Finding a good theme for a jailbroken iPhone has always been a challenge. Themes are either posted online in designers' and developers' forums, outside the reach of the "mainstream" jailbreaking audience, or they're arranged haphazardly in Cydia, the jailbreak app store. Neither is an ideal solution for users interested in customizing their device.
Now, things are about to change. A new jailbreak app store called "Theme It" is preparing to launch, billing itself as "the Theme Store you've been waiting for." When it launches in January (tentatively), it will be available as both a standalone mobile app like Cydia as well as a mobile-friendly website.
A "Curated" Collection of High-Quality Themes?
The ability to install themes is one of the many reasons people jailbreak their iPhones. Apps like Summerboard and Winterboard allow users to install different icon sets, docks, widgets, battery icons, lock screens and all sorts of other tweaks that make the iPhone feel like a more personalized device than simply swapping wallpapers does. Themes make the iPhone unique, and with the top-end designers working on some of the creations, they can be just as beautiful as anything Apple has designed, only different.
We first heard about Theme It's impending launch via Twitter chatter, and were immediately intrigued. After getting in touch with one of the site's founders, a guy who just goes by the name of "Gab" online (or "FIF7Y," as his design site is called), we learned that the store plans to incorporate only high-end, complete themes - in other words, a "curated" collection. "The goal of Theme it isn't to have a million themes in the gallery... but the best ones available," the app store's homepage explains.
It also plans to solve the problems that accompany viewing themes and other customizations within Cydia, which is time-consuming and cumbersome. In Cydia, you have to tap into each section, then tapp the app and wait as details about the download emerge slowly. The load times there can be excruciating - just ask any jailbreak user. Sometimes there are screenshots and accompanying text alongside the app in question, sometimes not.
In Theme It, however, speed is one of the service's main goals. It plans to offer a "fast and reactive interface," with short load times and "almost instant access to the content you want," reads the site's homepage. The app store will also feature designer bios, extensive theme details, customization options (e.g. you can turn email notifications on or off, enable or disable previews, etc.) and more.
Revenue Opportunity for Designers?
Gab says that the app store will only include paid themes at launch but will soon incorporate both free and paid themes. Themes for the iPad may become available as well, in the future. Designers and developers interested in having their themes hosted on Theme It can submit their creations through a dev portal found directly on the Theme It site (not live yet).
There is no hard data on the number of iPhones that are jailbroken. Cydia's founder Jay Freeman (aka "Saurik") claims that 10% are, but recent estimates from analytics firm Flurry (cited by the New York Times) say that the real number fluctuates between 5%-8%. But with 70 million or so iPhones sold since launch, even tapping into this small percentage of jailbreakers can translate into a large number of users.
UPDATE: ThemeIt Controversy
Apparently, ThemeIt's impending launch is causing a major disruption in the jailbreaking community. Gab sent me the following statement regarding issues he's having with Cydia's creator, Jay Freeman (aka "Saurik"):
(Note that English is not Gab's native language)
Note to all iDevice Jailbreakers and people interested in Theme it:
Well as it was to be expected Saurik/Jay Freeman (maker of Cydia) doesn't seem to appreciate our venue in "his" community. He wrote me an email, asking us to 'back-down' and stop our much awaited project hiding behind the fact that competition is bad... Sure competition isn't good to someone trying to keep his monopoly and have the ability to decide how everything should or should not evolve. But we're all aware that competition is a great thing for the end user and everyone else for that matter, it forces the different parties to do better all the time for the real good of the community. Funny enough, he suddenly seems to have become very "available" since the announcement of Theme it went public ; ) getting in contact with the different repositories, theme creators, etc.
But "back-stabbing" is the main intention here, making sure all the people getting involved with us will turn their backs on us (I'm forced to admit that they don't really have much choice since he's currently the only one pulling all the strings) For instance we "mysteriously lost" our partner repository (that had signed a partnership agreement with us) and i've heard that he's even "taking the time" to contact different theme creators directly as well to try and make sure they don't follow us in this adventure... how low is that !? This clearly shows one thing; he feels quite threatened of what we're coming out with, he doesn't want to loose money and potentially more... his monopoly.
Now, we just wanted to let everyone know that Theme it is being released in January and that we'll be glad to count you in. There is no 'sides to choose' here, we just want to offer a different solution to users, theme creators and everyone else interested. Keep in mind that Theme it is currently oriented to deal with themes because that's where we noticed there was a real need to do something but the architecture is fully compatible to have let's say : App it come along later for software developers, etc...
Obviously we'll be looking for the best way to get distributed (repository and/or jailbreak utilities) now that most doors have been closed thanks to Saurik's requests/pressure, so if you're interested feel free to get in touch with us via our website, twitter (@themeit_app) or by mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
This message has two main purposes: One is to let everyone know Saurik/Jay Freeman's ways and how he keeps trying to block any competition to keep a global hold on "the community". Two is to let people know that we hate to be dictated what we should or should not do and that his low-ways of doing can only motivate us even more to make a great, fresh, new solution for everyone to enjoy.
I hope you'll understand that this is REALLY for the best of "the community" and it's time users, theme creators and repositories have other options to choose from.
There is no way we're letting such a great and much awaited idea get blocked by a "wannabe god"...
Gab & Co.