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.


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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.

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.

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