Android has a long history of offering a more customizable user interface than iOS. You can choose which apps appear on your home screen, place widgets on the home screen, and even change the items that appear in your Quick Settings panel.
But if you have a rooted device running Android 6.0 or later, there’s an app called Substratum that makes the operating system a whole lot more customizable.
Substratum is a theme engine that lets you change everything from the navigation and notification buttons to fonts, colors, and boot animations on your Android device. There’s even support for per-app theming, giving your device a different look for every app you use.
And now you don’t need root to use the Substratum theme engine anymore. Well, maybe.
The developers behind Substratum have released a new add-on called Andromeda that works on unrooted Android devices… as long as they’re running Android 8.0 Oreo.
Andromeda is confirmed to work with the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Google Pixel, and Google Pixel XL, which are the first phones to officially support Android 8.0. It should theoretically work with other devices using custom ROMs based on the Android Open Source Project. But it’s not clear if this will work on devices from companies like Samsung and LG that tend to release phones with a heavily skinned version of Android.
Substratum is based on the Overlay Management Service (OMS) developed by Sony and incorporated into the Android Open Source Project. So while Google doesn’t have a native theme engine, Android 8.0 natively supports OMS themes, which means that it’s likely that most phones with AOSP-based firmware will support themes developed for Substratum unless a phone maker explicitly blocks the theme engine from working.
Before you give Andromeda & Substratum a try, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, while Substratum is a free app, the Andromeda add-on costs $2.49 from the Google Play Store. Second, there are a mix of free and paid themes available for for download, so you may end up spending more than that (although developers can also design their own themes, and you can mix-and-match elements from different themes to create your own). And third, you’ll also need to install a desktop client in order to install themes.
You can download the desktop client using links available from the xda-developers forum, and there are versions available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.