An Explanation of the Status Cell Option in Voiceover on iOS

Last modified
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Enabling the Status Cell

If you have ever paired a braille display with your iOS device, you have seen that option that appears above the display name in braille settings: "Status Cell". You may, like me, have double tapped it, decided if you wanted it on the left or the right, then gone about your business, keeping a finger on that mysterious cell to see what it might do. You may have, like me, used it for a while and finally given up on it, having no idea what it was for or how it was useful, so you went back to settings and turned it off. If you are reading this, then you did not go back and re-visit the enigma that is the status cell... but I did, because I was bored and had nothing else to do. The fruits of my boredom are an understanding of the status cell and a tentative appreciation for its existence. I will explain below what I discovered.

To enable the status cell:

  • Go to settings, general, accessibility, Voiceover, braille, status cell.
  • Select left, right, or off (I like mine on the left so I can always see it as I move my hands back to the start of a line, but that's me).

That's it. If you have a display paired, you'll see the status cell appear.

Dot Meanings

The first thing to get in your head is that each of the eight dots in the cell is an individual; no two or more dots are ever, ever, ever to be taken collectively, no matter what shapes or characters they may form. Every dot is its own indicator, showing if something is on/off, valid/invalid, set/not set. Once more: do NOT ever combine any of the dots in the status cell, just take each one on its own.

So, now that you understand that every dot in the status cell is a separate indicator, I will explain what each of the eight dots is for. In the sections below, I will state what it means if the dot is up, so if the dot is down, the opposite is true. For instance, if the "unread announcements" dot is up, there are unread announcements; if it is down, there are none.

Dot 1: Unread Announcements

This dot indicates that there are announcements you have not read. Unfortunately, these are not system notifications like messages or a Twitter mention. Instead, they are anything Voiceover pops up on the display briefly, from hints to the rotor setting you just selected. You can, of course, review all these announcements with space-n (press again to dismiss), but as Voiceover announces so much information in this way, dot 1 is nearly always up, and I have taken to ignoring it.

Dot 2: Current Unread announcement

As you review announcements with space-n, dot 2 appears if the announcement you are reading is new (that is, it has not been read before). This is useful since it tells you if you are reading something you have already read, so you know which of two identical announcements is new and which you reviewed already.

Dot 3: Speech Muted

This dot only appears when the speech is muted. Did I even need to explain this one?

Dot 4: Low Battery

This goes without saying, but when this dot is up, your battery is low. I have not tested it, but I am pretty sure that "low" is twenty percent or less, since that is when the first "battery low" warning appears on an iOS device.

Dot 5: Landscape

This dot appears when the device is in Landscape mode. This can be helpful if you have not locked your orientation, or if an app forces Landscape and you did not notice.

Dot 6: Screen Curtain On

Another obvious one from the bullet point, but this dot tells you when your screen curtain is enabled. This is particularly useful if you do not have enough vision to see the screen and are still being bitten by that screen curtain bug iOS6 introduced.

Dot 7: Left Pannable

This dot tells you that, if you pan left (or up, if you want to think of it that way), you will remain in the current item. For instance, if you are reading a list of emails and the first email in the list has a sender/subject that spans multiple lines, this dot pops up when panning your display left will reveal the previous line of the email's information, rather than jumping to the previous item (the search field in mail).

Dot 8: Right Pannable

This dot is the same as dot 7, but it tells you that there is more of the current item to the right (or down, if you like). Sticking to our email example, the first line of that message's information will have dot 8 up because panning right will move to the next line of the email's details. Once you reach the end of the current email, you will notice that dot 8 will go away. This tells you that the next time you pan right, you will be moving focus to the next email in the list and leaving the current one.

If you ever forget what the dots are, just hit a cursor key above the status cell and you will get a quick rundown. Each dot number in the list that appears is followed by a set of parentheses which, if containing an x, show that the dot in question is currently active. Press a cursor key above the explanatory text, or press space-n twice, to dismiss it.

Wrapping Up

That's the status cell, explained in all its questionably useful details. I have not yet decided if I'll keep it, since text buffers a cell away so it effectively takes two cells from any display. Still, knowing if panning will move me to a new item, or knowing for sure that speech is muted, can be quite handy. Enable it and try it out for yourself; you can always go back to braille settings and turn it off if you decide it isn't right for you.


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Submitted by Shersey on Sunday, February 3, 2013

I turned it on once, got annoyed by it, mostly because I didn't know what on Earth it was trying to tell me, and turned it off again. I might turn it back on, though, just to see if I like it. Thanks, Shersey

Submitted by Maria Reyes on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Does that mean VO will be turned off?

Submitted by Jesus R on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hi, thanks for the rundown. For some reason I didn't really think too much about it. I have it on now actually, I have a 40 bt so I didn't mind a few dogs being taken up, or rather a cell. I'll keep it on for a time and see if I Like it.