Android 12 may expand theming system with ability to recolor apps


Google is reportedly working on an expanded theming system in Android 12 that will not only allow users to change the primary color and accent colors of the system UI but also apply those colors to supported third-party applications.

Today, theming is pretty basic on Pixel devices. You can change between the system light and dark themes, and you can also change accent colors in some of the settings menus. Android 12 will allegedly expand the areas where these themes can apply, according to 9to5Google.

Image: 9to5Google

Android 12’s deeper theming options will likely vary from brand to brand as manufacturers provide users with their own custom colors. However, you won’t be able to craft your own unique color scheme. The colors you choose may be reflected inside Android apps, but only if developers choose to support them. That means your favorite apps might not clash as much with your chosen theme.

In Android 10 and later, apps can able to respond to changes in the system light or dark modes. But even then, it’s up to apps to decide exactly how their light or dark theme should look. Sometimes app developers choose a dark gray or even a dark blue rather than a pure dark theme.

As an example of what theming in Android 12 may look like, we can look at the Substratum theme engine. If you have a rooted device, you can force apps to respect a particular color scheme. This works because Substratum themes make use of Android’s built-in theming system called Overlay Manager Service (OMS), which was contributed to AOSP by Sony. Developers can build overlays that target the resource values of applications, thereby injecting their own colors or layouts. Android today does not allow third-party overlays to be installed on an unrooted device because of security implications, but it looks like Google is striking a middle ground by exposing the colors selected by pre-installed themes to third-party apps that wish to opt-in.

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In addition, it’s said that Android 12 will also offer theme suggestions based on your wallpaper. That means your system can change seamlessly once you choose a new wallpaper.

9to5Google warns that Android 12’s rumored theming features could possibly be scrapped as development on the software continues. Last year, Google released the first developer preview build of Android 11 in mid-February, so it’s possible we could see an early version of Android 12 in just a few weeks. Whether it includes more robust theming features remains to be seen, but it would sure beat the light and dark options that are currently available.