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.
Minima has been one of our favorite live wallpapers on the Play Store since way back in 2017, and it continues to be a great choice for anyone looking for a clean, minimal wallpaper to match Android’s flat aesthetic. Although originally developed to match Google’s Material design language—introduced way back in 2014—it still matches the look of Android today, with flat gradients and drop shadow-equipped layers. The main gimmick here is Minima’s robust theme engine, which is partially created by Minima users. Every single theme generated by the app has interchangeable colors, making it easy to customize and change your wallpaper if the default colors aren’t for you. If customization is the key to a great live wallpaper, Minima hits it out of the park.
But what makes Minima a “live” wallpaper? Although many of the apps on this list feature full motion graphics, