CrackBerry Asks: Do you prefer the old or new BlackBerry 10 homescreen app icon style?

By Kevin Michaluk on 12 Oct 2012 02:56 pm EDT
Left: Old BB10 Icons; Right: Current BB10 Icons
L: Old App Icons; R: Current App Icons

With Research In Motion providing sneaks peaks of the BlackBerry 10 as they near the 2013 launch, it has been interesting to observe the evolution of the operating system's user interface. There most definitely have been changes from the first BlackBerry 10 preview build to the much further along BlackBerry 10 software we experienced at BlackBerry Jam last month. We summarized these changes in our Dev Alpha 2 hands-on.

I'm mainly loving these changes, including the relocation of the BlackBerry Hub from the right side of the homescreen to the left, which makes for a much more natural motion for right-handed folks (I'm hoping at somepoint a setting gets built in so lefties can flip it). But one change that I'm actually less fond of is the new look of app icons on the homescreen.

On the initial BlackBerry 10 preview, app icons could take any shape (transparent background could show through around icon) and the name of the app appeared floating below the icon. With the latest BlackBerry 10 software we're seeing, both the application icon and app name are now boxed into a solid rectangle frame, with the name of app displaying on a semi-transparent background. 

My sense is this change was made to provide continuity in the visual experience between application icons and Active Frames, which are minimized running apps. And I agree that it logically it should be this way. As you flow through the homescreen from the BlackBerry Hub to the Active Frames and into the App Icons, the consistency between the look of the Active Frames and App icons makes sense.

That said and logic aside, for whatever reason, there's something about them that I'm just not in love with yet. And every single person I've discussed this with (and there have been dozens) has agreed with me. There's just something about the look of the homescreen with the new application icons that justs feel heavy compared to the rest of the OS, which maintains a light and fast and flowy feeling. It's not that they're *bad*... they're definitely OK... it just feels like there's just room for improvement. 

But maybe we're crazy. Which is why were putting this one to a poll. Check out the images below comparing the old design vs. the current design and vote on the poll above and be sure to sound off in the comments if you have a strong opinion on this topic. RIM has never stated that what we're seeing now is the "final" version of BlackBerry 10, so I wouldn't be surprised if by the time it goes to market we'll see a further evolution here. And for this particular point on app icons, I'm hoping we do. I want to LOVE them.  

Old BlackBerry 10 Application Icons and Active Frame

Old Style BlackBerry 10 Icons 

Old BlackBerry 10 Active Frame 

New / Current BlackBerry 10 Application Icons and Active Frame 

New BlackBerry 10 Icons 

Active Frames on new BB10 

Reader comments

CrackBerry Asks: Do you prefer the old or new BlackBerry 10 homescreen app icon style?


I like the newer homescreen look because the icon text is clearly associated with the icon itself. Without the "box" around each icon and text, it's possible to mistake the text below an icon as being for the icon below the text. Perhaps not too likely, but still, visual reinforcement is a good thing in my opinion.

Yeah, don't disagree with that rationale. Plus the text floating below the icon is the iOS way of doing it. I like when BlackBerry does things in their own unique way.

There's something "chunky" about them though... maybe they just need to round the corners. Lol. 

Some rounded corners would help the "chunky" look about them. Maybe keep the bottom the same but round the corners on the top.

Not sure how to draw it with text, but something like this (use imagination)

edit: didn't format right. But keep the square bottom, and round the top corners.

lol.... I'm guessing the icons we're seeing now are not the ones that will release. It's another way of hiding the real thing until release date.

I very much hope this is the case as I loath the boxy BBM icon that creates a visual separation from the iconic version RIM uses for EVERYTHING. I mean the traditional BBM icon is the whole trophy for the Hackathon sessions and the basis of entire print ad campaigns in multiple countries. To make the actual BBM icon on the phones anything other then the current one is like seeing Apple move away from it's core set of iOS app icons.

