Apple icon secrets, hidden meanings hiding in plain sight

Want more unusual Apple tidbits? Check out our round-up of Apple merchandise. You’ll never believe some of the stuff Apple has sold…

UPDATE: New icons!
Thanks to our brilliant, sharp-eyed readers we’ve got some fresh icon easter eggs to reveal. Scroll down, the NEW ones are marked for your convenience too. We’re good like that…

If you’re an iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac owner you’ll spend hours each day gawping at Apple icons. But you might never have realised they hold secrets, hidden histories and subtle nods to Apple in-jokes. Do you know the hidden meanings your Apple gadget holds in plain sight? Read on, and we’ll spill them all!


iPhone, iPod touch and iPad icons

Fire up the iPhone homescreen and you’ll see a host of standard-issue icons. But there’s more than meets the eye.

2 map iconMaps icon
The map on the iPhone Maps icon? It’s Apple’s home address. Number 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. The address itself is an in-joke amongst programmers, describing a never-ending loop of code, and also describes the circular road Apple’s campus is built upon. You can see that circular road, and Interstate 280 which flies right by it, in all their glory within the Maps icon, along with a pin to indicate Apple’s front door.

2 ipod artists1iPod Artists icon
Dive in to the iPhone or iPod touch’s iPod function and cast your eyes toward the bottom of the screen. There you’ll see an Artists option, illustrated as all good bands are, by a man screaming his lungs out at a microphone. But look closer. Does the silhouette look familiar? It should do to U2 fans, since it’s lead singer, and some-time Apple collaborator, Bono.

2 iTunes starbucks iconiTunes Starbucks icon
In the US, Apple and Starbucks launched a special edition of the iTunes Store together, accessible only while supping fresh java in one of Starbucks’ stores. The partnering was smart in several ways, letting Starbucks hawk their own collections of music, while Apple capitalised on customers’ downtime to make sales.

However, it also marked the first time Apple deviated from their own Human Interface Guidelines, the creed by which all iOS app developers live and die. Check out the screengrab, and you’ll see the Starbucks icon in full colour glory, whereas all other iTunes interface elements are strictly monotone affairs.

1 iBooks browseiBooks Browse icon
Fire up your iPhone, iPod or iPad for that matter and dive into iBooks. Take a look inside the iBooks Store and glance down at the Browse icon. Whose glasses are those? They look awfully like those of Apple founder, CEO and interface-tweaker-in-chief, Steve Jobs. It seems the Podfather is also a bit of a bookworm.

1 findmyiphoneiconFind My iPhone icon
If you’ve installed Find My iPhone on your iPhone, iPod or iPad take a look at the map on its icon. It seems to be indicating an iPhone has been located in New York City. Strange, considering Apple’s spiritual and physical home is in Cupertino, on the other side of the US. So, what’s in NYC? Steve Jobs’ Manhattan apartment perhaps? There’s a good chance. Until recently Jobs owned the only duplex apartment in the iconic San Remo building, until he sold it to U2’s Bono for $15 million.

Mac icons

Hidden messages within Mac icons are much more common than their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad counterparts. Apple’s designers frequently shoehorn in neat touches, jokes and cryptic references. See if you’ve spotted all of these.

1 StickiesStickies icon NEW
The Stickies app isn’t particularly obvious, but its icon easter egg certainly is. The phone number 555-7361 and the name Lou can clearly be seen scribbled on its logo. Those who watch a lot of films or TV might recognise that 555 area code, it’s reserved for fictional mentions, so don’t go dialing it now, will you?

1 apertureAperture icon NEW
If you’ve splashed out on Apple’s imaging and photography application Aperture, you’ll be able to gawp at its icon, featuring a lens which is “Designed by Apple in California” and reading “50mm 1:1.4” Those Apple designers are nothing if not fastidious in their attention to detail, and by crikey, that’s a lovely looking lens they’ve created.

1 interfaceInterface Builder icon NEW
What sort of pencils do Apple designers use? Open up the icon for the Apple Interface Builder, a tool used by programmers to create the screens you see on iPhone and iPad apps, and take a squiz. There’s a drawing of a pencil, a set square and a paintbrush. The pencil is helpfully labelled as a “no 2 graphite pencil with eraser”. Heading to the art supplies shop yet?

