Stare at the back of your iPhone long enough and you may begin to question the significance behind that peculiar row of symbols appearing near the bottom. What do they mean? Is it a secret Apple language that will eventually replace our alphabet?
The truth is out there. And significantly less sinister. Here’s what you’re really looking at.
• The “FC” logo actually hosts a third “C,” which indicates that the iPhone is Federal Communications Commission (FCC) compliant. The FCC governs devices that use radio frequency; phones fall under their Class B banner, which mandates they not cause or receive any harmful emissions under normal use [PDF].
• Next is clearly a garbage can on wheels with a very disapproving “X” laid over it. Apple is not being subtle in cautioning you not to throw the device away with the rest of your trash. The company advises owners to contact their local waste authority to find how best to rid themselves of the unit. This specific symbol, however, indicates WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive cooperation, a European attempt to minimize electronic waste in landfills by making it fun to type and say WEEE.
• The exclamation mark inside a circle signals a Class II wireless device, which is important for users in other countries: not all the frequency bands the device may try to use are available everywhere.
• “0682” and “CE” are also European markers. The number designates who approved it (Cetecom ICT services, an accreditation firm) and “CE” (Conformite Europeenne) represents the approval of its sale in the European Union.
Apple’s MacBook sports all of these symbols (minus the 0682 Cetecom notice) but also adds two others.
• Voluntary Control Council for Interference (“VCCI”) is a Japanese regulatory agency. Their stamp of approval indicates the laptop meets their standards for emitting radio frequency (RF) signals.
• That checkmark inside the triangle is a Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) used in Australia to indicate electronic devices that are safe to use.
Even if you don’t have a sleek cell phone case, you may not have to look at any of this gibberish for much longer. In November 2014, President Obama signed the E-Label Act into law, a bill that will allow manufacturers to place these notices in the device’s software. That may not apply to the European symbols, but either way, things will get a little sleeker.
We also popped open an Android device—a Samsung Galaxy SII destined for a museum—and it relegated many of those notices to the battery itself. It also had cautions not to allow it to get wet, poked with a screwdriver, set ablaze, or obtained by a baby. You’ve been warned.