Live wallpapers, a feature of Android that lets you set an animated or interactive scene as your phone’s background, are a great way to spruce up an otherwise static home screen. While the first crop tended to suffer from technical shortcomings such as excessive battery drain and poor performance, live wallpapers have come a long way in the time since.
The newest offerings are eye-catching and lush, providing fluid and attractive backgrounds that feature everything from simple textures to quirky spaceships that quietly chug through the void of space. Here are our picks for the best free live wallpapers for Android so you can spice up your smartphone or tablet backdrop without having to dip into your wallet.
Setting live wallpapers
Before you see what beautiful backgrounds Android’s developer community has to offer, you should know how to apply them. Luckily, the process isn’t challenging. The first step is installing a live wallpaper (or several) from the Google Play Store. Once that’s done, you’re nearly home free.
Step 1: Press and hold on any home screen.
Step 2: Tap Wallpapers in the resulting menu.
Step 3: Tap Live Wallpapers.
Step 4: Select a live wallpaper from the resulting list.
Step 5: Tap the gear icon in the upper-left corner to adjust the live wallpaper’s settings.
Step 6: Tap Set Wallpaper to set the live wallpaper as your background.
Great live wallpapers
For many people, nothing is more soothing than a coniferous countryside. Forest Live Wallpaper depicts a dense forest set against majestic mountains and boasts a bevy of dynamic features. An intuitive day-night cycle gradually brightens and fades the wallpaper’s colors to match the time of day, and a star-peppered sky appears after dusk. The trees also move as though they’re experiencing wind. The scenescape’s weather conditions even mimic your local forecast — customizable wind, rain, snow, and clouds are all present and accounted for.
There’s something mesmerizing about water droplets dribbling down a pane of glass, and it’s a feeling Raindrops Live Wallpapers captures perfectly. But the live wallpaper, which features high-definition video footage of raindrops on a window pane, has more to offer than just rain and gray skies. A subtle blur effect prevents the drops from obscuring your shortcuts and widgets, and the wallpaper is optimized to “consume low resources” and preserve your phone’s battery. It’s the best parts of a rainy day … without the water.
If you’ve ever wanted a cat without the hassle of changing litter or stocking your living room with squeaky toys, Stalker Cat Live Wallpaper might be your best bet. The live wallpaper features a mischievous, silhouetted cat that moves around the edges of your screen. It pops up from random locations along the edge of the screen and gets smug if it thinks you haven’t spotted it. Anne Pätzke — the artist behind the wallpaper — describes the little creature as “subtle and enchanting,” and we couldn’t agree more.
It may not be on par with Naohiko Aoyama’s beautiful artwork in Paper Mario, but, nonetheless, Paperland is a beautiful realization of a two-dimensional parchment world. The free version features five themes — Beach, Silent Night, Desert Migration, and Grass — each of which comes with the same customizable aesthetics. You can choose a fixed time of day, or let the sun rise and set in accordance with your current timezone. Additional options let you alter specific scenic elements, like tree leaves and the height of various hills, not to mention kinetics like scroll speed.
The Galaxy collection is a fairly robust offering when you consider some of the threadbare wallpapers in the Google Play Store. You’re afforded the choice of Ice, Inferno, or Vortex Galaxy renditions, though we prefer the Shadow version given it functions as a dark, subtle background. The wallpaper essentially puts your device in the middle of a star-blazoned galaxy, much like a spacecraft surveying the universe. Changeable parameters include the number of stars and the animation speed of celestial bodies, but we were pleased with the defaults. It’s eye-popping.