Personalizing your Android phone: Custom ROMs and Themes (Part One)


One of the most popular things to do with any phone is customization. This is usually accomplished through wallpapers and sounds on “dumb phones” and through themes, skins, widgets, and custom shell applications (home screens) on smart phones.

In my previous articles I covered personalizing with custom Wallpaper, System Sounds and Ringtones, and Widgets. Today we’ll talk about Custom ROMs and Themes.

Disclaimer and Fair-Warning

Up until now we’ve talked about ways that Android allows you to customize your phone to your liking using features of the OS. Nothing to-date has been “unsafe” or “risky”. Today we throw all that behind us. Everything that follows has the potential to “brick” your phone and will void your warranty.

I say again, following any instructions or advice from this point on will void your warranty and may “brick” your phone if you don’t follow the instructions correctly, or use the wrong file for your phone. We’re not responsible for any damage that you may do, however, we will take all the credit for making your friends jealous when you show then your “new” tricked-out phone.

Custom ROMs and Themes

“Themes” on Android are just customized Custom ROMs. They may have icons, art, wallpapers, sounds, UI elements, widgets, and apps all rolled in to one. Applying a Themed ROM is basically the same as applying a Custom ROM.

A Custom ROM on Android can take one of three forms.

– It can be the ROM from one device that has been hacked and slashed to work on another device.

– It can be pulled from an SDK then hacked and slashed to work on a particular device;

– Or, it can be a compiled and custom built from the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) source code.

How To Flash a Custom or Themed ROM

Here’s where I’ll repeat the warnings we talked about above: loading a custom ROM will void your warranty and if done incorrectly may brick your phone.

First and foremost, every phone has a different way to root it and apply a custom ROM.

To find out how to root your phone head over too Google and search for “how to root your phone name” where your phone name is the name of your phone.

If you’re on a Nexus One, this is a good reference. For a G1 or other Dream-based phone try the instructions at this link. The procedures are basically the same (though the files you’ll need are different) for pretty much every other Android phone out there.

So, if you’re willing to take the plunge, go and do that, and tune in for the next article in this series: Personalizing your Android phone: Custom ROMs and Themes (Part Two).

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.