The new Android 13 themed icons want to give you a more consistent look on your home screen. Instead of allowing all apps to display themselves with their own colorful icons, the new optional mode for Google Pixels and Other Best Android Phones Creates the monochromatic look it’s meant to be Gives you a consistent home screen. This can look nice when all your favorite apps support it, there are still many issues with themed icons. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
To understand what is happening, we first need to look at the history of themed icons, starting with the so-called icon packs. These are basically apps that contain custom icons for as many apps as possible on your phone. Often they can only be applied when using a custom launcher, which replaces the original home screen on your Android phone. Some phones come with home screens that can work with custom icons. Pixel Launcher is not one of them.
Google tried to fix this deficiency with Android 12. Here, the company first introduced a set of monochrome icons meant for first-party apps on Pixel phones. Unlike icon packs, which allow endless customization options and hundreds of different skins to choose from, Google Icons is tailored to the company’s new visual language, material you.
The Material You engine analyzes the dominant colors of your wallpaper and compiles a suitable theme based on them, immersing app interfaces in that color palette. It’s a constant reminder of the wallpaper you’ve set, and it’s meant to give your phone a personal touch without having to dig into everything yourself.
So themed icons are based on the same engine and only offer the look that makes them fit your wallpaper. All icons come in the same color, and you can just tag them apart from the different logos and shapes on them as well as labeled names.
When you rely solely on Google Apps or go out of your way to add only Google Apps to your default homepage, this creates a beautiful look that perfectly matches your Google wallpaper and widgets. Google has thought about this system further Android 13. The company made it possible for third-party developers to add their own themed icons using a standard API. This might pave the way for easily custom home screens, but that still doesn’t solve my biggest problems with the system that Google decided on.
There are no themed icons that make it easy to select any.
My problem with themed icons is that they are too few and too many. For those who want to design the exterior of their devices, the option to use wallpaper-based colors only for icons while still using what app developers provide may be a turn-off. Many people who engage with these themes also rely on third-party launchers and third-party icon packs, which makes them a different target audience than Google has in mind.
Then there are people who just want their phones to work. They’re happy enough with their device that it’s out of the box and won’t even think about changing settings like always-on display, quick switching order, sounds, or security options — not to mention running themed icons. At best, people might be interested in changing the interface color pulled from their wallpaper, which can be done through 16 customization options in Android 13.
The thematic icons as they exist now will likely appear as an indistinguishable mess of these people, who I believe represent the majority of smartphone users. Why do some icons rely on background colors while others are not? Why would I change the way I use my Home screen just to make it look nicer with icons I can’t tell apart? Google apps are hard to tell apart because they all use the same colors, and themed icons don’t make things any easier.
This leaves only a small target audience for themed icons: those people who love the stuff you make and want it to be extended to all the apps they use on their phones (and yes, I’m part of that group).
It’s nice that Google offers this fan service for those who like the design created by the company, but Google is also basically forcing other app developers to participate in it. Other than that, Google fans are left with messy and patchy-looking home screens, which makes them want to stop using themed icons sooner or later. This would hurt more adoption as well, as developers will have less incentive to create their own monochrome icons, no matter how easy they are to make.
Compare this to the photo at the top of the article!
Things would probably be a lot easier if Google automatically generated themed icons for all third-party apps. I think this would be easy enough to achieve. All apps need HD assets for their notification center icons. Best, these should be monochrome by design. Why doesn’t Google just take advantage of this resource and use these codes to quickly get 100% support?
Sure, you might have to get used to slightly different looking app icons this way, as many apps don’t match their app icons 100% with their notification icons. However, people will know what these apps are. After all, people see these icons in the shade of notifications all the time.
Instead, Google has chosen to go down a long and winding road that may or may not end with 100% support, leading users to other solutions and thus further harming the adoption of themed icons.
But who knows, maybe we’ll see it as a file Android 14 . FeatureOr maybe it won’t arrive until the Android 15 update in 2024. After all, Google has imposed too adaptive icons Developers after letting them use their old icons for a long time have to fit the icons into round shapes on Pixel phones (and other shapes on other phones). I, for example, can’t wait for Google to do this for themed icons. Once developers have embraced themed icons right now, I’m not sure the momentum will continue, and I’d like to have a consistent home screen – no matter how complicated things are for other users.
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