Earlier this month, Google announced that the Play Store on Android and Chrome OS would adopt rounded square app icons for a cleaner and more consistent experience. We can now provide an early look at this push for uniform shapes that is set for later this year.
About APK Insight: In this ‘APK Insight’ post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in the case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.
With this change, Google wants users to “focus on the artwork, as opposed to the shape.” Targeting phones, tablets, and Chrome OS form factors, it comes as the company continues to push Android apps on the latter platform.
They fix alignment issues caused by random open space to better present surrounding information, such as the title, rating, and price.
With version 14.1.46 of the Play Store, we have enabled an option that forces the uniform shapes. Some icons today appear to naturally conform to the “new icon assets” that Google is asking developers to upload starting in April. For example, Twitter and Facebook’s Play icons are essentially squares so Google can dynamically render rounded corners and drop shadows.
Meanwhile, others that have unique shapes — like Inbox and the Google app — get the “legacy mode” treatment. This involves the original icon asset being “scaled down 75% to the keyline grid size.” In practice, this places existing icons of any shape into a white rounded square.
This new look is most evident on the Play Store’s Home tab where old icons in legacy, like Instagram, particularly stand out for not going edge-to-edge. Even though these icons are placed against a white background that matches the Play Store’s background, the drop shadows that Google applies results in a mismatch. Meanwhile, all other icons benefit from the uniformity especially when scrolling through a carousel.
Google is not discouraging shapes, with developers not advised to “force the artwork to full bleed” if “shapes are a critical part of a logo.” The company’s guidance is to place that icon on the new keyline grid, with WhatsApp being a good example of a unique message bubble shape that still stands out.
Starting May 1st, new icons that developers upload to the Play Console must conform to the new specification. By June 24th, original icons are converted to “legacy mode.”
Overall, the end result does “bring consistency and a cleaner look to Google Play.” It will be interesting to see how Google updates its own icons with unique shapes that are already predominantly white, like the Google app.
Update: As pointed out to us, the new icon is more in line with a rounded square rather than a squircle. We have updated this post accordingly.
Dylan contributed to this article