There are a number of status icons on the iPhone, each of which provide information. This short overview will provide you with a guide to the common icons and some which are not as familiar.
The cell signal icon displays your current cellular signal and the strength of the signal. You want to see more bars on this display, which means better service for making and receiving calls. If you are outside of the range of your wireless carrier, the bars are replaced with “No Service”.
When airplane mode is used when, you guessed it, you are using your iPhone when flying. The orange airplane mode icon indicates that the wireless capabilities, including Bluetooth are all disabled. In airplane mode, you cannot make or receive calls, or access the Internet. Don’t worry, Angry Birds works perfectly fine in airplane mode.
3G: This represents availability of the 3G network, either UMTS or EV-DO, dependent upon your carrier. When seeing the 3G status icon, you can browse the Internet at 3G speeds.
Edge: The ‘E’ icon means you are not connected to your GSM carriers 3G network, but instead the slower EDGE network.
The o symbol indicates you are accessing a carriers GPRS or 1xRTT network. This will be in place of the 3G status icon and while you can connect to the Internet, expect slower speeds.
The WiFi status icon is shown when you are connected to a WiFi network. Like the cell signal status icon, the more bars the better. The greater the number of bars indicates the greater the connection.
If you are using a friend’s iPhone Personal Hotspot, you’ll see an icon that appearance mirrors two adjoined rings.
Two arrows chasing each other in a circular fashion is the iTunes syncing icon. It means that you are syncing data between your device and iTunes on your Mac/PC.
This icon is shown in various different places on your iPhone. When shown as a status, it means ‘network activity’. This can be used by third-party apps to show an active process.
If you’ve set up call forward, the phone/arrow icon shows that your iPhone is currently forwarding calls.
The VPN icon is an indicator for when you are connected to a network using VPN (Virtual Private Network).
The lock icon means that your iPhone is in a locked state. When you first power on your device, you’ll see the lock icon. When you ‘slide to unlock’, the lock icon is removed, since your iPhone is no longer locked.
A phone atop of seven small dots means that it is set to work with TTY. TTY, also known as Text Telephone Device or Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD), is a special device required at both ends of the conversation that enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired to use the telephone to communicate. TTY works by allowing people to type messages back and forth to one another instead of talking and listening.
The guide to understanding iPhone status icons is part of our new continuing series of iPhone How-To guides, tips and basics.