Except for the apps on my first home screen, all the other apps on my phone are sorted into folders by color. Some colors require more than one folder because I don’t put more than nine apps in any folder. Until recently blue has been the most common color on my phone. But over the last year the number of white app icons on my phone has steadily increased. It now takes four folders to hold all the white apps, taking the lead from blue for the first time since I organized apps in this way.
I was curious to know if my anecdotal experience could be backed up by some data. Using the same criteria that I use to sort apps on my phone, I examined the top 100 apps from all the relevant App Store categories, sorting them into groups by their predominant background color:
White - Facebook Messenger, Pinterest, Netflix
Blue - LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype
Red - Food Network, Push for Pizza, Open Table
Orange - Overcast, Swarm by Foursquare
Yellow - Find my Friends, Snapchat
Green - WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat
Purple - OmniFocus, Viber
There is an eighth category I called “Other” for app icons that can’t be sorted into one of the above categories. These icons either had intense gradients (like Fling or Haze), very dark or neutral backgrounds (like Reeder), or had lots of clashing details or colors (like most game icons). I skipped a handful of App Store categories, like Games, since almost every icon in those categories would not be categorizable.
The overall distribution of app icon colors, averaged across all the categories I sampled, was unsurprising except for the difference between paid and free apps:
A significant proportion of paid apps fell into the “Other” category. Most of these apps were multi-colored and excessively detailed to the point that they were aesthetically unpleasant, to my eyes. Free apps were far more likely to have a more homogenous application of a predominant background color. White and blue were very common colors across both paid and free apps, dwarfing all other solid colors.
It seems clear that, at least on the US App Store, white is objectively a very common app icon color. In some categories (Finance-Paid, Food&Drink-Paid, Lifestyle-Free) white is even the most common solid color background.