Some applications will overlay some colored bubble/circle with a number to show how many unread messages/notifications or "things to do" are currently available. For instance, it's on Skype to show how many conversations have unread messages. It's also on my notifications area in Android for many things. These are just a few examples of where they're found, but many more exist.

What is the correct terminology for this?

  • Notification flag? Jan 12, 2012 at 21:25
  • @Styler: If we've answered your question, you can select the best solution so that if anyone comes across the same problem in the future, they know the course of action.
    – dnbrv
    Feb 7, 2012 at 18:35
  • @dnbrv sorry forgot about this one ;)
    – Tyler
    Feb 7, 2012 at 21:20
  • @Styler: No worries.
    – dnbrv
    Feb 7, 2012 at 21:27

2 Answers 2


Apple refers to them as Badges as used by the Apple Push Notification Service on iOS devices. More generally "Notification Badges" when discussed outside the context of notifications.

Anyone tinkering with iOS notifications is familiar with the term Badges to refer to these. Android apps sometimes use these to the same effect but I've heard them called varied things on that platform.

It's the most consistent name I've heard used but I believe Apple invented the term to maintain consistent terminology throughout iOS.

  • Yeah, it looks like it's mainly used in iOS context although there's some spillover into other applications as well.
    – dnbrv
    Jan 12, 2012 at 22:08
  • I don't think there's a current standard but with all the users of iOS and applications of this concept outside of iOS (the Android uses of the idea seem to take directly from the idea) means that we might (hopefully) have a proper term for the idea.
    – Ben Brocka
    Jan 12, 2012 at 22:17
  • Android uses are unofficial. I've gone through the entire ICS style guide and there's no mention of counters on icons à la iOS.
    – dnbrv
    Jan 12, 2012 at 22:32
  • 1
    The icon badges concept on Apple OS dates back to pre- OS X, and includes non-counter badges. This was back in the day where various utilities would overlay a mini-icon onto the document icon from another application to signify that that utility had done something - usually compression or backups. Later the concept included the visual design of a simple red disc containing a number representing a count, which was usually put there by the owning application and not a third party utility.
    – Erics
    Jan 12, 2012 at 23:31
  • Not just document files either, badges got attached to folders too: "For example, you can specify that when a file is placed in one folder, it is always copied into another folder as well. If a folder has folder actions attached to it the folder's icon displays a small script icon badge." ... So, you might want to refer to the number in a bubble as a notification badge, not simply a badge.
    – Erics
    Jan 12, 2012 at 23:33

I guess you're talking about notification counter.

  • Looks right, and you can call it about anything, notification bubble/icon/thingy. Counter sounds more standard. Are there references where this terminology is used?
    – Tyler
    Jan 12, 2012 at 21:30
  • Well, 2 million references on Google should do the trick.
    – dnbrv
    Jan 12, 2012 at 21:33
  • Hey, look! This thread is #3
    – Tyler
    Jan 12, 2012 at 22:11
  • 1
    Actually, if you wrap your search as notification counter, which removes hits like notification icon bubble counter, it's only 26 500...
    – msanford
    Jan 12, 2012 at 22:11
  • A large amount of the 2 million references do not say "notification counter" a specific phrase, most just contain both of these words. Jan 16, 2012 at 13:21

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