What is the dot in a circle icon on my Windows Phone?

One of the troubles with running a dedicated Windows Phone site is that you need to cater to the pro users and the new folks who have just picked up their first device. This post is for them, the new people.

On Windows Phone 8 you may often see a little dot-in-a-circle icon appear in the upper right hand side on your screen. It seemingly pops up randomly and due to the amount of forum threads on the matter, it has caused some confusion. So what is it?...

It's simply the GPS icon alerting you to the fact that an app at that moment is pulling down your location.

Often this will happen with some weather apps that use your at-the-moment location (as opposed to fixed) for the current weather conditions. In fact, in Windows Phone 8 apps that use geolocation information can freely run in the background (e.g. Nokia Drive) and of course apps can run periodically for updates to the Live Tile. Anytime that is happening, you'll see the little dot in a circle icon appear.

This means you may see the icon when in an app or sometimes just when you are on your Start screen. If it's the latter case, that just means an app in the background is updating and accessing your location at that moment.

In short, it's nothing to be alarmed about unless you don't want your GPS services running (you can always disable them system wide via Settings --> Location). Just pay attention when you are setting up an app for the first time. All Windows Phone apps are required to ask for permission before accessing your location, so it's on you to click yes or no. 

For further reference, you can peep the chart below posted by Nokia (opens in new tab). This chart shows all of the Windows Phone 8 icons that may pop up on your phone (including HTC, Samsung, etc.).

