home Screen is comprised of the app icon area. This is a grid of apps, which is laid out with usually six rows (vertically) of apps with four apps (horizontally) in each row. Apps can be rearranged on the Home Screen, so that they appear in the order you prefer. You can even make folders which can store numerous apps. As new apps are installed, they most commonly appear last on the Home Screen. When you set up a new device, all Apple apps appear on the Home Screen first, followed by any third-party apps you may choose to install. Additional Home Screen pages are automatically created as needed, so that as new apps are installed, and the current Home Screen page is filled up, more pages will automatically appear. You can quickly swipe left and right between Home Screen pages (Voiceover users must swipe with three fingers), or you can use the Page Selector, to be discussed shortly.

App icons on the Home Screen appear as squares with rounded corners. Every app icon is the same size – about the size of a thumbnail. Each app has a background color, an actual picture symbolizing the app, and the text name of the app which appears just below the icon itself.

Page Selector:

The Page Selector is a series of gray dots, just above the Dock.  If you have six pages of apps, then there will be six dots in a row (side by side) to show how many pages there are  VoiceOver will say “Page 2 of 6”.  So if you are on Page 2, that page is represented by a white dot. Note that on iPhone devices, the first page of apps is actually considered page 2, because the Today View and Widgets Panel occupy Page 1. Users never automatically land on Page 1. They must use the Page Selector, or the swipe gesture, to get there.

The Dock:

The Dock is represented as a gray, round-cornered rectangle across the bottom of the Home Screen. On an iPhone, the Dock can support four app icons. These four icons remain the same, no matter what Home Screen page the Slider takes you to. You can change which apps appear on the Dock. The current default apps on the Dock for iPhone devices are Phone, Safari, Messages, and Music.  You can move the apps on the Dock around just like other apps.

The Phone app is green with a white handset of an old telephone; the Messages icon is green with a solid white speaking bubble; the Safari app is white with a compass graphic; and the Music App is a white app with a two musical eighth note graphic.

General App Icon Descriptions:

Please note that the following app descriptions are based solely on the native Apple apps that ship with every iPhone, as of iOS 13.5. Note also, that apps requiring special attention will contain an app badge, a red circle with a white number, at the upper right hand corner of the app icon. For example, if you have three unread messages, the Messages app will have an app badge with the number three. Some of the below apps may be in a folder called Utilities.

APP Name

App Color

APP Description

Apple Store


Blue shopping bag with white apple that has a bite taken out

Apps Store


White capital letter A



White open book 



Black calculator image



Current day of week (in red), date in numbers (in black)



Black old fashioned Polaroid camera



Blue circle with white movie camera



White face of click with current time in black analog



White compass image with cardinal directions: W, E, N, S



Circle with person image and colored tabs like an address book



White movie camera



Blue file folder



Blue file folder

Find My 


Green and blue circular radar

Garage Band


White guitar image



Red heart symbol 



Orange house



White 5 pointed with purple movie camera

ITunes Store

Dark pink 

White 5 Point Star

iTunes U


White mortar board



White podium



White envelope



Interstate graphic, white directional arrowhead, in blue circle



White ruler markings with yellow horizontal dotted line



Solid white speaking bubble (like in cartoons)



2 multi-colored eighth notes tied with bar



Red striped capital letter N


Yellow heading

White below

Gray lines across



4 white vertical bars



Whites slanted pencil with straight horizontal line



White old fashioned handset phone



Pinwheel of primary colors



Two white circles with a microphone symbol in middle



Three colored bullet points each with a gray horizontal line after them



Blue compass with die final needle in white and red



Dark gray gear wheel 



Red and blue squares on top of each with space in between



White horizontal graphic line with blue vertical line with blue dot



White apple with word TV in white

Voice Memos


Red and white vertical sound wave lines



Multi-colored rectangle with rows representing credit card slots



White watch – side view



White cloud with partial sunshine behind it

Notification Center: white header style letters “Notification Center”. In the Settings app, the Notification icon is red and within it is a white rounded corner square outline with a white ball at the right top corner. However, in the Notification Center, each notification will be a gray rectangle with rounded corners, and the icon within at the top left of the rectangle will look like whatever app is sending the notification.

Control Center: You can add other app icons to this area, so you may run across someone’s phone that is setup a little differently. By default, there are two black round- cornered squares side by side, near the top, with icons in them.  The one on the left has four icons, two on top and two below.  In the top left is the Airplane mode icon.  It is a gray circle with a white small airplane. In the top right is the Cellular data icon. It is a green circle with a graphic that resembles a small radio tower. In the bottom left of the square is the WiFi icon. In the bottom right is the Bluetooth icon.  It is based on the shape of the Viking Rune letters, H&B, which stands for Harald Bluetooth, a Viking King. It resembles somewhat a small butterfly paperclip lying on its side or a small bow on its side.

The square on the right is the Music App and has a white Play button arrow in the middle and gray left rewind and gray right fast forward buttons on the right. In that top right corner of that app is the airplay icon which looks like a target of white circles with a gray tiny triangle at the bottom and within the circles.

Below the large square on the left are two small icons. On the left is the Screen Orientation Lock. It is black with a white small padlock symbol and a white partial arrow circling around it. To the right of that is the Do Not Disturb icon. It is white with a gray quarter moon symbol.

Below that is a small black round-cornered rectangle, Screen Mirroring app. It has two small white outlined rectangles overlapping each other and the words, Screen Mirroring.

To the right of those apps are two long black narrow vertical slider apps. The one on the left controls the screen brightness. The slider is white and has a small gray sun symbol on it. To the right of that is the black volume control. The slider is white and has a small speaker symbol on it.

Below that, from left to right on most iPhones, are four apps. All are black with white graphics representing each app: but the flashlight app, a timer app (has a partial circle outline with a needle point to the 10 o’clock position), a calculator app (image resembles a calculator), and a camera app (image looks like a camera).

Below that at the bottom, left to right are three additional apps.  All are black with white graphics representing each app: The Home app (looks like a house nested within a house), low power mode icon (looks like a AA battery on its side), and the QR Code app (looks like four corner brackets with 4 small squares inside).

Other Common Icons Within iOS Apps:

Many Apple apps, and even a variety of third-party apps, conform to standard implementations of common icons, such as Back, Share, and Cancel, just to name a few. Learning what these icons look like can help you to recognize them, thus enhancing the ability to learn and use new apps.

Back button: a left pointing arrow.

Share option: a rectangle with an up-pointing arrow, or three dots.

Attachments: a paper clip

More option: a circle with 3 dots in the middle

Edit: the word Edit in a square

Add: the plus sign

Cancel: the word Cancel

Search: gray long round cornered rectangle with gray outline of magnifying glass, the gray word Search, and a gray microphone 

3 thoughts on “Visual description of the icons on an Apple iOS device”

  1. Great job on this, My school is looking to ease things and go to apple devices next year. I work with students who are blind and LV and I love how you explain things. I plan to use this with my students.
    I’m totally blind and this would help me explain what apps look like for my LV students who are not using VO and instead are using zoom. thanks

  2. Very good job. As a totally blind person, I have never seen an iOS screen, even though I have been using iOS for 10 years. I often assist sighted people with their iDevices and this information will really help me.

  3. I was surprised to learn that the sppeed control in the VoiceOver settings has a turtle and rabbit/tortoise and hare.

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