For decades, when a computer has something to tell us that it can’t do through its screen or speakers, it does so through various colored lights. Why waste screen real estate when you can convey an entire message through a little blinky green light, after all? While this design sensibility isn’t as common as it used to be, especially on mobile devices like smartphones, there are still a couple of blinky lights to be found on modern devices like iPhones.
For example, occasionally, when you are using an iPhone, you may notice a distinctive dot in the upper-right corner of your display, colored either orange or green. Like the blinky lights of old, these colored dots are meant to inform you about an ongoing process within your iPhone. It’s a much more convenient way of cluing you into your iPhone’s goings-on than a notification that takes up a fifth of the screen. But you need to know what it means first.
What do the dots mean?
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The orange and green dots on an iPhone screen indicate that the iPhone is currently receiving external input. The orange dot indicates when the microphone is in use, either during a phone call or in some recording app. Meanwhile, the green dot indicates when one or both cameras or the camera and the mic are being used. If you swipe down from the top-right of your iPhone screen to open the Control Center, you can see which apps are using your mic and camera when the dots appear. (This is why it’s important not to ignore app permissions.)
If you’d like a better way to differentiate the dots than the color, you can switch the orange dot to an orange square in your settings.
- Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
- Tap Accessibility.
- Tap Display & Text Size.
- Toggle on the Differentiate Without Color setting.
This setting only applies to the orange dot — the green dot cannot be changed in color or shape. Additionally, if you were thinking about turning off these dots, you, unfortunately, aren’t able to do that. The dots can’t be removed from your iPhone screen in any way, as they’re vital components of the device’s privacy features. It’s the same thing as the bright red light that activates on a video camera when it’s recording. Apple considers it vital to inform the user of the phone when it may be recording audio or video.