Substratum Beta for Unrooted Samsung Experience/TouchWiz ROMs Now Available

XDA users are quite fond of substratum, a theme engine that has assumed the mantle of previous projects and is quickly becoming not only a standard among tinkerers, but also an all-time favorite.

This theme engine has been made available on all sorts of devices, with a Play Store application and a rootless release for OMS-based devices that further expanded the project’s potential. Substratum uses Sony’s Overlay Manager Service and offers many benefits over traditional solutions like Layers. It doesn’t require soft or hard reboots when applying themes, you can change fonts on the fly and it is constantly incorporating new features through consistent development based on upstream Sony code. The latest version has even added support for Android O Developer Preview 3 and encrypted assets to combat piracy and kanging of themes.

What if you run TouchWiz on a Samsung device? Luckily, you get to be part of the fun, with no root while still enjoying the endless potential of substratum. In order to get started, you will need to make sure your Samsung device is running Android Nougat (7.0+); then, you need to become a member of their Telegram group. Be aware that the group is highly moderated, so read the rules and behave accordingly. Once you join their telegram group, you’ll find the APK in the pinned section of the group, under their group name (under Files, accessing through the three-dot menu). To apply a theme, you must proceed by following the instructions found on this thread by Recognized Developer and substratum developer nicholaschum, which I’ll list below as well. In the words of nicholaschum:

  1. First, you will need to install the APK from the pinned section of the group (under the group name)
  2. Download a theme that doesn’t rely on Android System or theme ready Google Apps, so like Swift Black or Swift Dark on Play Store.
  3. Once you install the theme, Substratum will throw a notification saying that a new theme has been installed
  4. Open the theme in Substratum and click on the app (one at a time for now only) and click the button on the bottom right.
  5. Click Install and let it compile. It will ask to install an APK to your device. Install it.
  6. Reboot or force close the app in Settings to apply the theme to that app.
  7. (ATTENTION) It is highly recommended NOT to apply Android System and SystemUI elements as of yet.

The forum post also notes that the detection method of installing apps isn’t completed, meaning you can’t uninstall from the theme, but you can by using the Overlay List found in the drawer. If you need to recover from a bad theme that’s causing issues or crashes, you will have to boot into Safe Mode by pressing and holding Volume Down while booting, and then go into settings to uninstall the overlay that you believe is the culprit. Finally, read the entire thread if possible in order to not repeat common mistakes. Proceed with caution and do not disregard any instructions or suggestions, certainly without making sure you have a backup in case anything goes wrong. As always, consult with the search button before asking questions.


Head over to the forum thread to check out all of the information above (and more), to join the discussion and see other users’ experience with the beta!