What Does the Arrow Mean on iPhone?


The first time you turn on your iPhone, you probably noticed that arrow on the upper left or right-hand corner (depending on the iPhone) and wondered what it meant. Of course, everyone is familiar with location services, but is that all the arrow is for?

Quick Answer

When you see it pop up in the corner, it means that one of your apps is accessing your iPhone’s location services. It doesn’t indicate what app it is, just that it is occurring at that moment. There are also different color meanings for the arrow as well.

Apple has been a lot more straightforward than other smartphone manufacturers regarding privacy. They have instituted several tools that allow you to nitpick your apps and determine who and what can access your location services. 

Sometimes, the arrow will be a certain color, or it will be solid black, and occasionally it will be hollow. They all have different meanings, and it helps you determine the type of apps that are accessing your location services. 

What do the Arrows mean?

To see what the arrows and their colors mean, you will need to access your location services within your settings.

  • Open your iPhone’s Settings
  • Locate and open Privacy
  • Select Location Services
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the screen

Once you reach the bottom of the screen, you will get a detailed explanation of what the arrows mean in their different variations. A hollow arrow means that particular apps have access to your location but only under certain conditions, namely the settings that you apply. 

The Purple arrow means that an application is currently using your iPhone’s location services or has done so very recently. The gray arrow indicates that an app has used your location services within the last day or 24-hour period. 

This is just a layout of information as to what the arrows mean. You will have to go into each app to discover how that app is using your location services based on the color (or lack thereof). 

You will also see the arrow pop up as a white arrow within a blue, circular field. Most of the time, you are only going to see this when you are in your browser and come across a website attempting to access and use your location.

For instance, when you Google a local grocery store, Google likes to access your location so that it can not only tell you how far you are from that location, but how long it will take you to get there, whether or not you can call, and what hours they are going to open.

Of course, Google is collecting a lot more information than that, but that’s another discussion altogether. 

How to Turn Off Location Services

Understandably, you would want to turn off your location services. Not every app you ever download needs to know exactly where you are at any given time. For example, Minecraft asking for your location is understandable since they will determine what server to put you on.

After that, however, it’s not Minecraft’s business where you are anymore, and you can turn off the app’s ability to track your location. Some apps are so fundamentally interested in your location that you simply won’t be able to use the app unless you hand it over. 

Fortunately, you can either turn off all location services access for all of the apps on your phone, including Apple or pick and choose which apps you want to access your location services. 

You can also fine-tune it so that your apps can only access your location when you are actively using those apps, rather than just leaving it on at all times. Keep in mind that so long as that app is open, even if you aren’t actively using it, it technically constitutes “use.”

So it’s crucial to ensure that you completely close the app when you are done with it.

To control your app’s access to location services, you’ll want to head back into Settings again. 

  • Open your Settings app
  • Select Privacy
  • Select Location Services
  • At the top of the screen, toggle Off Location Services

Suppose you want to take the time instead of toggling the off option, which will remove all of the underlying applications from location services access. In that case, you can instead scroll down, opening app after app and selecting how you want those apps to interact with location services. 

There will be four options to choose from as you open each app to determine its level of access: 

  • Never – prevents the app from ever accessing your location (excellent choice for all social media platforms, Amazon, and Google.
  • While Using the App – only allow the app to use when you have the app open. For apps that refuse to function without location services, this is a good option, because as soon as you close out the app, it is completely cut off. 
  • Always is a pretty open and shut case of giving the app permission to access your location and your location services whenever, wherever, and for as long as it needs to. 
  • Ask Next Time – means that the next time you open the app it will ask you, giving you the above three options to choose from. There’s no real reason to select this option as you can go ahead and make that determination while you are in the Settings menu

That’s the extent of your options, and for the most part, you should either rescind permissions for an app to access your location (unless it is necessary for the app to do so) or utilize the location service only while using the app, which protects your privacy when there’s no need for an app to have your location. 

All Things Considered

The arrows simply tell you that your location services are being used, with a vague idea of how they are being used. You can always go into your settings and find out which app and why. Fortunately, you have a wide variety of choices on how your location services are used on iPhones, and you should take advantage of them.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.