1 keynoteicongn9Keynote 2008 icon NEW
Apple’s presentation application forms part of iWork, but while that might seem dry and uninspiring check out the icon for it. There’s a lectern, and a Q4 2008 report… but on that report are written the lyrics from the musical Spring Awakening. Who says business can’t also have a hint of showbiz glitz? The significance of Spring Awakening isn’t known.

1 ConsoleConsole 10.5.6 icon NEW
An error message Apple meant to appear? That’s what’s on the icon for Mac OS X’s console. The app is designed to show what the Mac’s been up to behind the scenes. That includes errors, but that is the Error AY7:36 shown on the icon? So far our research has come to nothing. Do you know?

1 PhotoBoothPhoto Booth icon NEW
We’re hearing that the woman pictured in the photos within Photo Booth’s icon are the developer of the app. Although we can’t confirm that, even after a lot of fruitless Googling. Can you identify her? Either way, finding actual photos inside the Photo Booth icon was a nice surprise.

1 AppiCal icon NEW
If you put the icon for Apple’s iCal calendar app into the OS X dock, you’ll see it shows today’s date. However, look it up in the Applications folder and you’ll see its default setting: July 17. That’s the day Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced it in front of crowds at the Macworld Expo 2002.

1 ASPOne chip to rule them all NEW
Check out the icons for Apple’s firmware update utilities and you’ll see there’s a silicon chip indicated on their icons. Open the icon at full size and you can see the chip’s model number. So what, you might say? That chip pops up all over the place, from firmware updates to the Mac System Profiler. The significance of the numbers isn’t clear. Can you crack it? The code is: 810-54-2136-1 RM-NCE-1 6319-415-1239.

1 windowspciconWindows computer icons
Access a networked Windows PC from a Mac and you’ll see a tiny beige monitor next to it. It’s small, nondescript and seems innocent. But dig out the full-size version of that icon and you’ll see the monitor is displaying a “blue screen of death” error message, a sly poke at Windows perceived unreliability by Apple designers.

1 mailiconMac Mail icon
It’s so small, and semi-transparent, it’s almost invisible. But the Mac Mail icon which sits in the dock of every Mac holds a postmark labeling its origin as Cupertino, California. Of course, that’s the home of Apple. Logical, yes. Obvious? Not at all. There’s even a friendly little “Hello from Cupertino” message baked into the icon. Neat touch, no?

1 javaiconApple Java icon
Java isn’t owned by Apple, but there’s an app included with OS X to run Java code. It was made by Apple designers, so obviously includes some creative flourish. On first look it’s a simple coffee cup resting on a napkin. Nothing unusual there, just a play on words around the Java name. But fire up the full size icon, and you’ll see the napkin has a doodling on it. That doodling is genuine Java code. Now that’s attention to detail.

1 fontbookiconApple Font Book icon
Apple’s computers have long been a favourite of writers, designers and editors of every persuasion. The Font Book app is, therefore, an often used part of OS X. Its icon, however, holds a neat in-joke. The letters used to make it are A, F and K. In internet-speak, AFK stands for Away From Keyboard.

1 dictionaryiconApple Dictionary icon
There’s some more Apple wordplay at work on the cover of the dictionary featured in the Apple Dictionary icon. The words “Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet Etiam” are clearly seen when the icon is viewed at full size. That’s latin for “Hello world! Etcetera”… well, it’s all up for debate. Have a look at the comments section below and join the debate!

1 textediticonApple Textedit icon
The Apple Textedit icon is itself a work of literary genius. Open it in full and you’ll see a speech written across the surface of its virtual notepad. It’s an an extract of the monologue from Apple’s Crazy Ones advert, and is signed by John Appleseed, a name Apple often uses as a placeholder for names in its address books.

1 itunesiconOld iTunes icons
Apple replaced the iTunes icon with a solid blue bauble in its latest incarnation, but previous iterations featured a musical note resting on a shining silver CD. Open up the full size icon file and you’d see that image of a CD was precise down to the finest detail: laser etched on its inside edge were the words “iTunes 7” and “Apple 2006”.

Did we miss any icon easter eggs? Hidden messages? Neat touches? Shout up in the comments box below!

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