I get the whole we want a visually consistent "BlackBerry 10" look that is instantly recognizable, but the OS lacks visual consistency in many areas already anyway, and the core BlackBerry icon set is already well established and should be honored and kept. A little polish never hurt but changing the BBM icon is sacrilege.

Plus, I just am not a fan of the boxy look anyway. I guess it's a well, this is the only thing no one else has done and we can't get sued for kind of decision rather then actually trying to come up with something that is truly beautiful. Get rid of the boxes altogether if you ask me. Lose them on the active frames. Lose them on the icons. If the active frames work as advertized it's redundant and insulting to have the name of the app hanging on a plaque under it as the information within the frame should be more then sufficient for the user to instantly identify the app anyway. Icons are a little different as they are merely a logo that may not give the user enough information to identify the app. But we still don't need the plaque underneath. If you want to be different have the names on top, or to the left or right in vertical font. No one else does it so the home screen still remains protected from lawsuits and yet can still seem more fresh and less bulky as the use of a light font makes the names less the focus.

I agree that the whole BB 10 look is way to heavy and not really all that great. Was hoping for better. Still buying it of course, but I hope BB 10=2 or BB 11 or whatever the next version is called cleans up and refines the look.

Your right. If I recall durring the Trial Apple suggested Samsung could have used Triangles instead of copying their rounded cornered icons.

Perhaps RIM could use REULEAUX TRIANGLES, or if it's corners are too rounded, ISOSCELES TRAPEZOIDS. Apple also had problems with Samsung having their icons in an orderly grid. Perhaps BB10 could have PENROSE TILING. We wouldn't afterall want someone to confuse it with an iPhone.

I'm going to have to disrespectfully disagree with you regarding the statement "Plus the text floating below the icon is the iOS way of doing it."

BlackBerry had icons well before iOS even existed and that is always how they were displayed. This kind of frustrates me (no offense) but that's how Apple sells so much product by changing the perception that they created those concepts.

I absolutely agree that the boxy look is too chunky.

Yep, you're right... iOS is doing it that way *now*... regardless of BB doing it first, so doing it differently is good.... just so people can't mistakingly say APplle did it first :)

hey kevin wasnt there also some type of patent lawsuit situation involving iOS and Android in regards to rounded edges on the "icons/apps" and if this is true i can only guess that this was done to avoid any conflicts. i notice the main change to be a more square like icon with sharp edges as opposed to the rounded edges in previous builds. i could be wrong though, just a thought..

I like the way OS7 on my 9900 has their own icon size and shape without the little description phrase underneath it. The description is a little useless when you have different icons for different applications.

There seems to be some inconsistency between the icons and active frames. The icons have centred text over a Blue background, and the active frames have left-justified text (with a small icon), over what looks like a black background (hard to tell from the picture, though).

the new icon style blocks most of the wallpaper. Is there going to be a down swipe like the playbook that only displays wallpaper rather than app icons?

Good point. There's definitely not much wallpaper real estate with the new icon style. 

Haven't seen the ability to hide down the apps like on BB7. The way you swipe from Hub to Active Frames to App Icons I don't think that would make sense to have.. 

What's the point having wallpaper if it is covered up? That is one that mifts me about iOS.

p.s. I assume folders are there in BB10 like on PB2?

This is the first thing that came to my mind. With the new icons I can't enjoy my wallpaper at all, even with the old icons. I sure hope there will be a feature in BB10 where we can bring down/hide the app icons.

And yes you can make folders like on the PlayBook. That's how I have my Dev Alpha right now. With all my apps in one folder so I can see my wallpaper clearly.

The wallpaper shows up on the lock screen in its full glory. Guess that's all they're giving us for now.

I have seen the action bar, the one on the bottom with the camera icon semitransparent in an image or video, can't remember. Anyway, I like the boxes because it will make every icon display evenly, and not like the current icon tray on my Bold that all, or most of them have different sizes and shapes, and it's a plus that the text box below the icon will be translucent.


