Custom boot images: Why putting your brand front-and-center is more powerful than you might think

Cam Summerson
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Creating a strong brand identity is crucial for standing out and establishing a growing, loyal customer base, especially for industries like connected fitness, remote patient monitoring, or hospitality. But brand recognition doesn’t happen overnight, and getting your brand “out there” can be challenging. Highlighting your logo and messaging as often as possible is an easy way to effectively reinforce your brand in customers’ (and potential customers’) minds. A simple but effective way to do this with your devices is with a custom boot image.

While that may sound ~f a n c y~, it’s not as complex as you may think. Here’s what you need to know. 

What is a boot image? 

The boot image (also called a boot animation) is typically the first thing you see when you start up a device. Think about your smartphone, for example. As soon as you power it up, you probably see the manufacturer’s logo, or in some cases, your service provider's logo. Sometimes this logo is animated, while others, it’s just a static image. For example, when you boot up an iPhone, it’s a static image of the Apple logo. Very simple, clean, and instantly recognizable. On Google Pixel devices, however, it’s an animated Google logo in the company’s signature primary colors. There are two main types of boot images:

  • Static images: This is a single image that doesn’t move, like a photograph. 
  • Animated: This is a moving image, like a gif. 

It’s worth noting that some devices (like computers) may have a splash screen that shows up quickly just before the boot image. For example, a desktop computer may briefly display the motherboard manufacturer’s logo before transitioning to the Windows boot animation. While this isn’t typically how mobile devices like tablets and smartphones work, some custom devices may work this way. A boot image and splash screen are two different things and shouldn’t be confused with one another. You typically can’t remove or change the splash screen. 

A custom boot image or animation replaces the stock option that came with a device. Replacing the stock boot image requires modifying the device’s low-level software and isn’t easily accessible out of the box. That said, it can be done relatively easily with the right tools. 

Benefits of using a custom boot image 

How does something like a boot image benefit your business? That’s a fair question! For starters, it puts your brand out there — every time one of your devices boots up, there’s your brand. Depending on the type of devices you’re providing (and to whom), this can be an incredibly powerful tool! This is especially true for consumer devices, like connected fitness.

How confidence-inspiring would it be for a client or customer to boot up a device and see your logo immediately? It puts your brand fresh in their minds and provides a level of sophistication and authority that one would usually expect from only the biggest companies. It says, “Look at us; look at what we can do.” It’s powerful. 

And, best of all, if you decide to rebrand, you can switch the boot image to reflect. That’s how you make sure your brand is always on brand. 

Technical considerations for creating a custom boot image 

It’s easy to say, “This sounds cool; let’s do it!” Unfortunately, execution isn’t quite that simple — there are things to consider before implementing a custom boot image. 

  • Device compatibility: Most off-the-shelf devices have limitations to block access to the boot image. You’ll need to meet specific access requirements (root access, etc.) to replace it. You'll have to do this for each type if you have multiple device types or from different manufacturers. 
  • File format: Android uses .zip files for the boot image, while iOS uses .ipsw format. 
  • Resolution: The boot image resolution should match the device, so you’ll need multiple sizes to match different devices. 
  • Frame rate: If you’re using an animated boot image, you’ll want to optimize the frame rate to avoid stuttering or choppy animations. It should be as smooth as possible without making the size too big. 
  • Size: The animation or image should be as small as possible while meeting the minimum resolution and frame rate requirements.

Once you’ve decided on how your boot image should look, you could also consider a matching wallpaper. Having the boot animation flow directly into a matching wallpaper is a pretty slick flex. 

How to implement your custom boot animation

Since custom boot images require specific circumstances that are hard to meet on off-the-shelf devices, implementation can be challenging. That’s one of the many (many) reasons we offer a custom Android build called Esper Foundation for Android. This fully customizable build replaces the stock operating system on many devices, allowing you to create your ideal device experience from the boot image up. 

Of course, there may be more straightforward ways to implement a custom boot image, and I’m not suggesting otherwise. But these other methods often require questionable processes that dramatically decrease device security and, if done incorrectly, could potentially brick the device. The good news is that we have Android experts on staff ready to answer any questions, not just about putting together a custom boot image but pretty much anything about running an Android device fleet. Give us a chat if you have questions.

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Cam Summerson
Cam Summerson

Cam is Esper's Director of Content and brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.

Cam Summerson
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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