Android 12’s dynamic theming could extend to app icons

Bill Mount

Google’s updated design language, dubbed Material You, makes interface design a much more personalized experience on Android phones, with UI elements pulling their colors from your wallpaper. But the theming couldn’t only be restricted to the notification shade, accent colors, and app backgrounds. Evidence is mounting that it could extend […]

Google’s updated design language, dubbed Material You, makes interface design a much more personalized experience on Android phones, with UI elements pulling their colors from your wallpaper. But the theming couldn’t only be restricted to the notification shade, accent colors, and app backgrounds. Evidence is mounting that it could extend to app icons, too — if developers add support for it.

As reported by app devs kdrag0n and Kieron Quinn, there’s a hidden flag that allows you to theme a few app icons on Android 12 Beta 2, matching the colors extracted from your wallpaper. The list is currently exclusive to most pre-installed Google apps, safe for a few like Messages, Phone, and Photos.

Credits: Kieron Quinn (left), kdrag0n (middle & right).

In the examples above, you can see that the apps have gained accent-colored backgrounds and black iconography in light mode while they’re inverted in dark mode. That makes the icons are monochrome, making for a beautiful and understated design that’s almost the complete opposite of Google’s recent push for candy-colored app icons. I, for one, wouldn’t mind a homescreen like this.

According to evidence gathered by Quinn, it looks like the list of compatible apps is currently hard-coded into the Pixel Launcher. While support might initially be limited to these pre-installed Google apps only, it looks like the company is getting everything in place to expand support to third-party apps. Developer Dylan Roussel has already implemented theming support for a pre-release version of his device information app Inware.

For now, it’s still up in the air if Google will really pull through with these drastic changes to app icon design. For all we know, the company might want to use these themed icons in other places than the launcher, like in the notification shade or the Recents screen.

For more about Android 12, check out our ongoing series coverage here, or bookmark our regularly updated changelog and check back in later. If you want to install the developer preview on your own device, find out how in our Android 12 download guide.

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