iOS8 Day-by-Day :: Day 27 :: Launch Images

Written by Sam Davies

Updated 9 Apr 2015: This post has been updated to Swift 1.2

This post is part of a daily series of posts introducing the most exciting new parts of iOS8 for developers – #iOS8DayByDay. To see the posts you’ve missed check out the index page, but have a read through the rest of this post first!

To enjoy each of the 39 posts all in one place, you can now also download the iOS8 Day-by-Day eBook free from our website! 


One of the new features in iOS8 and Xcode 6 that has maybe slipped under the radar a little is an update in the ways you can specify launch screens. Traditionally, these have been images which are display immediately on app launch, before the live app UI is ready to go. With the introduction of the new screen sizes of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the lack of scalability of the image-based approach is starting to show. Luckily, you can now provide a storyboard or XIB file which will be used as the launch screen, across all flavors of device.

Today’s article will take a look at how (and why) to upgrade an app which was built using Xcode 5 to use the new XIB-based approach. As such there is an accompanying app that demonstrates the usage – available on the ShinobiControls github at

Scaling the existing approach

Launch screens are meant to be subtle – their sole purpose being to give the impression that the app is loading super-fast. Therefore, in Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, it suggests that launch screens should actually be identical to the first screen of the app, minus any dynamic content such as text.

In iOS 7 you would provide the content for the launch screen as images in an asset library – requiring one image per device that it would run on. Taking in to account the fact that iPads can launch apps in both portrait and landscape orientations, and the existence of both retina and non-retina screens, this means that you need to create a total of 6 different launch images:

iOS7 Launch Images

The addition of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus actually means that you have to produce three more launch images – since the iPhone 6 Plus can actually launch apps in landscape.

If you open an iOS7 app in Xcode 6 and head on over to the LaunchImage asset in the asset catalog, then you might expect that there would be some new empty spaces to fill, but this isn’t the case. You first need to enable the new iOS8- only types, which can be done using the attributes inspector:

Upgrading the asset library

Having checked the two boxes associated with iOS8 iPhone orientations, the asset will be updated:

iOS8 Launch Images

Top Tip: Until you either populate these new image cells, or provide a XIB/Storyboard launch screen, then your app will run in scaled mode on iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It’s therefore really important to add this when upgrading your old apps if you want to properly support the new devices.

Although this approach is perfectly viable, there are a couple of issues:

  • It’s a pain having to generate 9 different launch images for your app
  • The images are obviously part of your app bundle, and therefore get distributed with you app. That’s all of the images. One device will need at most two of the images, which means that your app includes at least seven images that it will never use.

Surely there’s a better way?

Creating a launch screen XIB

As Apple’s Human Interface Guide suggests that your launch screen should probably look like the first screen that a user sees, then wouldn’t it be great if you could create the launch screen in the same way as you create your UI? Well, with iOS8 you can – by providing a launch screen as a XIB.

When you create a new iOS project in Xcode 6 then it’ll automatically create a XIB launch screen file and set up the project correctly to use it, but upgrading an existing app is pretty easy as well.

There’s a new template for a launch screen file, which you can use by creating a new file in your project:

Creating Launch Screen

This will create a default screen containing the name of your project, and some copyright information:

Default Launch Screen

If you run the app up now, then you’ll see that your app is still using the old files – you need to tell the project what to use as a launch screen. You can do this in the App Icons and Launch Images panel of your app’s settings.

Switching to XIB

You need to select the XIB you created from the Launch Screen File drop down menu, and update the Launch Images Source to Don’t Use Asset Catalogs:

Don't use asset catalogs

Once you’ve done this you can build and run your app and notice that the new launch screen is being used in place of the old images, which you can delete.

Note: It seems that the new launch images don’t always work on simulators, so be sure to check them out on a device.

Restrictions on Launch Screen XIBs

The launch screen XIBs don’t support all the features you’re used to from IB, so don’t get too carried away. The XIB is meant to be very quick to render, and the (presumably) cached on the device – therefore there are some restrictions on what UI elements you can use.

You should construct the UI from UIImageView and UILabel objects – definitely not UIWebView. There can be no custom code associated with a launch XIB, so outlets and custom classes won’t work.

You can (and absolutely should) use Auto Layout to layout your UI. Your XIB is also fully size-class compliant, which is how you should be adapting the launch screen to the different devices it will run on.

For more information about adopting adaptive layout in iOS8 you should check out day 7 of iOS8 Day-by-Day.


This is a welcome improvement to iOS and Xcode, making the development and release process that little bit easier, and also delivering app bundle size improvements.

However, the biggest takeaway from today’s post should be that you need to either provide new launch images or make the change to XIB launch screens if you properly want to support the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. This isn’t particularly obvious – since your app will run on the new devices, but it runs in scaled mode.

Today’s app is a little bit different because it was actually created with Xcode 5 and then upgraded to include the new launch XIBs in Xcode 6. As such, the git history might be of some use in looking how this was achieved. It’s available in the iOS8 Day-by-Day git repo on github at

Hope you’re still enjoying this series – there’s still loads of stuff to write about, but I’ll only do it if it’s useful. Drop me a tweet to let me know if you want more – I’m @iwantmyrealname.