Well this is a surprise. Cydia creator Jay Freeman, better known as Saurik, has released a version of Cydia Substrate and Winterboard for Android. Along with these two pieces of software now available in Google Play, he launched a companion website to explain the project.
While Android itself is “open”, the devices that run it often aren’t. Before installing Substrate, you will first need to get root access on your device.
Depending on which device you have, and which version of Android, this process differs; we therefore can’t provide a simple recommendation.
Once you have root, you will need to install our APK, run the application, click Install, and grant Superuser access to Substrate when prompted.
For the software to work, of course, you must root your device. If you’re rooted, you can grab Cydia Substrate on Google Play. What this means for Android users is that it will be much easier for developers of iOS tweaks to port them to Android, and Saurik has already exemplified this through the release of Winterboard, the first of many tweaks that will use Android’s version of MobileSubstrate.
What do you think? How is this going to impact the Android tweak community?
Here’s the full description of the app in Google Play:
*NOTE*: Substrate requires you to have “root” access on your device.
Substrate is a platform for customizing software. Due to limitations of the Google Play Store it must be installed separately, but its primary purpose is to support other products: users should not expect Substrate itself to do anything interesting. Instead, it should be thought of as enabling your device to support other things you may install.
Products that use Substrate are able to modify any other program, whether it came with your phone or was installed later, or whether it was developed by Google or by a third-party developer. These kinds of changes carry an inherent risk: changes to the underlying software being modified may break the modifications (“extensions”) you install.
*IMPORTANT*: Substrate for Android is new. While I’ve spent a bunch of time testing it on a bunch of devices with many versions of Android, there is always the possibility that there’s something unique to your setup that causes an incompatibility. If possible, I’d recommend having a backup of your device handy; I’d also recommend being setup with a recovery mode image that allows you to easily delete Substrate. For more information, see this FAQ item.
Users should keep in mind that Substrate includes a safety feature: by holding down the volume-up button on your device you can disable Substrate while it is attempting to load these modifications (such as while it is turning on and starting); this will give you an opportunity to use Google Play to uninstall things that might be broken.
Substrate has been tested fairly extensively. It is designed to work on Android versions 2.3 or above, but will work on any “equivalent” versions (systems like CyanogenMod or the Kindle Fire use their own versioning schemes). It is supported on devices that use either ARM or Intel CPUs and works on “strange” devices (including Google Glass).
While Substrate support for Android is very new, Substrate was first released in 2008 for Apple’s iPhone and is now being used by tens of millions of devices worldwide. Many people know it as “MobileSubstrate”, how it is usually distributed for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch via Cydia, the alternative to the App Store for “jailbroken” devices.
If you are a developer, you can learn more about how to work with Substrate athttp://www.cydiasubstrate.com/. There, you will be able to find documentation, tools, and examples. Substrate for Android also shares many development concepts and APIs with Substrate for other platforms, so tutorials from third-party websites may help.
(Users of Substrate on iOS may remember that there is a more general “Safe Mode” feature that will catch crashes, allowing for a more intuitive response to failures. This will be implemented in an upcoming version of Substrate for Android, but please remember: you can always use the “volume up to disable” feature to skip bad extensions.)
(Substrate requires the ACCESS_SUPERUSER permission, and during its installation it will add a few files to your device. No files will be modified or overwritten: only a few new files–all symbolic links, taking up virtually no space–are added. Substrate only requires root during installation and to help it restart your device to use new extensions.)
As anyone familiar with rooting knows, Android tweaks typically come via an entirely new ROM or in the form of a standalone app on top of the operating system. Unlike Android, iOS has had Saruik’s MobileSubstrate which effectively “injects” or “hooks” tweaks and modifications into the operating system itself. Cydia for Android doesn’t mean that we’ll start seeing mass amounts of ported iOS tweaks and, if we do, it won’t be easy for the developers to do. What this does mean is that Android now has a platform for “hooking” and that the lives of Android tweak developers will be made better.