Android 13 will make it easy for users to change the appearance of your app icon. What will this mean for engagement?
New Android updates are among the more inevitable events in the calendar. They’re a bit like Fast and Furious sequels. But with fewer car chases. And now, after many leaks and rumors, Google has offered its first developer-centric glimpse of Android 13.
Developer Preview 1 has just landed, giving app makers a six-month runway before the new OS goes live with users in July/August (with beta scheduled for late March).
Predictably enough, Google is putting a lot of emphasis on new privacy-preserving updates to the platform. Fair enough since this is the topic that spooks so many users (and more important regulators). We’ll come to these later.
But let’s start with an intriguing new feature, which might be of more interest to the Calldorado community of developers.
Themed app icons.
Essentially, this is part of Google’s ongoing push to make Android as customizable as possible to users. Last year, the company launched Material You – a dynamic theming engine that changes the colors of the user’s system UI to match the wallpaper they select.
These elements include app UI, settings background, notification shade, quick settings tiles, search bar, keyboard, and widgets.
Now, in Android 13, app icons have been added to the list. When the Themed icons option is enabled, the OS will select the most dominant color from your wallpaper and apply it to an icon’s background. It will choose the darkest shade from the wallpaper for the app logo.
Obviously, developers now have to modify their assets to support this change.
Here is how Google describes the process.
“To support this feature, your app must provide a monochromatic app icon and point to it from the element in the manifest. If a user has enabled the Themed icons toggle on their device, the system uses the coloring of the user’s chosen wallpaper and theme to determine the tint color, which it then applies to the monochromatic app icon.
Your monochromatic app icon should meet the following specifications:
- It should be a VectorDrawable.
- We recommend that the logo fits within a 36 x 36 dp area inside a 90 x 90 dp container. If the logo needs to be larger, it can be a maximum of 60 x 60 dp.
- We recommend flat logos; if your logo is three-dimensional you can use the alpha gradient.
As with so many of these updates, the changes will be available to Pixel owners first. But observers say Google is currently working hard with handset makers to bring the feature to the wider Android community.
The change has many wondering what this might mean for user engagement.
Developers work incredibly hard on their app logo, design, and color scheme. The quality (or otherwise) of these assets can make a huge difference to whether a person downloads an app or keeps browsing and installs something else instead.
Similarly, on a crowded phone ‘desktop’ good app icon design can also improve the chances of a user choosing and launching a specific app.
Draining the color from a design (to match the wallpaper) might be aesthetically pleasing to the user, but it also makes everything look the same.
At Calldorado, we’re pretty confident that our family of app developers will be insulated against this ‘homogenization’.
Our SDK, once installed, brings an app to the home screen whenever a user makes, receives or misses a call. And since this happens around five times a day, that’s five exposures a day. Five more than every other app on the desktop.
In our own research, we have found that apps that use the Caller SDK can achieve 40x more ‘app opens’ than ‘organic’ opens triggered by users themselves.
It looks pretty likely that Google will introduce more personalization measures like Themed Icons in future versions of Android. Developers should be prepared for this.
And the same goes for privacy.
In its Android 13 announcement, Google says: “People want an OS and apps that they can trust with their most personal and sensitive information…Android 13 focuses on building a responsible and high-quality platform for all by providing a safer environment on the device and more controls to the user.”
The more notable privacy features include a photo picker that lets users share photos and videos securely. Apps can use the photo picker APIs to access shared photos and videos without needing permission to view all media files on the device.
There’s also a new Nearby Device Permission for Wi-Fi feature. Essentially, apps that require access to nearby Wi-Fi devices typically need access to location permissions too. Google wants to reduce this friction while keeping things private and secure. The new permission gives those apps a new option that doesn’t require needless location access.
The above is just a snapshot of the changes Android 13 will bring. For a more detailed overview head to the official Android Developer site now.