There was a time when I could spend hours setting up a new homescreen on my phone. Choosing a new wallpaper, finding the best icon placement and alignment, obsessing about icon pack zips and rars until I stumbled upon the perfect one for my setup, then adding and moving and removing widgets to fit with everything. Now, I just open Backdrops from time to time to get a new wallpaper and I keep the same homescreen setup without even bothering with icon packs. The reasons I've abandoned icon packs are many: learning curve to spot your icons under new designs, it's rare to find a pack that covers all my icons, and icon masks, just like Android O's new adaptive icons, are plain terrible. Putting a white circle around an orange square isn't my definition of beautiful icon design.

But this new Adapticons app might reconcile me back with icon customization, at least for my bank's app and those two or three regional apps I use that aren't popular enough to figure in any icon pack I've tried. Adapticons takes the idea of Android O's adaptive icons and puts you in charge of everything. You get to choose your own mask shape and colors, you can resize the original icon to fill up or barely show inside the mask, and you're in control of how the final product looks. It's a very straightforward yet fully customizable approach to icon design and I'm honestly smitten. I'm trying to remember if I ever saw an app like this before, but I can't, which makes me wonder why it's taken this long for someone to come up with it.

Customize your icons

Upon launch, Adapticons gives you a list of your installed apps. Pick one of them and you're taken to the customization screen with the preview on top and all the options below. There, you can add more apps to customize, including an option to apply the same style on all your chosen apps.

The first thing you'll have to choose is the icon shape (or icon mask or shape mask). There are all the traditional shapes like square and round, but also eccentric ones like dog imprint and puzzle. Adapticons automatically detects the main color of your app's icon and applies it to the shape. Among all the cool things this app does, this is my favorite.

Adapticons main screen (left) and apps icon shape choices (middle & right).

Once you've chosen the shape, you get to resize your icon inside it. You can enlarge it to fill the entire shape or place it anywhere inside, then move it around so it's centered or off-center. You also have options to change the complete icon's (mask) size, rotate the shape, and manually edit its color.

All the customizable icon and shape settings.

And if all that isn't enough, you can enter an exact hex value for the shape's color and/or manually replace your icon with one from Adapticons' built-in selection, from your Gallery, or even from any icon pack or theme installed on your phone.

Picking colors can be simple (left) or advanced (middle). You can manually choose your icon (right).

Once all is said and done, you just have to hit Save and all your newly created icons will be dropped on the homescreen for you to use.

For uniformity's sake... or not

This level of customization provided by Adapticons leaves you free to experiment with how you want your icons to look. Maybe you want to change all your icons to circles, but you don't want an icon pack that tries to reinvent the wheel by changing the designs or colors. In that case, you can do something like the screenshot on the left.

Upper row: original icons. Lower row: Adapticons. Uniformity (left) vs different shapes (right).

Or maybe, like the screenshot on the right shows, you want to personalize a couple of icons with the shapes that fit them best. In that case, Beirut Circle gets enlarged to fill the entire circle as if it dropped its white background, Bank Audi becomes bigger and looses some of its shadowed borders, whereLeb is completely redesigned with an orange rounded square and a plain white star icon, and MOPH becomes smaller and sits inside a white pentagon shape.

Too good to be true, maybe

If, to an extent, everything Adapticons does with icons sounds too good to be true, then you're right. The main issue with the app right now is how it creates its icons: it doesn't assign them as the default icon for the app, it just creates a homescreen shortcut with the new icon design that opens the app you chose. The consequences of this are annoying:

  • All your existing homescreen icons remain, you'll have to remove them and rearrange the new shortcuts,
  • All the icons retain their original design in the app drawer,
  • All Adapticons-created shortcuts point to the Adapticons app (in Info and Uninstall) and also lack launcher shortcuts.

Keep's Adapticon lacks launcher shortcuts (left). All icons remain unchanged in the drawer (right).

All of these limitations could be avoided if Adapticons somehow added an option to be set as your default icon pack. The new designs would then be treated as regular app icons and would apply anywhere, not just as homescreen shortcuts.

But even with these annoyances, there's a lot of merit to Adapticons. Perhaps you use the Pixel Launcher and don't want to get a third-party launcher to have icon pack support, perhaps you hate icon packs because of the crappy way icon masks look on non-themed icons, and perhaps you're content with the way most of your icons look and you just want to customize one or two of them to fit with the rest. In those cases, like me, you may not care about the app drawer or the loss of launcher shortcuts, and Adapticons is a great solution for your problems.

If you want to give it a go, you can grab Adapticons for free on the Play Store, but the options there are limited. You'll have to pay $0.99 to unlock all functionality, a reasonable price.

Developer: Damian Piwowarski
Price: Free+