Why Change App’s Icon Dynamically?

Apr 17, 2017 · 3 min read

Note: Current process of this feature in iOS 10.3 has limitations which break the ideal experience i mentioned in this article. There are some updates at the end of this article. Please make sure read it.


Last week, I posted a tutorial to introduce how to change your app’s icon programmatically in iOS 10.3. Some readers raised their questions: why do we need to change the icon dynamically? What are the use cases for this new feature? Other readers gave scenarios like showing match results for sport apps. I think it’s not easy because the alternative icons are predefined. But there are still some cases in which we can leverage this new feature. They are only from my experience or my assumption. Please think twice if you want to make it in your product.

The first is for shopping apps. There are some popular shopping apps in China like TaoBao, TianMao and JingDong which are kind of China version eBay and Amazon. The icons are the first-eye promotion for them. Before holidays especially the shopping festival Double Eleven which is Black Friday here, these app will change their icons to tell users the day is coming or there will be big discounts or other promotion informations. This will attract users to open these apps. Let’s show you the difference.

The left one is an icon in normal days and the right one is for Double Eleven shopping festival. Compared to submitting a new app to App Store, this is a big advantage if they can change the icons dynamically at specific time according to their business requirements.

For weather apps, the icons can be changed according to different weathers for example raining icon on raining days. It sounds great!

Some apps have different themes for example light theme and dark theme. With this new feature, the icon can be changed dynamically to keep same style as the internal UI.

Please leave your ideas on use cases for changing icon programmatically in comments.


Update 1: Oleg Dreyman asked following questions in the response.

can the icon be replaced in the background? Or can the replacement be scheduled in any way?

I also got similar questions from Twitter.

Can the app icon be in the background? Otherwise I’m not sure the use cases mentioned in the article make sense. — from Simon B. Støvring

also seems to require that the pop up of bad dreams has to be shown.

— from Morten Bøgh

I think the answers are very important to the use cases I mentioned. I’m trying to figure them out. Please leave your comments or solution if possible.


Update 2:

I haven’t figured out the workaround util now, so I filed a feature request in Apple’s bug report system. I also find a similar bug report in Open Radar. Follow the link to get details

setAlternateIconName:completionHandler: should not inform the user

Hope to receive response from Apple.


Update 3:

Example from Mark Harr

A nice example of this in use came out immediately after the iOS update from MLB AtBat app. It allows you to change the app icon to the logo from your favorite team, providing a nice alternative on your home screen.

Example from Vincent O’Sullivan

The iOS “Hello Weather” app has recently added the option to change the icon background colour. Obviously, since it is a user initiated action, the app must be running but there is no pop-up or acceptance dialog.

Thanks for sharing these nice examples, Mark and Vincent.


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Engineers are the artists of our generation.

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