September 8, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka
If you’ve rooted your Android phone, you may be interested in applying themes. Unlike the ones seen in home screen replacement apps, root themes are typically full-scale: notifications, keyboards, dialers, and much more are changed if the creator so chooses. In an effort to help recent root users discover how to apply themes, here’s both a written and video tutorial explaining how to apply a theme to your Android phone.
Before we go any further, you will need to root your phone for this to work. For the 1,000th time, THIS IS RISKY, CAN DESTORY YOUR PHONE, AND CAN VOID YOUR WARRANTY. Androinica.com accepts absolutely no responsibility if problems arise from rooting your phone; you root at your own risk. If you need instructions on how to root, AndroidAndMe has an excellent explanation.
NOTE: After this video was recorded and this article was written, a new method for updating themes on Cyanogen Mod’s was made available. I will address that in another article and update this one as well.
Each theme that you download will have its own visual tweaks and requirements for installation/use. ALWAYS read the instructions/warning notes that accompany themes. ALWAYS. Be aware that installing themes can potentially slow down the performance of your ROM or lead to force close errors. If you notice that your phone performs slower after installing a theme, switch to another theme or return to the ROM’s default.
Where do you get themes? The Dream Themes and Wallpapers category at the XDA Developer’s Community is a good place to start. Some of the terminology may be over your head becase XDA isn’t really geared towards layman, but the people do a relatively decent job of warning you about things you need to know when applying each theme. Read our Understanding Root Terms post to get a basic understanding and then search XDA whenever you need further help. You can also check CyanogenMod.com if have CM.
Rules to Installing a theme
1. Read the instructions. All of it. Always.
2. Only install themes compatible with your ROM. Developers will always plainly state which mod a theme was designed to be applied. In the video below, I opted to load Ted’s Hero Theme on my Cyanogen 4.0 mod. Here is the tutorial – both written and video – showing how I applied Ted’s theme.
1. Rename theme to “update.zip”
Themes usually come in .zip format showing its title. Download a theme you like and rename the file to “update.zip” (right click file > click “Rename”)
Tip: If you want to store multiple themes, keep them with original file names in a folder marked “Android Themes.” When you want to load a theme, you can copy it to the SD card first and then rename the copied file to “update.zip”
2. Copy update.zip to the ROOT of your SD Card
Don’t put the file in any folders. Put it directly on the drive letter home as seen here:
3. Relaunch the phone in Recovery Mode
- Long press the Power/End Call button
- When the phone shuts off, press and hold the Home and Power buttons at the same time.
- Keep holding until the phone vibrates and the boot image (T-Mobile G1 or Android logo) appears
- Release and wait for the recovery screen
4. Perform a Nandroid backup (optional)
When applying themes or ROM’s, it’s a good idea to perform a backup just in case anything goes wrong. I try to do one every other time I change something. If things go bad, I can restore my phone to a recent state. Backup is built into the Cyanogen Mod, so follow these steps
- Scroll to and select “[Alt+B] Nandroid v X.X”
- Put your phone down and wait until the screen says “Backup complete!”
5. Apply theme to your phone
- Scroll to and select “[Alt+A] apply update.zip”
- Press the Home button to confirm
- Wait until the screen says “Install from sdcard complete”
6. Reboot your phone
- Scroll to and select “[Home + Back] Reboot Now”
- Wait until your phone reboots with the new screen. It should take 5-10 minutes, so don’t worry if the phone takes a little while to get update.