The Best Free Live Wallpapers for Android [December 2020]

Android has always put customization in the hands of users everywhere, dating back to the launch of the original T-Mobile G1 in 2008. At the time, iOS didn’t even have wallpapers, instead displaying grids of icons along a black backdrop, but wallpapers on Android have been there since the very first time the operating system shipped with phones. Google didn’t stop with stills, of course. Live wallpapers, which feature motion, movement, and live reaction from user engagement, have been a part of Android since Android 2.0 Eclair in 2009, and more than a decade later, they’re still a major part of the OS.

Live wallpapers aren’t unchanged, of course. They’ve gotten a lot better at respecting your phone’s battery life, and have become smoother, less intrusive, and far better designed. Although live wallpapers aren’t nearly as popular as they were in the early days of Android, that doesn’t mean the Play Store is lacking in some great picks for live wallpapers.

When you’re looking for a new live wallpaper, the key is to look for more than just cool designs. You’ll want to pay attention to how you can customize your app, how well your phone can handle the wallpaper, and most importantly, whether it’s still updated with new features today. That last bit is the hardest yet, but if you’ve come to find some of the best live wallpapers still around on Android as we head into 2021, you’re in the right place. Let’s take a look at some of the best live wallpaper apps on Android.

Everyone else

Joko Interactive, the same dev team behind Minima, has a number of various live wallpapers available on the Play Store, including Paperland and Photile, but if we have to pick one more from the team, it’s Light Grid. Bringing back the old design language from Android 4.x, Light Grid and Light Grid Pro automatically generate minimalist polygonal designs that look great, even as we head into 2021. Although it may not be where Android’s current aesthetic live, it’s certainly a fun throwback to designs from a decade ago.

Just like with Minima, Light Grid offers you a metric ton of choices and selections here, with a robust theme engine to help manage your color, shape, and animation settings. You can change how almost everything works here, from specific timing to interactive elements when you tap on your screen. Flipping back and forth between home screens flip and animate tiles in the background, and tapping on blank spots help make for a fun distraction. Light Grid can also export your wallpaper as a still photo, available to be used on any device in your life. While that eliminates the “live” element of your display, it’s still a neat feature we really haven’t seen elsewhere.

We’ve featured plenty of design-focused apps on this list, and even an app focused on visualizing the music playback on your device. If you’re looking for something with a little more utility in its usage, you’ll want to check out Live Weather Wallpaper, a relatively-new addition to the Play Store. The app is still in development, and certainly isn’t finished being developed and built, but as a work in progress, we really enjoy what’s been done to the app so far.

The idea behind the app is simple: Live Weather uses your location’s weather settings to update your wallpaper to a matching photo that corresponds to the weather outside your house or area. If it’s sunny, warm and clear, you’ll receive a photo of a sunshine-filled beach. If it’s rainy, or storming outside, you’ll receive dark clouds and photographs of lightning. The images themselves aren’t animated, with no sign of flashy effects bogging down resources on your phone. Instead, the wallpaper updates every hour or so, displaying a brand new image based on both the current status and temperature of your weather. It isn’t for everyone, but the photos are nice, the compatibility with both Marshmallow and Nougat work well, and the app is easy to set up. We’re eager to see where development goes from here.

Even compared to most of our recommendations, Blox is an older live wallpaper, dating back to the Android 4.4 days of 2013, and it definitely feels a bit outdated next to a lot of the apps on the Play Store. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad wallpaper app though; on the contrary, Blox’s settings and options for full customization make it a remarkable app—especially at the low cost of completely free.

Blox’s wallpapers are pretty simple: your background consists of a series of 3D blocks that move up and down behind your app icons. While the basic design may not be able to be customized, the blocks themselves can be, changing how they raise, their color and appearance, resolution, and more. Even the appearance tab alone has plenty of options not seen in similar apps: you can change the base color of your block, modulate brightness, saturation, and hue, change the height, size, and animation speed of each block, and even randomize the hue of your series of blocks.

It’s all pretty neat stuff, and we’re fans of the amount of changeable information offered by Blox. In practice, the block animations on our display still look pretty great, though the app does appear dated when compared to the current, flat-styling of apps and icons that happens to be in vogue. But for a free app, Blox is a good, basic, and very-customizable application.

Maps! Cartogram takes maps and makes them into gorgeous, customizable works of art. The app is simple: find your favorite location in the world, whether it be in your backyard or halfway across the world, and capture your map. Each map comes available in a number of art styles, all of which look gorgeous in their own right. If you’d rather set this as a live wallpaper, of course, Cartogram makes that easy too, with the option to set a live wallpaper that updates your map location as you move. It’s a simple feature, and a simple app, but it works perfectly—and it’s one of the few apps on this list that still gets updates in 2020.

KLWP, or Kustom Live Wallpaper, is perfect for anyone with a ton of time on their hands. Instead, Kustom is built to give you full access to a completely unique live wallpaper. Seriously, this app is so packed with features that it’s impossible for us to list all of them here, so just know that if you want a fully unique wallpaper app that gives you your own custom art, this is the app for you. Unfortunately, KLWP doesn’t grant you every feature with a single download, and there’s no Pro version to speak of. You’ll need to use Kustom’s in-app purchases to unlock every feature the app is capable of delivering. If you can get over that hump, this is easily one of our favorites on the Play Store.

Whether you’re looking to wander through a snowy, cold forest, or you’re just trying to enjoy a warm summer camping spot, Forest Live Wallpaper has you covered. The app displays a gorgeous artistic rendition of forests on your home screen, offering options for all season throughout the year. It’s a simple app that shows wind rustling through the trees on your home screen, along with animated day and night cycles to match exactly what time of day it is in your area. Parallax effects and local weather help to make this a more exciting wallpaper than it might otherwise be.

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