With any luck, Android users may soon have more consistent system bar icons regardless of whether they buy their devices from HTC, LG, or Samsung. The latest version of the Android Compatibility Definition Document states that OEMs must use white status icons so that app developers taking advantage of Android 4.4's new translucent system bars can provide a consistent user experience. Here is the clause in full:

From version 4.4, Android now supports a new variant theme with translucent system bars, allowing application developers to fill the area behind the status and navigation bar with their app content. To enable a consistent developer experience in this configuration, it is important the status bar icon style is maintained across different device implementations. Therefore, Android device implementations MUST use white for system status icons (such as signal strength and battery level) and notifications issued by the system, unless the icon is indicating a problematic status.

This wouldn't require as much of a change from some device manufacturers as it used to, as the latest versions of Sense and TouchWiz already use predominantly white icons, with green batteries being the primary exception for both. Bright colors might sound like they would be easier to pick out from content flowing underneath, but a green icon wouldn't stand out well at all against a green background a developer used thinking all icons would be white.

Screens of the developer edition HTC One running Android 4.4 show that its icon colors thus far remain unchanged, but this build was likely prepared before the aforementioned clause was added to the Android Compatibility Definition Document on November 27th. HTC has yet to launch an official KitKat OTA for any Sense devices tied to a carrier.


It remains to be seen if OEMs will simply choose to ignore Google's guidelines and whether they get away with it if they do. Keep your fingers crossed. The eclectic world of Android might just become a little less so soon enough.

Via: Google+

Sources: Google, Android Compatibility Definition Document

Thanks, Paul Christopher!

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • jonathan3579

    I hope this is strictly enforced.

    • BapaLapaShapaLapaDingDong

      But what if you use white wallpapers? :/

      • Nate

        With the gradients, it doesn't matter. See:http://i.imgur.com/fwM8BEUl.png

      • Mike Harris

        I thought the same thing as you until I realized that style of the notification bar being discussed is not transparent (which I use with Nova Launcher), but translucent (semitransparent).

        As you can see from Nate's example, there's a gradient starting from a very dark opaque grey at the top, working its way down to full transparency at the bottom. Although the shadows of the car may make it easier to distinguish between the icons and the wallpaper, I still don't think there will be an issue with seeing the icons. It hasn't been a problem on any of the examples I've seen so far.

  • lfeuln

    *cough* Sonos *cough* Seriously, it stands out in a bad way so hope they update. Another that comes to mind is Open VPN.

    ETA - Ugh, I hate when people post before fully reading and I did it myself this time. :o

    • joeljfischer

      Sonos? What? They're not an Android OEM last I checked...

      • lfeuln

        Sorry, you're right - I was thinking of apps but it's a similar situation if the icon's persistent while the app is used. I hope Google has released a similar guideline for third party devs?

  • Mark Curtis

    As long as it is a _guideline_ and not a _rule_, OEMs will ignore it because MY BRANDING!!!

  • nebula

    Samsung will find a way to fuck up the design again.

    • jonathan3579

      They're one of the worst offenders in my opinion with that Gingerbread battery icon.

    • Leif Sikorski

      Samsung had the immserive mode and white icons already before kitkat, so I guess they'll stick with them.

      • TheFirstUniverseKing

        I don't get the downvotes. This man is right. Samsung did have white icons, aside from the battery icon, and in full screen apps on TouchWiz, you can swipe from the top to view the status bar, much like what immersive mode allows. Is he merely getting downvotes because of your angst against Samsung?

        • http://rootzwiki.com/news Max M.


        • miri

          The battery icon is green, therefore not all the status bar icons are white. Immersive mode isn't simply swiping from the top to get the status bar back but a range of features that allow filling the entire screen with content and interacting with it independently of the system UI.

          • TheFirstUniverseKing

            I'm on KitKat. I've used numerous apps which have implemented "Immersive Mode." Visually and functionally it's no different from Samsung's implementation. I'm sure the backend code is different, but they function the same. Samsung's version might not hide nav bars, but I've never used a Samsung device on TouchWiz with an onscreen nav bar (since most Samsung devices have hardware keys).

          • miri

            "...but they function the same."
            That's my point: they don't. Swiping down from the top of the screen is just one little detail that everyone gets fixated on because that's all the pop-up mentions when you enter immersive mode (and that's really all the end-user needs to know as regardless of the device/button layout, swiping from the top will get you out of immersive mode) but that doesn't mean any time an app hides the status bar and you need to swipe from the top to get it back that the app is in immersive mode.

          • Jaime

            What else do "inmersive mode" do then?

        • richie97

          Probably because it's not talking about immersive mode. It's talking about Translucent status and nav bars, which aren't immersive mode, just an alternate theme.

    • yahyoh

      Samsung already use white icons since 4.3 they only need to change the battery icon :p


  • godutch

    @Bertel King, Jr.

    that is not an early screen, HTC released the kitkat OTA for the dev edition around 10 days ago already

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      You're right. Fixed.