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • thats funny as I just searched for that, found my answer and refreshed Wpcentral homepage and this article pops up....creepy :)
  • That icon is actually used on WP7. For example, the Amazing Weather app uses it to show the location that so gps specific. On the Live Tile the icon also shows when providing the weather & temp of the gps location.
  • Aww man you have no idea how long ive been wondering that. Even Google couldn't tell me lol
  • Should have "Binged" it.
  • I did. Oddly, the WindowsPhone page for WP7 has a legend, but I couldn't find the equivalent for WP8.  WP7 and WP8 use slightly different icons for GPS location service in use. But I figured it was the same use.  Thanks Nokia for the legend (and WPcentral for reposting).
  • +1 Thats the way to do it! :)
  • That explains that now :-)
  • How about the characters that appear next to the signal strength icon? So far I have seen 4G, G and E.
  • You may also see 3G, LTE, and EV.
  • I think 4G is misnamed HSPA+ and E is Edge. Not sure what G is.
    I was so confused the first time I saw 4G because it had previously said LTE. I didn't understand why they would change the icon to say 4G, but I realized it was just HSPA+. 
  • G is for GPRS I think
  • Indicate the type of signal
    In the UK: G: gprs 2g
    E: edge (fancy 2g)
    3g: erm, 3G
    H: hspda (fancy 3g)
    4g: I don't have it personally but I'll hazard a guess. I assume USA will have L, for LTE? also 4g
  • H = HSPA H+ = HSPA+ LTE = LTE ;)
  • Can't be more clearer lol
  • On My AT&T 920 I never get H for HSPA, instead I get 4G which according to Pocketnow is HSPA.  I have LTE disabled BTW.  Is that correct Dan if you read this?
  • Where in settings you can disable LTE or 4G?
  • I just see where to disable all data, I don't see "fastest data speed" like I used to on WP7.  Not a complaint, just an observation.
  • LTE = LTE (fastest) 4G = HSPA+ (name used for it(not really 4G) faster 3G but still slower than LTE.) 3G = 3G (accurately named) E, G = both basically 2G
  • I don't think that's accurate. In Australia 4G = LTE. My HD7 can't do LTE/4G but I get HSPA (H symbol) all the time.
  • I think HSPA can be descibed as "3.5G" speeds.  My HTC Titan was able to utilize this band frequently where I live.  I think it was a small preliminary step for ATT before they were ready to go full HSPA+ (4G) and eventually LTE.
  • On my HD7 I've seen G,2G and 3G. The non carrier branded phones will show G,E,H,etc
  • On our Lumia 920s on AT&T in Las Vegas, NV, we normally flop between LTE and 4G.  We've also seen E and G.  Up till now, I had thought the E and G ones were some kind of screen problem messing with the LTE and 4G icons.  Now I know differently.  Well, I know what the things stand for.  But, I still don't know what it gets me:  we're still dropping calls, having trouble making them, and not getting others.
  • I have my phone set to save my location every once and a whole in case I lose it. Having used tracking systems like Seek Droid and Find my iPhone, I know that tracking after the fact can be difficult. I imagine that is the reason it pops up for me as often as it does I imagine.
  • This.  The most common reason for this icon appearing outside of you running an app that is location aware is the 'find my phone' feature in the OS.  If you have that enabled (and you should) this grabs the location periodically to make sure it's tracked for use with that feature.
  • I wish you could click the circle and open whatever app it is that's accessing your location. I think some websites on IE access your location in the background but I can't confirm it. The bubble pops up now and again even though I've disabled most everything in the background tasks.
  • IE will always ask you before providing your location to a website. Try it by going to a site like foursquare.
  • You are right, that's one less suspect but I still can't figure out what it is that periodically is doing it.
  • You can easily see all apps running in the background by going into settings and swipe left for background tasks. You can see all apps that pull any kind of infomation.
  • Agreed. Having just switched from iPhone, this is a feature I sorely miss. iOS shows you which app(s) are presently using location services, and also which ones have used it in the past 24 hours.
  • I was curious about that, but had yet to do a search...
  • Nokia maps also uses the same symbol to show your location on the map.
  • This is why there is no better tech site when it comes to Windows!  Period!
  • I guess it would be obvious if you use Nokia Maps as its the exact same icon, but if you hadn't it would certainly be an odd addition to the top bar.
  • How do you enable silent mode?
  • In settings, set Vibrate and Ringer to off. You can then toggle Ringer/Silent by tapping the icon (hit volume, tap the bell)
  • Needs a ring+vibrate option after turning on silent mode.
  • When I put my phone on vibrate mode, I call it "bacon mode" because of the icon.
  • I LOL'd
  • +1 hahahahah
  • me too
  • Ha! I'm gonna use that expression from now on :)
  • Silent mode? How do I activate silent mode??? I found it extremely annoying that there seemed to be no silent mode, but it seems there is. Please, anyone, please tell me how to activate it...
  • Press the volume up or down button on the side and then tap the Bell icon.  It'll turn into 3 wavy lines to indicate it's on vibrate only.
    Alternatively, you can just hold the volume down button until the volume reaches zero.  At that point it switches over to vibrate only. 
  • erm, disregard the above, just found daniels post.
    Now I am pissed that it is the inconvenient to enable it. should be easier. they could have done it by setting the volume to zero and in this situation the vibration should turn off, too. the vibrate only is already implemented by tapping the bell icon, so this might be a good way for enabling silent mode.
  • The battey saver icon is cute but it blocks your view of the battery level unless it's full or empty. Since you turn that on when you are concerned about battery life, it's frustrating that you can no longer see your battery level.
  • Well if it's showing it means your battery is low to begin with. If it's displayed its less than 20 and if it flashes you have less than 10%
  • Unless you've activated battery saver manually.
  • Why would you?  You're better of just disabling the services you don't want that drain the battery.  That way other services (like the phone location) still work fine.
  • It has its uses. Eg, going away for the weekend and wanting to keep as much juice as possible. It's easier to temporarily activate batter saving than go through and turn all the apps and email sync off, just to turn them all back on later.
  • Bunch of newbies
  • I was just looking for this info the other day. Only icons I don't know now are sometimes beside the Signal Strength there was an "E" and at another point another letter I don't quite remember.
  • Yea I still can't figure what app or system service is accessing it. First I though it was the NY times app, then a weather app (that I turned location checking off in the app setting but thought maybe the app wasn't working), then IE, but really I have no idea, and no way to tell. Grrr
  • I always thought the vibrate mode icon meant bacon mode! i'm disapointed to find out otherwise.
  • Duuuude I was wondering what that was, thought someone was spying on me.... looks like an eyeball
  • LMAO Uncle sam is always watching
  • That's a great chart. Thanks.
  • Just my 2 cents,,,
    This DOT symbol will show periodically even if you turn all background apps which use geolocation.
    GPS is used by "Find my Phone" feature for Windowsphone and the only way to turn it off is by going ito settings an turning all your location services off.
    I hope this helps!
  • Here I thought it was telling me I was at my Manor in the Homestead...
  • Thanks, Daniel !
    I have just known what's mean the black triangle
  • Correction regarding apps using GPS – they're not required to prompt you first, they're only required to give you an option somewhere in the app to turn it off. If they use location then the Marketplace prompts you at install, and any futher prompts are just the courtesy of the developers.
  • Thank you for this explanation...!!!!
  • We all don't know yet but we DEE DEE DEE!!!!
  • I learned the hard way that the "vibrate" icon and the baconit notification icon look exactly alike. Spent a good 10 minutes trying to maddeningly trying to figure out what baconit wanted to notify me before I noticed the phone was on vibrate. LOL.
  • The icon is a diamond with a hole in it for WP7 devices.