One of the most commonly requested feature additions to Google’s Android operating system is theme support. Custom theme support is available on Android devices from Sony, Huawei, and Samsung among others. However, fans of stock Android on the Google Nexus and Pixel series of devices have not been able to theme their devices, at least not without root or a custom ROM. But as we discovered late last month, full support for the same theme engine found in Sony devices is actually available in official builds of Android Oreo. In these past 2 weeks, the team behind the popular Substratum theme engine have been hard at work getting custom themes working on unrooted Android Oreo devices, and we’re proud to announce that rootless, custom theme support in Android Oreo is now available for all.
Welcome to ‘Andromeda’, Substratum’s Android Oreo Rootless Add-on
What is Andromeda?
Andromeda (not to be confused with the rumored Android/Chrome OS merger) is the official name given to the new add-on package for the Substratum theme engine. It is both an Android application that you must install on your phone as well as a companion desktop client you need in order for the Substratum app to work. The Andromeda desktop client uses a script and ADB access in order to elevate the privileges of the Andromeda app on your phone to match that of the ADB shell. Once that occurs, the Substratum app can then use the commands it needs such as “cmd overlay” and “pm install” in order to compile and install themes right on your phone.
Confused? Don’t worry. The developers have made installation simple enough that you don’t really need to understand how it works in order to get it working. You probably only really care about the end result anyways, which can look like this:
Before: Android Oreo’s Stock, Light UI
After: Android Oreo with Dark UI Through Substratum
How does this work?
In case you are really interested in learning how this works, I recommend reading through the original articlewhere we described the build up to this development in great detail. Furthermore, we have also put together a lengthy FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) that should answer just about any question you may have about this project.
What can I theme?
I’ve been playing around with rootless Substratum in a closed beta test, and the results have been awesome. Here’s a small list of things I’ve been able to customize on my unrooted Android Oreo running device:
- Full system dark theme, including Settings, Quick Settings tiles, notifications, alerts/dialogs/toast windows, etc.
- Per-app themes, such as a dark Play Store/Twitter/Messages, or changing all of the green in the Hangouts app to blue
- Minimal lock screen, which allows me to hide the status bar and all shortcut icons to show off my beautiful lock screen wallpaper
- Custom nav bar icons, I am able to pick through a plethora of available nav bar icon packs such as the one on the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+
- Whatsapp/Telegram blob emojis, in other words, the ability to change fonts/emojis on a per-app basis
- Whatsapp chat bubble theme, because why not? The power of Substratum themes is that you can customize even small aspects of individual apps.
- Rounded recents, you can round the corners of the recent app screen thumbnails.
- Change the number of Quick Setting tile columns, rather than only 3 columns I can customize it to have more or less than that.
Before/After Screenshots of Substratum Tweaks. Read on to the end for guides on how to get these themes!
And that’s just what I, a relative newcomer to the world of Substratum theming, have been able to try out. The theming possibilities that are now available for unrooted users have greatly increased thanks to Substratum. Substratum was rather niche project as it required users to have a custom ROM installed that supports it, but now that Android 8.0 Oreo has custom theme support build in, that is going to change.
A whole new world of custom themes will open up for any user who is lucky enough to get Android Oreo on their device. As that demographic of users begins to increase, more developers will take interest in the project, giving users more and more theme options to choose from. We’re excited to see the future of this project, and will be covering updates to it for a long time to come.
What devices support the new rootless Substratum theme engine?
Any existing Android 8.0 Oreo device can use this new version of rootless Substratum to theme their device. This currently includes the Google Nexus 5X, Google Nexus 6P, Google Pixel, and Google Pixel XL. Any device with an unofficial port of Android Oreo can also enjoy custom themes without root. In the future, we suspect that many devices from OEMs such as Motorola, HTC, OnePlus, or Sony will also have support for the Substratum theme engine when they roll out their official software updates to Android Oreo. Other manufacturers like Samsung or LG are more of a mystery, as there’s no guarantee they will incorporate the changes needed for this to work. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, though.
As for the Andromeda desktop client, it supports any Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. You do not need to have ADB already installed for this to work, as the desktop client comes with the ADB binary pre-packaged.
How much will it cost?
When we first announced that this new version of Substratum would be a paid add-on, we didn’t expect to see such an outpouring of support. Many people were highly anticipating the release of this custom theme engine, believing that it would be worth upwards of $10-20. But it’s not going to cost even remotely near that amount. The Andromeda add-on which brings rootless Substratum custom theme support will cost only
$2.49 $1.99 for a limited time!
This low price is not what many of you might have expected, and may seem like a steal given how much value you are receiving. That’s because it is – just scroll up and look over that list of tweaks you can achieve with Substratum if you don’t believe me.
Where can I get it?
The official XDA forum thread for the Andromeda Desktop Client is the home of this new project, and is where you can find the latest installation files for the desktop client. As for the Substratum and Andromeda add-on Android apps, you can find them by following the links below:
How do I install and use Substratum with Andromeda?
We’ve written up an official guide that walks you through the process on a step-by-step basis. You can find that guide, as well as other guides we have written up to customize your phone, in the list below:
- How to Install Custom Themes on Android Oreo with Substratum
- How to Install a Dark Theme on Android Oreo without Root
- How to get Blob Emojis in Whatsapp and Telegram on Android Oreo
- How to change the Navigation Bar Icons on Android Oreo
- How to get a Minimal Lock Screen, Rounded Recent App Thumbnails, and More Quick Setting Columns on Android Oreo
Where do I get custom themes?
Look for “Substratum” in the Google Play Store. Themes that advertise support for Substratum or mention “OMS” (Overlay Manager Service) are ones that are likely to work on your device.
Furthermore, if you are looking to theme Settings/SystemUI, be sure that you look specifically for custom themes that state they are built for Android Oreo. The reason you have to do this is that many of the Substratum-supposed custom themes were built to theme the system UI from Android Nougat, however, the system UI in Android 8.0 is very different and thus requires themers to update their themes. You can find a decent list of Android Oreo-ready themes in this forum thread.
What themes are incompatible?
Custom themes that mention “legacy” or “RRO” (Runtime Resource Overlay) won’t work on your device. In addition, you won’t be able to do the following using existing Substratum themes on the Play Store:
- Change the boot animation
- Change the font system-wide (though per-app font/emoji changing is possible)
Basically, anything that absolutely requires root access to change can’t be done because obviously your phone is unrooted. Otherwise you wouldn’t be using this in the first place.
Will this continue being supported in the future?
Yes! Substratum has undergone a crazy amount of development since its early days. The developer team is very dedicated to the project, and thanks to this new direction the number of people interested in Substratum has dramatically increased. We expect great things in the future from this project, and from new themers looking to get into the Substratum family.
Like this project? Consider donating to the developers! You can do so at this link for Nicholas Chum and at this link for Ivan Iskandar.
The best way to stay up to date on future developments is to follow the official Substratum XDA forum. You can also follow individual developers of the Substratum team, such as lead developer Nicholas Chum, if you like to be teased with upcoming features. Finally, if you only care about major updates to the project, the best place to follow Substratum news is the XDA Portal which is best read through the XDA Labs application on your mobile device.