How to Customize Your iPhone With Themes

By , May 20, 2010

In this article, I would like to show you how to customize your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch by adding a theme to it. This is a very simple thing to do.

The most advanced readers of this blog will most likely see this as old news but not everyone is an iPhone expert and I’ve been getting the same questions a lot lately:

  • how can I customize my icons?
  • how can I add a theme to my SMS application?
  • how can I add a wallpaper to my springboard?
  • etc…

By default, your iPhone is not very customizable. Sure you can add a wallpaper to the lockscreen, but that’s about it. iPhone OS 4 will give you more options and will allow you to also add a wallpaper to your springboard, but that’s still not enough to many of us who wish to customize our iDevices from head to toes.

Thankfully, the jailbreak community is here to take over where Apple stopped.

Theming your iPhone is very easy. Follow these simple steps and you should be good to go in 10 minutes.

Step 1: Jailbreaking

The very first step is to have a jailbroken iPhone (or iPad, or iPod Touch). I understand that “jailbreaking” can sound intimidating, especially for those of you who aren’t very technical people. But jailbreaking is a fairly simple and safe process.

For more information about jailbreaking, I suggest you read about what jailbreaking is and why jailbreak your iPhone.

If you haven’t been discouraged yet, then it’s time for action! There are various methods for jailbreaking your device, depending on the model and the software version.

At the time I am writing this, the latest iPhone firmware is 3.1.3 and can be jailbroken with a tool called Spirit in less then 1 minute (see Spirit tutorial here).

To make sure you are using the latest jailbreak available, please visit this page and search for your device model and firmware version, then use the relevant jailbreak tool.

After jailbreaking your iPhone, you will have a new application called “Cydia” on your spingboard. Cydia is like the App Store for jailbreak apps.

Once you have jailbroken your iPhone, we can go to the next step.

Step 2: Install WinterBoard

In Cydia (the new app that was installed when you jailbroke your iDevice), search for WinterBoard.

WinterBoard is an application available for jailbroken iPhones and idevices only. This application allows you to download themes and to activate and manage them on your iPhone.

winterboard

Once you have located the application, install it. It should take no more than a few seconds. After installing WinterBoard, I suggest you reboot your device.

Step 3: Find and Activate Themes

Now that we have installed our theme manager WinterBoard, we need to find themes. This is probably the hardest part of the job because there are hundreds, if not thousands of themes available.

To search for a theme, go to Cydia > Sections > Themes. You will notice there are sections for specific themes such as battery themes, keyboard themes, etc, but I just want to focus on the essential.

winterboard themes

There are themes for every tastes: bands, cars, celebrities, colorful, abstract, etc… Chances are if you’re looking for something specific, you will find it.

Not all themes are equal. Some themes only include a wallpaper, some include full customization with battery, dock, icons, dialer, keyboard, SMS, and more. Again, you will have to spend some time browsing to find the right theme for you.

Once you found a theme, simply install it in Cydia, then go back to WinterBoard to activate the theme. In WinterBoard, go to “Select Themes” and select the theme you just downloaded.

activate winterboard theme

Close WinterBoard and wait for your iPhone to respring.

You’re done! Your iPhone or iDevice is now customized.

Once you’re more familiar with themes and WinterBoard, don’t hesitate to explore more themes and the various options of WinterBoard. You can customize virtually every aspect of your iPhone, iTouch, or iPad.

Happy theming!

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  • Freddie

    Thanks. My fav theme is glasklart. It has more than 5000+ icons it’s great if u like to show your wallpaper.

  • Burge

    Ok so there is lot of new people jailbreaking for the first time,
    what about the ones who have been at this for a lot longer ?
    I find the themes in cydia not that good ( this does not included stereos lepard ,best theme ever ) I’ve been using iphonebrower to change the stock icons for ones which look lot better.
    This is the best way to get that personal look

  • Alex

    Burge..I have to agree with you. The majority of the things on Cydia are junky and not worth a damn. I made my own theme by using different icons and different bundles from all sorts of themes. I also use Photoshop CS4 to change things that I don’t like for example, the color of something or the size of an icon. Speaking of icons, I would use Shrink or Shrink Grow which ever one to make your theme look a little better because not all themes look good with certain icons.

  • Dylan

    I agree with you both, Burge and Alex. I too am working on a theme. I and my development team are releasing the Android Market on the iPhone by June 1st, if all goes well too.

    • Leah

      Please do find a way. I would spend money on their market!

  • Tek

    How do we get rit of White Icon Labels. I didnt install it, did it came with other themes??

  • Alex

    You should have a theme called No Labels under winterboard…..just select it and respring your iPhone.

  • Ling

    I finally decided to jailbreak my iphone … thanks for all the articles, which kept encouraging me to do so =) … looks like now a lot of new options are opened for me now to customise my phone!

  • Daniel

    No mention of Boss Paper? I found it to be a much easier way to customize my springboard wallpaper.

    I understand running more basic posts from time to time, but I would also request you add a bit more content for your regular crowd too. Maybe some talk about one of the more complicated themes, such as iNav. Either way, keep up the good work.

  • http://www.iphone-wallpapers.me iPhonewallpaper

    good post for jailbreak
    I try and it is ok for me.
    thx

  • ruffnek

    I agree with @Burge & @Alex.
    Customizing by directly accessing the iPhone file structure is (at least for me) best way to go. I thought changing the SMS tones were kewl, then I figured out how to change the SMS labels. That’s awesome. What I did was use some of the themes in Cydia as a “template.” I merged the ones I liked along with my own mods to get my own ultra-custom theme.
    I’ve used some of the Themes in Cydia as a building block for my own. I have a backup of the directories where I’ve customized and manually “sync” when I make changes. WinSCP works great for me.

  • Jman13

    Mine followed all the steps and it dosent work. I have an iPhone 3gs btw

  • Z

    A great theme that I’m sure a lot of users would appreciate a detailed step by step instruction for is Black Leather HD Theme from Cydia. It’s free and has a great lay out. Though it comes with instructions, I found them confusing and unclear.

  • Augustus

    After respringing winterboard nothing changes and the screen locks up.. Please help

  • Nimi

    Some of the themes and other things on Cydia don’t work. Do any of you have suggestions on what else I can use? I’m also not that great with the technical stuff, so instructions would be great. Thanks!(:

  • B-dub

    Hey, I just jailbroke my 3GS with Cydia and installed winterboard. I understand that you can select several different mods such as a status bar battery or a keyboard but all it let’s me do is just use one theme. Can somebody please tell me what I am doing wrong???? Thanks!

  • Sean

    Hey I did the theme but I lost all my notification. what do I do??

  • Val

    Help me please! By mistake I check box ” Hide winterboard” how to make this icon appear again. Thank you

  • Gemma

    How do I make my own theme?

  • Emily

    For some reason, the themes I’ve installed from Cydia aren’t appearing in my Winterboard app. Why is this & what can I do to fix it?

  • Sahara

    See on the pic it say f-bo near the network how do i do that on iphone 4