Hi, I'm Hwee-Boon Yar

I write, ship and sell software products. iOS/OS X app developer based in Singapore, working remotely. This is my blog.

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It's the end of 2015, and the iOS app store has been around for 7 years. There's been several posts aggregating the color distributions of app icons since iOS 7 was released 2 years ago. 2 major iOS versions later, I figure it's a good time to look at the app store again.

Methodology

I wrote a couple of Ruby scripts and pulled charts from the iOS US app store using RSS feeds from Apple, downloaded the icons and extracted the primary colors used in each icon. I then wrote a Mac app to generate the numbers, charts and tables. The Newsstand category includes apps from several charts and did not have a separate paid app chart so while I have included the data for completeness sake, I wouldn't be looking at it.

I extract the primary color from each icon and put them loosely into one of these color groups: red, green, blue, black, white and gray. If they are identified as black, white and gray, I look at their secondary color and try to place them into red, green, blue instead where possible (e.g a small, single blue letter on a white background might work better if it's classified as blue instead of white).

The app icons for each chart are then stacked vertically. The taller a column is, the more commonly that color is used for icons in that chart.

The data was pulled over several days from 16 Dec to 22 Dec 2015.

For the rest of this post, I'll refer to the red, green and blue icon groups and ignore the black, white and gray groups.

Icons of Top 200 Free Apps in the iOS App Store grouped into red, green, blue, black, white, gray

Icons of Top 200 Free Apps in the iOS App Store grouped into red, green, blue, black, white, gray

In the Top 200 Free apps chart, we can see that red app icons are most popular, representing 43.5% of app icons with green (11.5%) as the least popular.

Free vs. Paid

Top 200 Free Apps
Top 200 Paid Apps

Top 200 Free (left) Apps vs. Top 200 Paid (right) Apps #

Eyeballing the Top 200 Free apps and Top 200 paid apps icons side by side, the distribution is similar.

Here's the distributions in every chart for free and paid apps:

Red Green Blue White Black Gray
All 43.5 11.5 34.0 0.5 6.0 4.5
Books 49.5 13.5 24.5 1.0 5.5 6.0
Business 31.5 12.5 43.0 0.5 5.0 7.5
Catalogs 54.0 9.0 18.5 0.0 10.5 8.0
Education 38.0 18.0 35.0 0.0 5.5 3.5
Entertainment 42.0 13.0 30.5 0.0 4.5 10.0
Finance 27.5 20.0 44.0 0.5 4.0 4.0
Food & Drink 63.0 13.5 10.5 0.5 3.0 9.5
Games 44.0 10.5 32.0 2.0 6.5 5.0
Health & Fitness 36.5 15.0 37.0 1.0 5.5 5.0
Lifestyle 46.5 9.5 25.5 1.5 7.0 10.0
Medical 32.5 14.0 45.0 0.0 4.0 4.5
Music 46.0 5.0 31.0 1.0 5.5 11.5
Navigation 18.0 18.5 39.5 0.5 6.5 17.0
News 31.5 4.0 47.0 1.5 10.0 6.0
Newsstand 39.5 8.0 21.5 2.0 9.0 20.0
Photo & Video 45.0 7.0 29.0 1.5 11.5 6.0
Productivity 28.5 10.5 48.0 0.0 6.0 7.0
Reference 42.5 17.5 28.5 0.5 5.0 6.0
Shopping 41.5 10.5 30.5 1.5 10.0 6.0
Social Networking 30.5 18.5 39.5 2.0 8.5 1.0
Sports 36.5 13.5 26.0 2.5 8.5 13.0
Travel 34.5 12.5 39.0 2.5 6.0 5.5
Utilities 34.5 12.0 30.0 1.0 6.0 16.5
Weather 23.5 4.5 59.0 0.5 6.0 6.5
Distribution for App Icons in Top 200 Free Charts (%)
Red Green Blue White Black Gray
All 41.5 9.5 28.0 1.0 7.0 13.0
Books 54.0 12.0 24.0 0.0 6.0 4.0
Business 26.0 12.0 41.0 0.5 8.5 12.0
Catalogs 47.5 9.0 22.5 0.5 10.0 10.5
Education 42.5 15.5 34.5 1.0 3.0 3.5
Entertainment 44.0 12.0 25.0 0.0 10.0 9.0
Finance 36.0 18.0 30.5 0.5 9.0 6.0
Food & Drink 55.5 18.0 16.5 1.0 4.0 5.0
Games 45.0 12.0 25.5 0.5 6.0 11.0
Health & Fitness 39.0 13.0 33.5 1.0 6.5 7.0
Lifestyle 45.0 9.0 28.5 0.5 8.0 9.0
Medical 36.0 10.0 40.0 0.5 7.0 6.5
Music 37.0 11.0 25.5 3.0 11.0 12.5
Navigation 21.0 19.5 38.5 3.0 7.5 10.5
News 31.0 7.5 30.0 0.5 8.0 23.0
Newsstand 41.1 10.0 22.2 1.1 6.7 18.9
Photo & Video 39.0 7.0 28.5 1.5 10.5 13.5
Productivity 33.5 12.0 38.5 1.5 6.5 8.0
Reference 37.0 9.5 34.5 1.0 7.0 11.0
Shopping 43.0 13.1 19.6 1.9 6.5 15.9
Social Networking 30.5 16.5 41.0 1.0 4.5 6.5
Sports 36.0 13.0 25.0 0.5 11.5 14.0
Travel 30.5 16.5 38.0 0.5 10.0 4.5
Utilities 28.5 12.0 35.0 1.0 8.5 15.0
Weather 24.5 9.5 52.0 0.5 4.0 9.5
Distribution for App Icons in Top 200 Paid Charts (%)#


Here's a tiny version of the breakdown of every chart #:

Free Apps in Every Chart

Free Apps in Every Chart

Paid Apps in Every Chart

Paid Apps in Every Chart

A Few Observations

There are more red icons than green or blue icons.


Free Apps in Food & Drink
Free Apps in Books

Free Apps in Food & Drink (left) and Books Charts (right) #

Food & Drink has the highest proportion of red icons followed by Books.


Free Apps in Weather
Free Apps in Productivity

Free Apps in Weather (left) and Productivity Charts (right)#

Blue is the next most common color for app icons after red. Weather app icons are mostly blue (understandably). Productivity apps also tends to be blue rather than red.


Free Apps in Finance

Free Apps in Finance (left) and Navigation (right)#

Finance and Navigation has the greatest proportion of green icons among all categories. But even that is low at 20.0% and 18.5% for Finance and Navigation respectively.


Free Apps in Fiance
Paid Apps in Fiance

Free (left) vs Paid (right) Apps in Finance#

Free finance apps tends to be blue, but paid finance apps are most likely red than blue.

Similarly for News apps. Free Reference apps tends to be red but paid Reference apps are roughly split between red and blue. Free utilities are more likely red than blue, but paid utilities are more likely blue than red.

Green app icons are the least common.

Conclusion

This isn't a rigorous analysis, but it looks like if you want your app icons to stand out, the data says: pick green/blue for Food & Drink, red/green for Weather and so forth.

Self-Promotion

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