Is this why themes are not available? Most of the demo videos we have seen so far has just been a blue background with icons on the top. Anything more is completely blocked by the icons.

omg don't round the corners... Apple's lawyers will get some judge to issue a cease and desist selling BB10 devices ;)

I like the new look for the reasons above... plus the text color is always contrasting nicely rather than getting blurred out by the wallpaper

I think the icon grid is a really limiting and frustrating UI. Windows Phone has it right, an alpha sorted list. A list will be a tough sell for icon grid lovers why not have the choice of list view or icon grid view.

I really like the new style and look. It sets them apart from the rest and it'S bright and clean.

One thing we must all remember.

This is BB10 1.0

Over the next couple of years things are bound to change in terms of look, design and function.
At least, they are if they hire me ;)


Unfortunately RIM absolutely *NEED* BB10 **1.0** to be amazing. They don't have anything even approaching the luxury of getting it right 'over the next couple of years'.

I wasn't sure at first, but I do like the new style now.

Each icon is a clear entity, and it's very clear which title is associated with which icon. It looks different than any other app grid on other platforms and that in itself is a feat.

But MOST importantly....BlackBerry 10 isn't for people who need to stare at their pretty wallpaper. BlackBerry 10 is for people who DO. The solid rectangle icons look the most finger-friendly of any phone I've seen...and that means more seconds shaved off of your smartphone-usage per day.

Aw, man....

I was really looking forward to BB10, but I like wallpapers, so I guess I better abandon my plans to support RIM forever.

I'll just go ahead and sell my Berrys and RIM stock and jump to Android, because Jenks5150 says that BB10 isn't for people who like wallpapers... :/

I like the active frames but I would like the ability to change their ratios. But I hate the other icons, they are way too square. I understand needing to have them in a grid but there's no reason the icon it self has to be square, it just has to fit inside an invisible square.

Couldn't decide, but the ones in the newer one look great. The older one looks like the playbook icon designs. Still, both are nice and smooth. The newer, which is subject to change and never is final, is quite cool.

For some reason when I look at the new icons I cant help but feel that they are "old fashioned"... not sure why

The one thing that irritates me about the PlayBook calendar app icon is that it doesn't update to give me the actual date (day of month) as the ones do on the Torch 9810. It just shows 31. Otherwise I don't really care one way or another how BB10 does their icons. I like dropshadows...add dropshadows to everything!

The new one looks too crowded for my liking and more flat. The four panels look okay but I'm not a big fan of the way the icons are presented.

I like the old ones... I was actually always assuming that they would eventually end up like that and they only had the boxes around them for beta. Hope that’s the case.

I really dislike the tab at the bottom if the icons and the actual app itself when it's active but minimised like on the playbook, why doesn't it look like playbook icons, these are just disgusting and look like they're from the 70's...

I like the old ones better by a country mile. I find the apps easier to recognise if their icon has its own distinct shape. I also just find them more visually appealing with transparencies instead of making it look like each icon has been crammed into a box. As someone with less than stellar vision, I can appreciate the solid background being the new icon names which makes them easier to read, but this does block almost the entire wallpaper. Wallpapers are really important to me as they can help make an ageing device feel fresh.

I know you can slide the active frames up to reveal four more, but I'm also hoping you can slide them down to reveal a blank wallpaper friendly screen.

I like the way the current OS7 app icons appear, which is kind of like the old BB10 app icons I guess.. But if we really need something new I suggest the apps be laid over a triangle, gives you something totally different then everyone else right now.. You can still have app text floating or even with in the base of the triangle. Just an option..

the new way looks like some lil kids work, copy and paste a box with a pic and a name... the old way looks more graphic like

I guess we can correlate this to the change in the forums.

I hated it at first (couldn't post for a week), but now I find the changes not only useful, but aesthetically pleasing. Point is, we are comfortable with that is usual to us, but once we get past the point something reads as strange, we shake it off and take it for what it really is.

