Here’s why you can’t disable Adaptive Icons in Android Oreo

Android 8 Oreo is far from a revolutionary OS that brings your wildest fantasies about future tech to life. In fact, Google focuses on the back-end here. Most changes were made under the hood, so an average user coming from Android Nougat can barely see the difference.

That’s why users who care about their phones debate about some ‘less important’ features way more than they would if there were some game-changers involved.

A particular feature that people usually complain about is the Adaptive Icons. In fact, I’ve barely seen a positive review of this feature. This tells us one thing. Android Oreo users are divided into two groups – those who hate Adaptive Icons and those who simply don’t care enough to talk about them.

Since the second group probably won’t even bother to search for this article, it’s for all of you who have a feud with Adaptive Icons in Android Oreo. For all of you who are frustrated for being trapped with Adaptive Icons and don’t really get why it has to be that way.

We’ll discuss it all here.

Why are Adaptive Icons there in the first place?

Unlike iOS, where Apple pretty much controls the whole ecosystem, Android (being an open source OS) gives each member of its family more liberties. Individually, that’s a great thing. But it may not be beneficial for the greater good.

Developers have the freedom to polish every single aspect of their apps to smallest details. Both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. But we’ll focus on the aesthetics here. Subjectively looking, even though a single app’s icon looks great, it may not fit in with the rest of the icons, giving your home screen an awkward uniquely biased look.

These inconsistencies usually irritate people. In fact, people have been complaining about this since the earliest days of Android. And the fact that different phones all have their own custom ROM brings even more inequality.

So, Google decided to normalize things by trying to satisfy everyone’s taste. That’s how the idea of the Adaptive Icons was born. In theory, the whole plan looks legit and doable. But the result we got with Android Oreo speaks differently.

What are Adaptive Icons

The biggest misconception people have about Adaptive Icons is that it’s a launcher or appearance customization feature. That’s not true. Adaptive Icons is a system feature that should make third-party apps’ icons in-line with default icons provided by OEM.

I won’t dig into technical details too much here, so here’s how Google explainsAdaptive Icons:

“Android 8.0 (API level 26) introduces adaptive launcher icons, which can display a variety of shapes across different device models. For example, an adaptive launcher icon can display a circular shape on one OEM device, and display a squircle on another device. Each device OEM provides a mask, which the system then uses to render all adaptive icons with the same shape. Adaptive launcher icons are also used in shortcuts, the Settings app, sharing dialogs, and the overview screen.”

In order to follow Google’s rules of Adaptive Icons developers have to submit their icons in two layers, a transparent foreground layer and a solid background layer. As explained above, the launcher then cuts the layers into a shape specified by OEM.

As the OS uses an already provided mask to shape the icons automatically, there’s nothing you can do about it. Even though you’re not satisfied with the outcome. It’s just how the system works.

Now you know that as long as you’re using Android Oreo, Adaptive Icons will be there. You can’t simply erase them from your phone in any way. But, there’s a way to at least change the appearance of Adaptive Icons on your phone.

Obviously, this can’t be done using your stock launcher, but if you really can’t stand the current look of Adaptive Icons on your phone, there’s a third-party solution.

Use Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher is arguably the most popular third-party launcher for Android. Mostly because of its wealth of customization features. This includes the ability to change the shape of Adaptive Icons, which was introduced last year.

So, if you want to at least do something about your ugly adaptive icons, you can change their shape. I know it’s not what you’re looking for, but it gives you some customization freedom. Here’s how to change Adaptive Icons in Nova Launcher:

  1. Open Nova Launcher Settings.
  2. Go to Look & Feel Adaptive Icons.
  3. Choose the preffered shape of Adaptive Icons.

That’s about it. It is a bare minimum, but at least you’re able to adjust the icons to a more likable shape. That’s better than not being able to do anything about Adaptive Icons at all.

As it appears, Google still hasn’t solved the problem with unbiased icons on various Android phones. But we have another Android version ahead of us. As we still don’t know what will the new version bring, we can only hope Google will introduce a more viable solution for icons on your Home screen. Hopefully a better one.

