ThemeIt, a new app store devoted to iPhone customization, has just launched today. The store is only available to iPhone jailbreakers - those who use iPhone hacking tools to remove Apple's built-in restrictions that prevent the installation of third-party applications from outside of iTunes.
ThemeIt offers jailbreakers a selection of attractive themes which can be used within Winterboard, a popular jailbreak program for complete iPhone customization. For now, there are only paid themes available in ThemeIt, but a section devoted to free themes is arriving soon.
Meanwhile, Jay Freeman's Cydia application, the default jailbreak app store, has been updated to include a revamped theme section, too. For those of you into iPhone customization, today is a very good day.
The ability to install themes is one of the many reason people jailbreak their iPhones. Although Apple lets you update your background wallpaper and lockscreen, some want to do more. They want their phone to feel unique, to not look like everyone else's. Jailbreaking makes that possible. Using Winterboard, jailbreakers can customize nearly everything on the iPhone, from icon sets, to the iPhone's dock and even the text that displays what mobile carrier you use.
However, finding the little tweaks and add-ons for these sorts of iPhone makeovers was something of a treasure hunt using Cydia. You could pick up a widget here and and a new icon set there, but the availability of complete theme packages, where all sorts of tweaks were combined into one single download, was limited.
Some in the jailbreak design community felt there was a need to expand outside of what Cydia provided. And so there came ThemeIt.
ThemeIt's founder, a guy who goes just by "Gab" online (or "FIF7Y," as his design website is called), has been letting me test ThemeIt pre-launch on my iPhone 4. My takeaway? In a nutshell: it's great.
The store is well-built, with intuitive navigation that makes it easy to preview theme screenshots, read descriptions and manage your previous theme purchases.
At launch time, there's a healthy selection of themes available to download, some of which even go a step further than simply updating color schemes and icon sets to offer alternative user interfaces, where icon folders are laid out in curved paths alongside Android-like widgets, for example. There are others where, at first glance, it's hard to even recognize the device as an iPhone.
In short, it's a customizers' dream.
My only complaint is that many of the themes have a masculine vibe to theme, as is typical in jailbreaking circles. There's a great theme with photo widgets that I liked except for the fact that the widget in each screenshot showcased the photo of a scantily-clad woman. No thanks. I'd rather put my own photos in there - why wouldn't that be an option? Sigh.
Not Just an App, an App Store
?ThemeIt isn't just an app where you can find great themes - it's an app store, with built-in checkout options for paid themes, support for promo codes, detailed item descriptions, designer bios, notification settings and more.
The process of purchasing a theme is straightforward, too. After logging in, you simply click the "buy now" button, then complete the checkout process using PayPal. You can purchase themes either via the website or within the app on your phone.
I was also able to test the promo code process with the MP2 theme built by FIF7Y himself. It was fast and painless, I'm happy to report.
Both the website and app appear to be running a little slower today than I remember, probably due to the app store's launch and the fair amount of press attention it has received. I imagine it will speed back up after the initial hype has died down.
Cydia Updates Theme Section, Too
In the meantime, Cydia has also seen a theme-related update of its own, no doubt due to the tense situation between FIF7Y and Freeman, aka "Saurik" in jailbreaking circles. (More on that here). In not so coincidental timing, Saruik updated the theme section in Cydia, noting that the revised selection will now feature bi-weekly content updates with additions provided by popular iPhone customization outlets ModMyi, Planet-iPhones and MacCiti.
Even if the change was prompted by Cydia's new competition, it's worth a look, as the themes featured in Cydia appear to be different than those found in ThemeIt. However, as a regular iPhone jailbreaker, I found that many of Cydia themes looked familiar - I had seen them before, for months and months on end. I'm looking forward to the next update, though, to see what new options will arrive.
But the end result for iPhone customizers, is a win-win. There are new themes everywhere for you to try. And if these arrivals have you reconsidering jailbreaking, you can find our most recent how-to guide here.
Note: To install ThemeIt, add http://www.themeitapp.com/repo to Cydia's sources then search for the app in Cydia.