Why Apple should give us custom app icons (but probably never will)
iOS 14 has a lot of iPhones that look quite different these days – some with stylish monochrome color schemes, others with pastel styles ripped straight from Pinterest, and some that look straight out of the box. Animal crossing or by emulating Windows Mobile.
The changes aren’t a sweeping new shift from Apple, but rather a viral wave of enthusiastic users taking advantage of widgets and other changes to bring an unprecedented level of customization to the generally rigid OS design imposed by Apple.
It turns out that a lot of people are dying for an iOS theme, and as numerous viral videos showing lavishly designed home screens show, they go to great lengths to do so. This is proof that Apple should continue to follow this path and allow users to have even greater control over the look and feel of their smartphone, even if it seems almost impossible for the company to do so. one day.
Apple users have been clamoring for the ability to personalize iPhone since the very minute Apple first announced the phone. It only took weeks after the iPhone’s initial jailbreak in 2007 for the release of a custom-designed app called summer board, which allowed users to customize icons, replace the home screen wallpaper (which took Apple years to officially add it), and use new fonts on the operating system.
Change the look of iOS has always been one of the biggest draws in the jailbreak community, and remains a popular modification for those who are ready to play with iOS to date. But instead of responding to this interest, Apple has rather largely eradicated the jailbreak.
But since the release of iOS 14, demand for custom iPhone styles has exploded, thanks to newly added widgets and a resurgence of interest in a shortcut workaround that allows for custom icons. Together, the two features can allow users to create a fully personalized iOS experience, with a unique look and feel, with images, text quotes, and your own corresponding icons, provided they are prepared to undergo the limitations. of these two features. .
Neither option is particularly elegant. The Shortcuts method is to use the “Open app” command in the app to link to an app on your home screen that has a custom icon – but more importantly, tapping that icon brings up those apps. users through the Shortcuts app, adding a few seconds of lag each time you launch an app because it needs to call the “open app” command. The new app library feature in iOS 14 makes it easier to create themes, allowing users to completely hide the original app without having to delete it.
But while customizable widgets – led by apps like Widgetsmith – give users a blank canvas to add interactive elements to their lock screen, they’re still limited by Apple’s restrictions on size and shape, as well as its obsessive labeling that detracts from the illusion of a perfect style.
There’s no reason Apple can’t do more here. It’s easy to imagine Apple allowing for a more direct replacement of app icons, or users easily switching between entire themes. The company could extend widgets to make them even more functional, or give users more control over the colors and design of general user interface elements.
Widgets only gave iOS users a taste of the levels of customization they might expect – people want to more, and they are willing to make absurd efforts to obtain it. Each app has to be converted to a shortcut one by one in a tedious process – there’s no way to just upload an icon or set everything in a batch to match a particular look, as jailbroken options allow. and Android. But sadly, that’s a level of control and customization that Apple seems unlikely to grant.
While Google has given Android users and developers near freedom in the appearance of its software, Apple specifically prides itself on its design. The company doesn’t just think of iOS icons and interface as just a coat of paint on its software; it’s an integral part of the phone’s design, just like glass and metal. Apple cares so much about these icons that once sued Samsung for copying its general designs and layout, in a trial that lasted seven years. No company but Apple made a video like this to announce their latest software update, or devote as much time and effort to app icon design. I doubt they’re cool with users who make it look like a replica of a NookPhone.
Apple’s concessions on the personalization front have been scarce since its launch on the iPhone in 2007. Users can, for example, set their own custom wallpapers, which didn’t happen until iOS. 3.2 (for the iPad) and iOS 4 (for the iPhone). Developers were only able to add custom app icon options starting with iOS 10.3 – not exactly the set of options offered by other platforms (including Apple’s own macOS ).
But there is some hope that Apple can eventually give users even more control. iOS 14 and the recent additions here are the biggest change in the “Apple knows best” approach that the iPhone has ever seen. And if the company isn’t fazed by the myriad (and at times, the rough appearance) of fan creations, it’s possible that the future of iOS will be a lot less uniform and a lot more…. NookPhone-y.