I voted neither, for there is always room for improvement, but if those two are the only options, give me new and strange and let's move things forward and differentiate the platform.

Glad you're liking the new forums!

Still some tweaks and refinements we're going to make to improve on them, but they're definitely settling in nicely now. 

What no themes? Will BB10 not have the ability to change the icons up?

Edit: Eek! just read on the main screen that themes are NOT coming to BB10.

/Device agnosticism or bust!

This one is easy, the old style is a gazillion times better than the clunky new style. No brainer keep the old style or we risk being laughed at all the way to apples bank account.

Old icon and active frame rock!

I like the older ones better. But the actual icons are ugly in both. I like the PlayBook icons much better. Actually even the BB7 icons are better.

I'd be fine with the new way if the transparency of the box was higher (meaning more transparent, less opaque), or at least have the box around the icons be more transparent, and the label can be more opaque. I want icons with transparency around them, not stuck in an opaque box (like the App World icon - yuck).

The new icons always bothered me - they just don't look right. I have no problem with the PlayBook icons - not sure why they needed to change it.

Thanks for posting this Kevin, hopefully this will get RIMs attention.

Why is that there is that blue hue?
And yes the squared off icons take up a lot of real estate for the wallpaper, one huge issue I have with Windows Phone. The older look jangled less.
The newer look has an excessive "Beta" look about it.

I think if both dev alphas had the same wallpaper we could make a better judgment call. Just saying.... :) I like a more cleaner look and actually get rid of all text for the icons on my phone. The new icons just look flat. If there were shadows and what not, and the icons looked like they "popped" I am sure they would look a ton better.

Personally, I prefer the standardization of icons - much like Apple.


Asthetics (spelling) - They're too many $H!T icons floating around.


I HOPE that RIM enforces some "standards" in terms of Apps. Again - for asthetics (spelling,.. again). ;)

As much as I dislike how strict Apple is, there is a huge benefit to not allowing Androanarcy. BUT I'm NOT saying be AS strict as Apple - I'm SAYING establish and enforce reasonable standards.



It's all Marketing...

there was a series of demo videos released not too long ago (there were 4 videos and in spanish) in which the person running the demo stated that the icons were placeholders and would be updated before official launch.

yea I remember that too....BUT that was on a demo using the OLD icons, maybe these are the new icons he was talking about :()

I am still this idea from someone else, but I think it would be awesome if you could slightly change the size of the icons. Make the more frequent ones a little bigger. This could be one of the little custumizations that really sets BB apart from all the other phones.

The new icons have no "transparency" effect, in the sense that there are no pixels that are set to "colourless". Since we've had these effects for many years, it is considered standard and the general public will think RIM is going backward with the new icons.

Personally I think the current style (and the old style) are not different enough from what already exists on other phones. RIM should choose a very definitive, recognizable 'look' so that nobody is going to mistake their phones for something other than a Blackberry phone.

Here's a suggestion:

Just like company logo's, the icons could have a definite uniform style and color scheme. These could be swapped, like themes, while still retaining that uniformity. Get rid of the boxiness, maybe just use a very thin wireframe (rounded corners of course) around each icon. Each icon will have a minimal number of colors. The background could be a solid color. The icons would be styled such that they appear to 'float' above the screen.

I agree--we need something distinctly BlackBerry--not something that someone can say was "copied", no matter how wrong they are. I like the distinctive look of each icon in my BB7 Bold 9900 as well as the PB icons. One thing I would like to see is something like I can do on my Windows desktop--create a folder icon that reflects the apps inside it. I don't like how BB7 does it (generic folder with no indication of what's inside) or iOS (transparent folder with tiny images of the apps inside--looks cluttered).

I do not like the new icons--they look flat, two-dimensional and boring. They need to 'pop' but not be silly-looking. I also hope that I can arrange my apps in groups under screen names e.g. Media, Games, Utilities/Processing, etc so that all apps belong together but are still visible. The look of the minimized apps is good, so long as they are still recognizeable for what they are.

