Exploit Allows iOS Apps to use Animated Icons


Only two apps currently use animated icons on iOS — Apple’s own Clock and Calendar, which update to show the current date and time. But iOS researcher Bryce Bostwick has recently discovered a way to extend that functionality to third-party applications as well.

iOS includes a feature called Alternate App Icons that allows apps to provide a set of multiple icon choices that the user can choose from. Apple includes a protection mechanism that prevents apps from changing their icons without user intervention, but Bryce discovered a way for this check to be bypassed. This allows apps to change their icons as frequently as they’d like — including fast enough to create the appearance of an animated icon.

Despite the apparent horrors of apps trying to compete for your attention within an animated home screen, there are some legitimate use cases for this functionality; from allowing third-party calendar apps to show the current date, to playing short animations when an app receives a new notification.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see most apps using animated icons anytime soon — Apple is likely to detect and prevent the misuse via app review. But with the rise of alternate app stores on the platform, this may become one more example of how apps can begin to differentiate themselves outside of Apple’s walled garden.


Camera recording of an animated GitHub icon on iOS. Download

Zoomed-out camera recording of an animated GitHub icon on iOS. Download

Carousel of animated iOS icons. Download

YouTube walkthrough of the exploit. Direct Link