How to Customize Your iPhone With Themes

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.


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!