  • Thomas Wong

    Although there's the black gradient, I think the white icons can be difficult to spot when on top of a white background. Just like when you scroll down Google Now on a Nexus 5. The bottom navigation bar can be seen more clearly due to the taller height (thus deeper gradient) and the "supposed" shadow on the buttons. There's no such case for the notification bar though.

  • Steve Secor

    So basically, nexus and GPE devices will now be the only phones with a translucent status bar. Which sucks, because developers won't add it to their apps if the user base isn't high enough.

    There is no way Samsung will change its Mickey Mouse theme.

    • Lirodon

      TouchWiz on 4.2 and up has a similar transparency on the home screen...

      • Steve Secor

        What I mean is that if it's forced, Samsung would more likely go back to a black status bar than change their icons.

        • Jaime

          Only battery icon is not white...

      • drcmda

        it does not matter if samsung hacked some stuff together in the past. what matters is, do they follow platform behavior or not and if they don't it will again hurt developers and us consumers alike.

    • lolhaha

      HTC also has translucent status bar... think they were the first android oem to do that

  • Skander

    Useless - Samsung will never ever bend over to a Google guideline, and history tells you Google can't do anything to Samsung.

    (developing a rival OS (Tizen) is not allowed and samsung is an exception.)

    • http://www.binarytuberculosis.com BinaryTB

      A rival OS is allowed, why wouldn't it be? A rival OS based on Android is NOT allowed. Much like Amazon's Kindle OS, but they're not part of the Android alliance (or whatever it's called).

      • Skander


        Being part of the Android alliance you cannot develop any other mobile os.
        Samsung is part of it - no word.
        Acer tried, got their ass kicked.

        • http://www.binarytuberculosis.com BinaryTB

          But Acer's Aliyun was based on the Android Open Source Project. Tizen, as far as I can tell, isn't. So Samsung can develop and release it without Google having any say.

          If the rival mobile OS restriction was true, then Samsung and HTC wouldn't be allowed to release Windows Phones either.

          • Kevin

            Neither Samsung or HTC developed Windows Phone OS though, releasing phones that use it is a very different thing from Developing the OS themselves.

          • http://www.binarytuberculosis.com BinaryTB

            That's a good point. I was curious to see what the actual restriction was so did some quick Googling. This is from Wikipedia so take it with a grain of salt (but it cites Cnet and Android Police), but here's what it says:

            "By contract, the members of OHA are not allowed to produce any devices that run non-Google approved versions of Android".

            Since Tizen isn't Android (like Aliyun), Samsung should be able to do whatever it wants with it.

      • gh0st

        true story

  • HebeGuess

    To be exact 'MUST' keywords in document 'mean that the definition is an absolute requirement of the specification' per rfc2119.

    Found something on ART, Google only recommended implements ART meanwhile Daivik must keep as default.

    • Bogdacutu

      except on Android L there's no dalvik anymore

  • anezarati

    i noticed I Heart Radio went to a white icon already

  • gotgremlins

    Gremlins found in Android :) gotgremlins.com

  • Joey Funk

    they should make it a rule that you have to have the home, back buttons, and multitasking buttons in the same place at least, you can make capacitive or physical buttons if you wish, but at least put those three buttons on there.

    • http://shanked.me/ Shank

      In the same order, as Nexus devices, please!

      • someone755

        It annoys me to no end to see a phone with three hardware buttons (capacitive) with the RIGHT ONE being the BACK button.
        Tho the "recents" button is sorta useless imo. I'd rather have a menu button where the recents is.

  • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

    Could someone please list a few apps which are supporting immersive mode in 4.4? (Other than launchers and Play Book). I want to use some of those.


      Badland, pretty fun side scrolling physics puzzler, first 10 levels adfree.

      • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

        Aren't all games always fullscreen anyway? I've never seen notification bar in any game ever. Any non-game apps?

        • USSENTERNCC1701E

          Full immersion includes hiding the nav buttons, not just the icons turn into dim dots, the whole bar goes away.

          But, google found a reddit thread on this http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/1qs9ft/

          • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

            Sweeeeet. Thanks.

    • Sahil Chaturvedi

      I found this awesome way to use the Immersive mode all the time.

      Check it out!


      You'll need root though. Basically just for expanded desktop, which forces you into "fullscreen". You're in immersive mode! :D

  • http://www.emuparadise.me/roms-isos-games.php rarely online

    White icons are good. White backgrounds and wallpapers are fucking not.

    • Sahil Chaturvedi

      That's why you have the gradient.

  • sam

    While talking about the icons in the status bar and their color, why doesn't google add an option in the settings for users to display the battery percentage in the status bar yet?

  • Paul

    "It remains to be seen if OEMs will simply choose to ignore Google's guidelines..."
    I hope Sony does. I'm still on GingerBread on my 2011 Xperia and the icons still look better than on some JellyBean phones from other brands (comic look, froyo look, etc.) You can't deny that Sony's metallic-like and plastic (not the material) design has a nice modern look.

  • http://www.dsaif.com/ Saif

    They should add inverted icons for white gradient.

    • Ashmedai ♔

      Love the way iOS implements it!

  • jae

    Is there any way to change the battery icon colour back to green instead of green?

    • jae

      instead of white*