Icons Randomly Missing on iPhone? Here’s a Fix

Jun 18, 2021 - 5 Comments

iPhone missing icons on Home Screen and dock

A peculiar issue can occur for some iPhone users where the icons on their device screen are missing. The icon names may or may not appear, or the icon badges may or may not appear, but the icon itself is usually gone.

Sometimes the entire bottom row of icons in the Dock are missing, along with other icons that are supposed to be on the iPhone Home Screen or within folders.

When the icons are missing, the places they should appear on the screen are still taken up, but they are not clickable, and nothing shows up there at all. It’s a very strange issue and it can be somewhat alarming. But don’t worry, if this happens to you the icons are not gone permanently.


So, does your iPhone screen look something like this, missing icons randomly?

iPhone missing icons

If so, don’t panic.

Help, My iPhone Apps Icons Are Missing!

1: Reboot iPhone

The first thing you’ll want to do is reboot your iPhone.

A hard reboot is often the easiest thing to do, which is accomplished by pressing Volume Up, then Volume Down, then pressing and holding the Power button until you see the  Apple logo show up on screen.

Sometimes this alone can fix the missing icon problem, or the blank dock issue.

If the iPhone starts back up and is still missing icons (often they will be different icons missing after a reboot, like a fun game of musical chairs), the next thing to do is to clear up some storage space on the iPhone itself.

2: Clear up storage space

Go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage and locate apps, videos, or other large data hogs, and remove them from the iPhone.

Make sure the iPhone has at least 1GB of storage space freely available.

Then reboot the iPhone again by turning it off and back on (or hard reboot again).

At this point the icons should be back on the screen as expected.

What’s going on here? Why does this happen?

Having personally encountered this issue several times with my iPhone 11 running various versions of iOS 14.6 and iOS 14.x, it’s a bit of a mystery as to what is going on. However, because clearing up storage space and a reboot seems to fix the problem, it could simply be a quirk of what happens when iPhone has run out of space and can’t figure itself out. In my experience, the phone ends up like this in the morning after the iPhone has been plugged in and unused over night, though it’s unclear what if anything that may have to do with why it happens.

It’s well known the iPhone starts dramatically underperforming and misbehaving when the devices storage is full, sometimes deleting photos, mail, apps (though this is a feature called Offload Apps which is separate from the issue mentioned here), and other data from the device. Or perhaps your contacts are seemingly lost, showing phone numbers instead of names as they should. It’s not always related, but try and always keep some storage space available on your device so that it performs well.

It appears that variations of this problem have shown up on Apple discussion boards for a while, so if it’s a bug then it may been longstanding and yet to be addressed. Nonetheless, try freeing up some storage space on your device, and then rebooting, it should work and the icons should be restored.

Have you experienced this issue where icons are randomly missing from iPhone? Did deleting some stuff and rebooting fix the problem for you? Share with us your troubleshooting experiences in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

5 Comments

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  1. SuperKaz says:

    i did force restart but it made things worse! i tried freeing storage but all it did was crash! i guess its bye bye… my iPhone SE 2 Had a good life

  2. Bryan says:

    I have noted missing app icons on my iPhone, but when I scrolled to the app library page I would see the missing app icons.

  3. No missing icons altogether, but I do have a persistent problem with three icons for New York Times sites changing from the Times T to the bee icon that goes with the Times spelling game. The bee should go with the spelling game; the other two sites should have the T. iOS seems not to understand that. So some mornings I have three bees; others, Ts.

    • Tom says:

      I get that too with my Home Screen bookmark of osxdaily.com, sometimes the bookmark icon is the X and then sometimes it is a generic icon, and I can’t figure this out at all. I used to have the same problem with the Amazon.com bookmark showing a tablet or the A, but I ended up just removing that and going there directly.

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