Animated iPhone icons? A wasted opportunity…

Several users of our apps (most notably PhotoFrame) have asked if we could add ‘live’ or ‘animated’ icons eg. why not get the PhotoFrame icon to automatically update to show the pictures that they’ve chosen?

Why update just the Calendar icon?

Why update just the Calendar icon?

Unfortunately, there’s no way for developers to update the icons in any way other than sticking a numerical badge on them. Then I realised that Apple updates the Calendar app icon every day, so there must be a way of either a) pulling live info into the icon or b) storing lots of icons in the app and choosing which to display based on external info.

This strikes me as an enormous wasted opportunity. Why update just the Calendar icon? Surely the Clock icon could display the correct time, the Weather icon could show the current weather conditions for your location, Stocks could at the very least be color-coded red or green depending on the performance of your chosen stock and the Photos app could show a random image from your photo library.

Does anybody know why it’s just the Calendar app that gets the special treatment and what other ideas can you think of for ‘live’ icons?

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15 Responses to “Animated iPhone icons? A wasted opportunity…”

  1. Matthias Says:

    This is the difference between internal Apple API’s and the public API’s. Apple gets some extra functions that you can’t use: Background tasks, changing icons,….

    • chillix Says:

      Agreed – they keep a lot of cool stuff to themselves… having said that, I wonder why they haven’t experimented more with ‘info icons’?

  2. Josh Sunshine Says:

    I had an idea for an app once… it was a countdown that would have displayed the time remaining in the app icon (3d 4h, for example) – I would have developed it if it wasn’t for the static icons

    • chillix Says:

      Nice idea Josh – if the feature ever becomes available (perhaps OS 4.0?) let us know if you want to do a joint development

  3. epqr Says:

    Actually this is quite possible, and has been done. Both the weather and the clock. I don’t know if you are familiar with jailbreaking –“hacking” the device, so you can put things not approved by apple on your device. The possibilities are endless.

    But point is if you do this there is several hacks which allows you to make the clock show the right time, and weather show the weather of a chosen location. You can also have a calendar on the lock-screen which shows the current day and upcoming events from your calendar.app, that would be a great addition to MyCal!

    • chillix Says:

      Hi epqr

      thanks for the info – I’ll look into that. Although we obviously know a little about jailbreaking I hadn’t heard this specific stuff before. It just goes to show what’s possible though and it seems strange that Apple are holding it back. We’d welcome anything that gave us more control over wallpapers, icons and the lock screen…

  4. Samm Says:

    1. Great idea. I thought it would be cool, searched it and this forum was first to come up. Though I am dissapointed with the result (as I was very looking forward to it being possible), I find this thread very helpful.

    2. Dies anyone know of a good, well working jailbreak software that is free?

    • chillix Says:

      Hi Samm

      I’ve not come across anything – what about anybody else?

      I can’t believe Apple won’t build this functionality in soon – as well as a better way of managing lock screen info.

  5. AlMcCoy Says:

    I agree with you, would have loved to find some animated icons… although didn’t managed to find a good source so far…

    However, for a good tutorial to jailbreak a phone, look at:
    http://www.hackthatphone.com/3x/p_3_1_1g.html
    (works only for OS3.1 and less, will not work if you have updated to OS3.1.2, but you can downgrade maybe…)
    (… also you can jailbreak without necessary “unlocking” your phone = you can keep AT&T, just skip the “unlocking” part)

    You will find out that in the jailbreaking world, Cydia is the equivalent of the Apple Store, although most of the apps are free in Cydia…

    The same site explains how to customize your phone using “Themes” in Winterboard (downloadable once you have Cydia on your jailbroken phone):
    http://www.hackthatphone.com/3x/themes_with_winterboard.html

    Keep in mind though that some apps in Cydia are not as stable as in the apple store (you will open the pandora box, so you can find anything there)… the themes are pretty safe though and very enjoyable.
    Have fun!

    • chillix Says:

      Thanks for the info – I’m sure many of our users are already using jailbroken phones. Let us know your experiences good and bad…

  6. Steve Says:

    There is an app for jailbroken phones that is called live clock that displays the current time. There is also a live weather app that has the weather icon display current weather/temp.

  7. Catchme Says:

    Thanks Steve, they are cool apps. Hope there will be more to come.. One question. Will this drain the battery somehow?

  8. Jason Says:

    Im taking a bet that with the releases of these new windows phone 7’s and there live tiles I’m sure apple will be doing a few UI changes in soon future release and make the app icons kind of like windows tiles, even android has live tiles so I believe apple is working on a big overhaul for iOS 5 to compete with the ever expanding features that android and windows now have, knowing apple they will hopefully be more clean many of the android things glitch sometimes, so thats what I think(:

    • chillix Says:

      Hi Jason

      I really hope you’re right – I actually quite like the look of the new Windows phones. I’m sure Apple won’t do anything quite as blatant as ripping it off but hope they can learn something…

  9. yo Says:

    Hi, I don’t think they are gonna release it to public, ill tell you why I think so. You know how apple is, how they think, they want it all to be perfect, to represent the corporate look and feel. I’ll ask you something, do you imagine if they let it happen, to everybody make animated icons? Yes, as you told before It would be awesome the examples of the clock or the weather, and why not stocks, but… the rest? imagine, you have all the icons animated, like for example the games, you wold see the screen none stoppable moving! I guess apple is still trying to discover the right balance of updateable icons, instead of animated icons, in some way it doesn’t affect the look and feel of the phone.

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