HomeTechnologyNewsiOS Exploit Lets Developers Add 'Animated' App Icons Found

iOS Exploit Lets Developers Add ‘Animated’ App Icons Found

An iOS vulnerability enables developers to show animated app icons by bypassing two restrictions that prohibit icons from being automatically changed.

iOS offers many helpful and interesting features, but when it comes to app icons, the system is very rigid. While Apple permits app developers to use a feature called Alternate App Icons to add one or more app icons that users may switch between, these changes must be made manually by the user, removing the opportunity for developers to include a dynamic or animated icon. However, a developer discovered an iOS exploit that allowed him to add animation to app icons despite these limitations.

According to researcher Bryce Bostwick’s blog post, this iOS exploit addresses two major issues. First, iOS notifies the user whenever the app icon changes. Second, the Alternate App Icons feature does not work in the background, therefore the effect cannot be used unless the app is running. This is pointless because the user cannot see the icon when the app is active.

Bostwick demonstrates two solutions for avoiding these restrictions. To override the alert system, the researcher makes a private call to an iOS application programming interface (API). This is a straightforward fix that requires only small changes to the API code, as demonstrated by him in a YouTube video. The second modification requires extensive fixes and changes to the UI application state.

By accomplishing both steps, Bostwick demonstrated that it is feasible to add many app icons and then alter them so quickly that they appear to be animated. Notably, developers should avoid trying this because Apple would most likely examine and reject the changes immediately.

While it is a unique feature that makes sense for some apps (Apple already supports dynamic icons in its Clock and Calendar apps), it is a party trick for the majority of third-party applications. Furthermore, there is a risk of misuse because developers might use underhanded tricks to draw users’ attention to the app.

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There are some technical issues as well. To change app icons quickly enough, the app must be running in the background, which can cause the battery to drain more quickly. The app icon animation might drain the battery even further. Given these considerations, Apple is likely to restrict this action and correct the exploit that enables this feature.

According to a report, Apple plans to provide app icon personalization to iOS 18 users. The company may allow users to recolor app icons and place them anywhere on the Home Screen, ditching the conventional grid design.

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