Android is well known for its customizability. People have different choices and preferences on how their UI should look and Android manages this aspect pretty well. But as often is, there are certain limitations to it, like the inability to change SystemUI colors and apps. Although this is addressed well by Android’s great Dev community with tools like Substratum.
Users with rooted devices have long enjoyed great theming support with Cyanogen’s theme engine. But that wasn’t natively supported by the Android framework, causing some slowdowns with performance hits across the board. Google finally brought some native support for system-wide themes in Android 8.0, using Sony’s Overlay Manager Service.
Unlike Cyanogen, the OMS implementation didn’t require modifications to the app in any way and instead used “idmap” (An Android Overlay framework). This meant overlays were more compatible and didn’t require root access for installation.
Accent Color Changes In Android Q
Oxygen OS by OnePlus already allows color changes to SystemUI, but for other Android users, Substratum remains the only option for such changes. Plus its installation and use can be a bit daunting for an average phone user.
This might not be the case with Android Q as Mishaal Rahman from XDA, in his leaked Android Q build found out multiple pre-installed overlays allowing him to make changes to icon shape, font and accent color throughout the UI. This is something missing on most firmwares, even with underlying support for it.
Don’t Get Too Excited About It Now
We share Rahman’s concerns in his original article. Even if Google decides to bring these changes to the final build of Android Q, it might not be present on OEM firmware, most of whom tightly control the look of their UI. Even Google isn’t too handy-dandy on overlay theming in Android.
In Android 9.0 they blocked the use of third-party overlays citing security reasons. They stated “The Overlay Manager Service (OMS) is intended for device manufacturer’s use. OMS, in its current form, is not designed to be a generic theming feature — more design considerations will need to be put into it in order to uphold Android platform’s security and product standards for users. Accordingly, OMS has never been advocated as a public developer feature.” This meant users were at the mercy of OEMs to implement theming on their firmware. Which again wouldn’t come close to third-party overlays from the community.
Here’s to hoping these changes do end up in Android Q and are implemented by OEMs, including Google for their Pixel devices.