Thanks, RIM, for looking ahead and running the hard race!

*BlackBerry people do!*

The old one looks better, but is problematic with certain backgrounds. The new one works regardless of background. I'll take the practicality of the new one over the aesthetics of the old one.

The new ones work with any background....BECAUSE YOU CAN'T SEE THE BACKGROUND.

That's not problem-solving. It's white-washing.

I don't like having titles under the icons, or at least, I'd like to have the option to remove them. The old style is better than the new, by far. There is no depth or contrast with the new. I don't like being stuck with one colour for the icon titles - I think going colourless, black, white, silver etc looks more clean and professional. And I agree, the icons are too big and take up too much of the screen. Before I became a Blackberry user, I had a Samsung Omnia, but I used SPB Mobile Shell - had several options of icon size, noticeable or invisible box around the icon, icon titles or none. I liked having the option to switch things up. And I also like the ability to hide the icon tray at the bottom like on my Torch (9800). Maybe they'll include the ability to hide the icon grid with a swipe gesture and tap to bring them back, if not at launch, at a later date.

Funny the amount of blackberry fools dissing windows 8 metro style in the forums and then go full hypocrite praising these metro-like icons and enjoying the metro themed app world.

Bashing just to bash, interesting human behavior.

Troy~£€€ screen space is too narrow(dies) bad desigh for bb 10,should take the Blackberry to back of device

With regards to the stylized apps, BB10 needs to do something DIFFERENT from the competition not just different from what it has done in the past. I'm definitely expecting MORE!!!!!

Strictly comparing the old and new version, I have to agree that the new version looks like something from 2006 :( It may have some functional benefitd, but it has ZERO polish or elegance. Starting to get worried...

I will add that it looks like a GUI designed by a developer and not by an artistic graphic designer.

The new icon app style reminds of those plain Windows 8 squares that I dislike. RIM: please avoid any resemblance to those.

It reminds me of a windows phone. I don't like it. This phone is gonna be another blackberry storm if they continue on this path. This OS looks like crap. Its gonna be 2013 and we're stuck with this crappy layout? That's BS RIM

fugly icons and there won't be any themes to fix this?
that is BS, if I wanted this much restrictions, I would buy an iPhone.

if they continue with this kind of stupid moves, android here I come.

The old icons look way better imo. I feel as though RIM is dumbing down the titles of each icon for us as if we're idiots and the old icons were subtle. The look of each icon looks much better and updated (lack of a better word) than the newer ones. Also,I feel as though the actual icon takes more of a backseat with the newer icons than the old ones. Really, once you start using your phone for a little bit, you know which Icon is which without the titles so then they become useless.

Basically, the older icons look better than the newer ones because of the Titles under them but better yet, if you took the old icons and just removed the titles, that'd be even better. We don't need them, we're smart people

One more thing. The "action bar" is the worst thing about the look of BB 10 and has no visual consistency with anything else in the OS. Steal a page from MeeGo Harmaten and hide the damn thing. Make it part of Peek. Swipe up from the bottom of any app to see notifications on the side and USER SELECTABLE set of app icons along the bottom. It's hideous and an insult to modern UI design and I'd rather have physical buttons then have to stare at that. It's lazy, not well thought out and defeats the purpose of a button less design in the same way the onscreen buttons in Android 4.0+ do. People have to learn the peek gesture anyway, so just hide that eyesore in the peek. TAT is not turning out to have been a good investment as this is far from the best UI.

The icons are in a word: HORRIBLE! They are the first thing people notice about BB10 and it's a huge turn off RIM must change them for the final release. The guys at TAT must be vomiting.

Your right. TAT guys are probably vomiting. lol. Even BB OS 7 and PlayBook had better icons. Look at the damn text msg icon. BB10 is a sleek OS with 90s looking icons.

I wish the changed the new icon... THEY SUCK! Come on RIM hand over the icon designing to TAT. PLEASE CHANGE IT!!! I think the icons on the PlayBook is even better.