What do you think about Adaptive Icons in Android Oreo and the way they function? Let us know in the comments below.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

If you just learned something new about your phone, and want more of that, subscribe to our newsletter.

We guarantee 100% privacy. Your name/email address will never be shared.

Notify of
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andy D
Andy D
February 15, 2019 9:09 pm

I hate adaptive icons. Here’s why: The purpose of an icon is something visual for your brain to easily identify amongst a bunch of other icons. The brain has a couple things to work with: Shape and color. Making every icon have the same outline shape essentially cuts the information available in half, making it take much more effort to find the one icon you’re looking for amongst many. It’s an increased cognitive load to have every icon have the same shape, and it goes against the very purpose of icons.

May 6, 2020 3:52 pm
Reply to  Andy D

Exactly. But the information is cut even more! The actual icon itself is much smaller – doesn’t usually even fill the circle, so that in difficult times – outside, bright sun, forgot glasses, – it gets even more difficult to find the icon you are looking for.

July 10, 2018 4:29 am

I just made the mistake of upgrading from Android 7 to 8 on a new phone and I’m really sorry I did, the new icons look ABSOLUTE SH-T. I want to factory reset because it looks so crap. How is it humanly possible that we’re creating such utter trash in 2018. I have been in the industry since the 90’s and already then we had some really beautiful UIs on other OS. We’re going backwards.

Isaac Rabinovitch
Isaac Rabinovitch
November 29, 2018 8:42 pm
Reply to  David

Don’t factory reset! You can live with ugly icons — and Orea is really, *really* much better. Support for third party password managers. Preventing poorly-written apps from draining your battery (I hope this works against Google News!). It even seems to have shrunk some of my more bloated apps.

March 15, 2019 3:00 am

I absolutely hate this feature! Thank you Google, for shoving it down or throats (i guess you did learn something from Apple) and making every Android device look like a cheap iPhone ripoff.

June 19, 2018 12:35 am

I like the idea of adaptive icons, but google should polish the icons of its own apps. I have samsung phone, and they only put white background around old icons – it looks awfull, especially on home screen.

July 4, 2018 5:11 pm

When they’re uniform, I can’t easily distinguish between them. Shapes help differentiate between apps. I’m so happy I could enable legacy shapes. Yessssss!

December 1, 2018 10:56 pm

Just got a new phone today. First thing I noticed is all my icons are shrunk with ugly white space around them. At first I thought it was a manufacturer mod. But reading this I find it’s Google fault. How disappointing. What were they thinking!? I can’t wait till it’s out of warranty and I can put a custom ROM on to get rid of this rubbish.

February 2, 2019 3:58 am

I don’t care if they add a “feature” like this long as I can TURN IT OFF. Options are good arbitrary decisions I have no say in are not. Like whoever decided “blind white” should be a color in every inch of the screen, on devices where white drains the most power. I don’t really care about the shape, it’s the SOLID WHITE that irritates. I bought a OnePlus specifically cause it’s menus are black, I’ve bought icon packs I like, and I’ve got a dark ecosystem (other than the damn notifications which turned to white from black two versions… Read more »

November 22, 2018 9:45 pm

White circles look like crap AND make it harder to quickly identify the icon you are looking for. My Color Notes icon was a simple yellow envelope that was easily noticed. Now I have to really look thru the stupid icons. DUMB MOVE

Pdx Yyz
Pdx Yyz
November 5, 2018 11:32 pm

Why can’t they allow icons to have transparent backgrounds? Huge circles of whitespace all over my wallpaper, why bother, just make your background white.

April 9, 2018 2:06 am

You can just enable Labs in Nova by holding down Vol – while in the settings main page, then a new option, “Prefer legacy icons” will appear inside the Adaptive icons style settings

It does exactly what you want, unless the app dev puts a pseudo-adaptive icons there

December 10, 2018 7:38 pm
Reply to  dy

Thank you for the tip on Labs. Fixed almost all my icons except google calendar and settings.