The Cydia store has always been there for the rescue of many iOS users when their Android-wielding friends start mocking the iPhone for its lack of customization options. Admittedly, even a host of tweaks and themes cannot match the level of modification a custom ROM or root-level tweaks and mods for Android can offer, but having a collection of such root-level tweaks that can be applied to the device without having to flash files from recovery does have its advantages. So, some might find it bit absurd that Saurik has released Cydia Substrate and Winterboard in the Google Play Store, it can potentially take Android customization to a whole new level! In what follows, we’ll take a more detailed look at Cydia Substrate, and show you how to install it on your Android device, and get Winterboard (or any other extensions, as they become available) up and running afterwards.
Cydia? Substrate? Winterboard?
Before we take a detailed look at Cydia Substrate for Android, let us just explain all these terms, as many Android users who have never owned a jailbroken iDevice are not likely to be familiar with them.
Winterboard is a theming platform that is available as a downloadable package in the Cydia store for iOS. As you might already be aware, Cydia can only be installed on iOS devices that are jailbroken (loosely similar to rooted in Android). In case you aren’t sure what jailbreak is, our post on tethered and untethered jailbreak might help. Since Winterboard is a Cydia package, like all other tweaks and themes available in the jailbreak store, it requires Cydia Substrate to run. Cydia Substrate is a platform that lets other products (or extensions, if you want to be technically accurate) make changes to individual elements of the OS that are not open-source by themselves. Cydia Substrate extensions don’t require source code of the entire OS or the app being modified to function.
To run any Substrate extensions on your Android device, you have to install the Cydia Substrate package first. The package is compatible with devices running Android 2.3 and up, but you cannot use it unless your device is rooted. If these requirements are met, head to the link provided at the end of this post, and download the free Cydia Substrate package. To get started, launch the app and hit the ‘Install Cydia Substrate’ button at the top of the screen. Choose the ‘Allow’ option from the dialog box asking for root/superuser permissions. That’s it – you now have Cydia Substrate installed on your Android, but remember that this is just a platform, waiting for cool extensions to be added to it so that some visible changes can be made to your device.
Installing Winterboard On Cydia Substrate
For now, the only package available in the ‘Extension Gallery’ of Cydia Substrate is Winterboard. The other option in the gallery is there to let users recommend new packages that they think should be supported by Substrate. In the future, we can expect a lot more tweaks to be added here.
In order to use Winterboard, you have to download it from a separate Google Play Store link (also provided at the end of this post). Using Winterboard is simple, as you just have to install themes and packages from the Play Store. It is also possible to create a combination of multiple themes by selecting them all. If there are conflicts (for example, two themes having conflicting icons), the theme at the top always takes precedence. You can change the order of these themes by simply long-pressing an icon and then dragging it to a new position. For now, the two packages compatible with Winterboard are Tiny White Icon Pack (Free) and Flow Theme ($1.75). In case something goes wrong while using Winterboard (or any Substrate extension), you can disable the platform by long-pressing the Volume Up key and then deleting any troublesome packages.
For now, it is difficult to consider Cydia Substrate as much more than a proof-of-concept, but if the Android community starts developing extensions for it, we might see the package gain the lofty heights of fame that it enjoys on iOS.