What would be "pick up the phone" icon in the future when there will be really few stationary phones? Image of green phone handset would look strange for people who have never seen landline. Maybe there is an example of such transformation with icons of retired stuff nowadays that can help to make a guess.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You are assuming we will have actual phones in the future. All communications are becoming one. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Jan 22, 2015 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner, good point! it'll be literally embedded. $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2015 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ I think this might be a good question to ask on User Experience. There's a similar question about the usage of the floppy disk icon to mean save, and this is already something that has essentially gone by the wayside. Patrick's answer points out that the icon is no longer a metaphor, but an idiom. $\endgroup$
    – JYelton
    Jan 23, 2015 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ @JYelton, the question is about possible transformation in the future. And not about the stuff I'm dealing with now as user and want to improve my experience of using it. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2015 at 6:03

3 Answers 3


I still see the floppy disk icon used to represent save:


Even though Floppy disks haven't been used in years. The icon has now taken on a meaning beyond that which it originally represented.

The phone icon has now grown to a similar status, how many phones have you seen (even home phones) that look anything like this?


The icon now exists with a meaning of its own, that is getting steadily more and more abstracted away from the thing it originally represented. So in the future a phone symbol will still be used to represent a phone, it may get simplified or stylized further but it's already pretty simple so even that is unlikely. The save icon is definitely likely to have that happen though.

  • $\begingroup$ THANK you! I had been totally sure I knew at least one technically totally obsolete icon... and didn't even figure out which it was when clicking the thing in an unrelated task ^^. $\endgroup$
    – Layna
    Jan 22, 2015 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ I have noticed that some programs have a hard disc icon for "save" instead of the floppy disc, but the latter is still by far the most common $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    Jan 22, 2015 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Pyritie One reason not to use a hard disk icon is a lot of computer users have no idea what a hard disk looks like. A floppy disk everyone used to know what it looks like although I've not even seen one in over 10 years... $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Jan 22, 2015 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB Would younger people know what a floppy disc looked like unless we used it as the save icon? I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't know what a cassette tape or VCR look like either. Though now I'm curious - if you showed that save icon to some kids, would they tell you that it's a floppy disc or that it's "the save button"? $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    Jan 22, 2015 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Pyritie "Wow! 3D printed save button!" $\endgroup$
    – PTwr
    Jan 22, 2015 at 12:12

As it already is today, it will be a picture of the person who is calling you.

  • $\begingroup$ There is also an icon with handset below this picture on my cell which is used to accept the call $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2015 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ Oops. didn't think of phones that still have physical buttons. For screen rendered buttons, I would prefer a picture of the caller surrounded by a green border, with alternative options rendered as buttons to the right or below. In that scenario, the alternative options would include ignore, send-to-voicemail and send-callback-text, each with appropriate icons. $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2015 at 15:11

I would probably use the analogy of accepting a connection. So maybe some sort of green connected chain, or just a green tick signifying that you permit the connection to be created.

The hang-up button would of course in that case either be a red cross (not a fan, personally, due to the many other connotations,) or a broken red chain indicating that the connection is severed.

On second thought, by this point in time we'd be so used to the position and function of said button that we might not need an icon at all, unless the form factor of our phones has changed significantly.

  • $\begingroup$ There definitly should be some kind of simplification. Green tick is a good idea, not sure about chain (never seen it in connection phone/internet visualization) $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2015 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ I've never seen a chain icon used either but it seemed like a simple way to communicate the idea. What I have seen is a pair of connected or disabled cables in my network manager (a Linux one,) which wouldn't really make sense in a wireless context. What it really comes down to though is that, without the analogy of "picking up the phone" what we're doing when we answer the call is accepting it, so the tick fits well with that. I just don't like the red cross used for "hanging up", since at that point you've already accepted, there's no rejection.. $\endgroup$
    – OddOneIn
    Jan 22, 2015 at 6:46

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