Currently on my android device there is a bell icon used to signify volume when I used the rocker on the side of the phone which seems odd to me. Whenever it appears I feel like I'm looking at my Alarm or something.

I know googles logic is that this is Notification Volume (under which they lump ring tones, message tones and app notifications) but I was wondering if there were other examples of this being used over something more conventional like a little speaker with some sound waves? What are the other common iconography selections for sound on mobile?

If I use the volume rocker on the side of my phone I get this:

enter image description here

I do however get the volume option when videos or music plays so I see what they're getting at.

When I use the volume rocker I personally would prefer to adjust all the sounds emitted by my device rather than various divisions of it and access the divisions under settings. I'm sure it makes sense to lots of people but it confuses me regularly. What are some other default volume divisions when using the rocker on other mobile devices?

  • 2
    Because a bell is connected with sound in the heads of the users. The Brain groups specific things such as "Bell" and "Sound" // "Cog" and "Machine" // "Umbrella" and "Rain". They could've used soundwaves instead, but that would make Icon design, Icon readability and meaning not easy/clear. Waves could be everything. They can be magnetic, audiowaves, Wifi-Strengh and so on. But there are still still some other symbols they could use. For example they could've used a Boombox or a simiar audiodevie instead.
    – BlueWizard
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 10:32
  • thats the answer pretty much, plus that bells are the traditional alarm (/alert) sound, from way back in the days of yore with the village church bells, the little house on the prairie style dinner bell, through to (now rather old fashioned) fire alarms and alarm clocks. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 8:22
  • 1
    Sorry guys, I think the question is not about the meaning and origin of the bell symbol. The question is rather why does the rocker button controls the bell (notification) volume by default rather than the music (musical note icon) or the alarm (alarm clock icon) volume or all the volumes together?
    – user83674
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 18:42
  • yes exactly @Joe , nobody got that so I just forgot about this question :(
    – Chris
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


It would seem to me that the bell icon is fairly common for "notifications/alerts". Not quite sure why it was adopted as such, but one theory could be that bells have historically been tied to either time notifications (church bells or clock towers), warnings, or event kick-off. Might be a bit more abstracted these days, like showing a floppy disk for a save button.

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