The Google Play Store’s ‘Repetitive Content’ banhammer targets icon packs again

One of the best ways to add zip to your Android device’s home screen is with a new icon pack. But it seems the Google Play Store isn’t quite as enthused by some and we’re not exactly sure why. Last month we brought you the story of Grabster Studios, which had two of its icon packs removed for containing content very similar to its other icon pack apps – even though many other designers are publishing icon packs with the same text and app experience without issues. While those apps were quickly restored, we’re now tracking two more icon packs from a different designer that are out of order.


Pix problems

Supplied: PashaPuma Design

The packs in question are Pix Monochrome and Pix Material You Light/Dark by PashaPuma Design — Android Police have used the original Pix Material You pack, still available through Google Play, as one of our favorite Android icon designs.

The Play Store suspended the apps on March 7 for violating the Repetitive Content policy, which is designed to prevent app farms from littering the store over and over with what is essentially the same product and trap content that came from elsewhere plagiarized.

PashaPuma immediately appealed and was rejected the next day. In an email the designer shared with us, the Play Store review team mentioned a specific violation and made a suggestion:

Please note that we do not allow

  • Create multiple apps with highly similar functionality, content, and user experience. If these apps each have a small volume of content, developers should consider making one app that collects all of the content.

To comply, PashaPuma must submit revised apps under new listings, omitting the reviews, ratings, search position, and other important metrics from the old listings.

The Belarusian-based artist told us that they depend on sales revenue for their livelihood.

Unworkable solution


Android icon packs are sold on the principle that customers buy the designs to integrate with their launchers and not for the application experience itself. Publishers often post nearly identical apps and text for different designs and list them in an app store for a premium. You buy the app, you buy the design. The designer can maintain and update the package over time with support for new apps.

There are possible ways to integrate paywall access into multiple designs that can be updated over the air within a single app, but such a unified experience can come with its own issues, such as the marketability of individual icon designs and the idea that the app would act like an app store because of how icon packs work.

Icon pack apps aren’t just a glorified zip file of PNGs. There’s a lot of code in there to make sure it can shake hands with the launcher app it works with and assign the right art assets to the right apps. Android offers an API for adaptive icon designs that enables animations when an icon is tapped, different icon shapes on top of the items, and the ability to change color based on Material You’s dynamic theme engine.

Unfortunately, the API can also prove to be inflexible. PashaPuma told us that the Pix Monochrome design was created in response to user requests and that the API scheme does not allow adaptive icon design with manually set colors. This is just one reason why you will see an artist selling one design in different colors as separate APKs.

Play pain

Generic hero or lifestyle image from the Google Play Store app

Since we’re talking about the Google Play Store policy, we should also talk about the inevitable entropy in how it’s enforced. One4Studio’s Vuk Andric told us that the Play Store will occasionally flag an update to one of its icon packs, despite all of its packs getting the same changes when it comes to the base app and text. Those flagged updates eventually get the green light after Andric appealed.

Much of the Play Store’s enforcement is automated these days. However, improved efficiency comes at the cost of dealing with false positives or unclear justifications, and some of those enforcement decisions have confused and frustrated developers to the third degree. While Google has offered some olive branches to smaller app developers, dubious statements remain a chronic problem that disrupts developer workflows and revenues.

Google has acknowledged our request for comment. We’ll update this story when we hear back. In the meantime, both Pix Material You Light/Dark and Pix Monochrome will remain off the Play Store.

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