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Substratum themes no longer work in Android P

Shortly after the public launch of Android 8.0 Oreo, it was discovered that there was built-in support for system-wide theming. With the help of the Andromeda desktop client, you could (fairly) easily start changing the look of your notification panel, apps, settings, and much more with a variety of Substratum themes. Unfortunately, this functionality is being neutered in Android P.

As discovered by XDA Developers, trying to install one of these custom themes in Android P returns an error saying that the package can't be installed. Android P changes things so that overlays (Substratum themes) can only be applied if they're installed by the system.

In addition to breaking rootless theming with the Andromeda client, this also affects devices that have root access. Workarounds can be made with a custom ROM, but if you're running stock Android P that's rooted, you'll be faced with the same issue.

Android P introduces a few visual updates compared to Oreo, and while this new aesthetic is nice to have, this is a disappointing change for users that like having more control over the way their phone looks.

I don't foresee Google reverting its decision here by the time Android P is ready for the public, so be sure to enjoy your theming while you can.

I'm in love: A week with Substratum/Andromeda theming

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

25 Comments
  • Yet another reason to NEVER buy a phone with stock Android.
    Yet another reason why stock Android s*cks.
    Yet another reason why, no matter how much some fanboys might hate it, OEM skins are the superior offering. Google has terrible taste and doesn't want people to actually fix that for themselves without breaking warranties. If we didn't already know Google is copying Apple (*cough*iPixels*cough*), this would be a red flag.
  • This is just stupid. Every ecosystem needs an alternative which is simple and easy as well. Which just works!! Noone is telling you to go and only buy a Pixel. You can buy a Samsung. But, imho Google did the right thing that they have something like the iPhone. This also gets them clear from the situation that Android doesn't get updates. And people like my Dad prefer simplicity at times and don't care much about a Dark Theme or a White Theme.
  • "This is just stupid. Every ecosystem needs an alternative which is simple and easy as well." Stupid is to think that an alternative to iOS is an operating system that works just like iOS and is as locked down. You want a "smartphone for dumb people"? Buy an iPhone.
    The entire point of Android is to allow people to customise it. Google wasn't pushing Substratum to their users. Most people didn't even knew that they could apply themes to stock Android without root. But the people that DO CARE about that were being able to do so without compromising the device's security by rooting it.
    But Google, being the c*nts that they are, decided to ruin it for everyone. The people that want stupid iPhone-like experiences will keep getting them, the people who liked the ability to customise Android will have to go back to rooting and ROMs and all that insecure crap. "Noone is telling you to go and only buy a Pixel. You can buy a Samsung. " Yeah, but this doesn't affect just Google's sh*tty phones. It affects ANY phone that gets Android P and runs stock Android or close-to-stock.
    For example, on 8.0 I use Substratum on an Xperia XZ1C and on a Nokia 5 and Nokia 8. None of these three phones is an iPixel. But they will all be potentially neutered if I install Android Poop in them (which I obviously now won't do, just like I never installed 5.0 on the Z3C for the same reasons). Which brings me to: "This also gets them clear from the situation that Android doesn't get updates." No, it doesn't. This twªt-move by Google will NOT have ANY effect on the speed of updates. It will ruin the experience for everyone but you'll still have to wait for your OEM to deliver the updates.
    (Unless you're talking about the iPixel, in which case, yeah, people who care for updates will enjoy the line. Of course, that's barely anyone considering the iPixels are a sales flop. But just because Google wants to offer a crap experience to people who want an iDroid, users of other phones shouldn't have to "suffer" because Google is butchering the things that were good about Android.
  • Yup. I agree with you 100% on this.
  • It's why I won't buy a Pixel, Google's interpretation of android looks like dogshit. Unfortunately, because they're the ones in charge of android it spills over... The likes of Samsung and Oneplus can try to build a dark theme, but the notification tray is still bright white thanks to the big G. Well, except for media notification which are now a gross mishmash of clashing colours from the media art. Thanks Google.
  • Fortunately Samsung says "F*ck Google" and redesigns the entire thing. Samsung's themes apply system-wide (and currently Substratum allows you to apply them to apps). Which is why Google-bootlickers like some reviewers complain about Samsung's theme. They fix the crap Google does. And Google fanboys don't like it.
  • Who knows. Maybe a few months from now, the Substratum team finds a breakthrough or Google reverses the change if voices are loud enough (which probably isn't going to be the case because we're a small number, evident by how many users of Samsung phones use the default theme and not look at the others)
  • Even if the voices were loud enough, Google wouldn't listen. People have been asking for a system wide black theme for YEARS and the idiots still don't listen. I do hope the Substratum team finds a way to break through Google's stupidity but it doesn't look good.
    It also doesn't make any sense why the Hell they went through the trouble of fully integrating OMS into the system just to now butcher it again.
  • After installing and using a substratum them my Nexus 5X won't get security patches and even last Oreo build! Can someone explain me how to flash factory image? I'm totally newbie!
  • Well that's disappointing...I was hoping they'd have made it even easier to use themes with Android p..
  • Well then **** android P! Might just not update... Doubt they'll be anything actually worthwhile in P anyway.
  • That sucks, I paid for a theme and I wouldn't even be able to use it later.
  • After using emui themes why would anyone want substratum, stick with emui so many themes youll find one you like
  • Emui is awful though
  • That's for Huawei You can't exactly use EMUI themes on a phone that isn't branded as a Huawei or Honor
  • It's much better than stock android in my opinion, the themeing is awesome without any root needed, what are the advantages and f stock please as a very seen none so far
  • I can only hope that an actual official theming solution is coming someday. Someday being the keyword. We've been asking for eons. OMS support being added should mean it is coming soon, but who knows, really
  • Calm down 👇 guys. We still have Xda. It won't be days when Android Phones lunches before a rootless and rooted Substratum lunches
  • Who knows, really. On a side note, am I the only one who looks at Android P and is immediately reminded of 2014-era TouchWiz?
  • Those ******** at Google are hell bent on forcing their revolting themes onto the long suffering public whether we like it or not.... 👊🖕
  • This makes me not want to update my Pixel until a workaround is discovered, or Google changes it by the final release hopefully.
  • This is so disappointing. This might be what pushes me to iOS. If Google continues to copy Apple's ugly white garbage and leaves me no way to get around it, then I may as well have an iPhone.
  • Thanks, Google, I love you
  • Well then, I guess I'll never update my Pixel 2 again. Shame on Google. :-(
  • It's all about control and Google is the monopoly which wants to eventually control all you do and ultimately say. Just as they have implenented the social score in china which dictates whether or not you can do everything from seeing a movie to going on a dating site based on your conforming to the states idea of what is and isnt acceptable behavior. If you have an opinion they dont much care for then you dont get to buy a loaf of bread. Its already happening, project dragonfly look it up. They test it there then implement here.