In arts, a theme is the unifying subject or idea of the type of visual work. In computing, it is a custom graphical appearance for certain software. [Wikipedia]
Themes are what make the jailbroken iPhone unique. Every image that you see or sound that you hear is nothing more than a file designed by an Apple graphic artist/programmer. Jailbreaking allows you to replace almost any file by a custom one. For example, the icon for the camera app on my iPhone will look different than the one on yours. In order to make this switch you need the Cydia app Winterboard.
Once you have Winterboard you can install any WB theme package available on Cydia. There are literally thousands of them. Some of them consist of just one file swap (e.g. Firefox icon instead of the Safari one to open Safari – you don’t actually swap browsers, there is no Firefox app for the iPhone, even in Cydia). There are themes that change the way your status bar icons look (signal bars, Wifi, battery, notification icons). Others modify your slider on the lockscreen. Then there are themes that change what your actual app looks like (e.g. buttons, background, and display of the calculator app). And finally there are different kinds of widgets which usually display the time, date, and/or weather on the lockscreen or springboard. Of course, many themes combine several of these modifications, and the best ones, which usually sell for $2-3 on Cydia, are so-called ‘complete’ themes. Using these themes makes the iPhone look and sometimes even feel like its not an iPhone at all (in the good sense, and the bad, depends on who made the theme). These complete themes, of course, are my favorite, and I will describe a few of them below as well as update you through posts if any notable ones come out.
But first let me explain how Winterboard works. It is actually fairly simple. Open the app, press SELECT THEMES, and you will have a list of themes that come included with the package. When you download Winterboard theme packages from Cydia (some of them are huge so you might want to do it over Wifi) this is where you will see them listed. Select one or more of them, go back by pressing WINTERBOARD in the top-left corner, and then press RESPRING in the same top-left corner. The iPhone will respring, and reload with the theme applied. Occasionally straight after the respring the lockscreen will look fuzzy and you won’t be able to slide to open. wait a few seconds and everything will be fine. Also, of note, in the select theme page, you can move themes up or down. If you select more than one theme, the theme that is higher trumps the one(s) below if more than one of them swaps the same file (e.g. if 2 different themes modify the Safari icon, it is the theme placed higher on the list that will be the one responsible for its theming). If you have iFile (see Tweaks page) you can make your own modifications if you are game. Some themes actually require you to modify specific ‘configuration’ files (for example to setup your location so a widget can display the correct temperature of your home town).
MY TOP 3 FAVORITE WINTERBOARD THEMES
1) Jaku by William Szilveszter ($2.99 on ZodTTD & MacCiti) - Jaku is Japanese for “tranquility” or “quite solitude”, but the effect this recently released theme has had on the theming community has been nothing but. It is not a complete theme, but the 180+ icons that are themed are spectacular. William is constantly working on it and has plans to eventually release a complete theme, but for now Jaku’s weekly or so upgrades in Cydia must satisfy our hunger. Please note that the screenshots below are modified using, among others, parts of different themes, widgets, and images.
To be quite honest I have not even been tempted to look for other themes for my iPhone since I discovered Jaku (which might make this page the least frequently updated one on this website). You can download Jaku bootlogo, zeppelin carrier logos, and wallpapers from my repo.
2) Legacy / Legacy Pro by Austin Bradley (aka k.nitsua) ($0.99 / $1.98 on ModMyi) – a very easy-to-like theme made by a very easy-to-like themer. Legacy comes in 2 formats: base and pro. There is also a Legacy S theme being worked on which looks very promising. Although only recently released, Austin, nursing student by day, themer by night (or maybe the other way around), has made this a compete theme already. Many user mods & widgets available.
3) Prestige by FIF7Y ($2.99 on ZodTTD & MacCiti) – a very classy & smooth complete theme that I have used on iOS4 and now has been updated to iOS5. Many user mods & widgets available (most notably Zooropalg’s lockscreen weather widget mentioned in this video). FIF7Y, a Montrealer living in France, is well known to the theming world and has created other equally beautiful masterpieces such as MP2, Noki, VIP, and Ho][ow.
OTHER NOTABLE WINTERBOARD THEMES
ReviDX by KrsChris, Absolution by Maarten16, akarui by SmashD, and if you are still using iOS4, then DeZire by Troy Lenger is the must-have Winterboard theme. Unfortunately Troy has not upgraded his theme to iOS5. There are a number of themes that have not been upgraded, so please do pay attention in the Cydia package description whether the theme will or not be compatible with your iPhone.
Dreamboard differs from Winterboard in that it focuses less on what a springboard looks like, and more on how a springboard functions. The main file in the package is not that of an image or sound, but rather a program, which dictates what your springboard looks like, from the background, to buttons, popups, and scrolls. The Dreamboard app comes with one theme included, called Endroid (making your iPhone look like an HTC phone). In order to demonstrate what I mean, and without further ado, here is a youtube video of OS X Lion Ultimatum:
As you can see, it seems like the potential is unlimited. There is no need to muck around with different theme combinations or resprings like in Winterboard. You download the Dreamboard theme from Cydia, open the Dreamboard app, select your theme, and you are done. Usually once you are within the theme you can edit what icons you want placed where, change wallpapers, or choose whether you want a certain widget displayed or not. However, the Dreamboard theme package, besides being able to modifying app icon image files, cannot modify other elements such as the status bar or the look within an app itself. Having said that, though, there is nothing that stops you from using a Winterboard and a Dreamboard theme that complement each other together. This is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of jailbroken iPhone theming.
The problem with Dreamboard is that the developer of the app no longer is working on it and therefore there are and will be no updates to it. Fortunately, it works on iOS5, but will it work later? Because of this, there are few themers that design Dreamboard themes anymore. And only now, while writing this, I realised how few themes are available on Cydia. I have heaps more backed up on my hard drive - it seems like Cydia is pulling them out.
Whether you use Winterboard or Dreamboard, you will notice that most theme are available HD (high-definition) or SD (standard-definition). If you have a retina device (4 or 4S) get the HD version, otherwise get the SD version. Once you get comfortable with playing around with your themes, you might want to download other modifications to existing themes online (i.e. not from Cydia). You might have noticed a few modifications on the pictures I posted for Jaku, Legacy, and Prestige. This is done by Google searching “user mods for [name of theme]”; download the mod (short for modification) directly to your jailbroken iPhone, and install it using iFile (once again, indispensable if you will be serious about theming).
Lastly, there are themes in Cydia that are neither Winterboard or Dreamboard themes. These usually are themes for various jailbroken apps or tweaks such as color keyboard, MusicBarExtended, or SnowCover4 to name a few. Once downloaded, you apply the theme within settings of the given app directly.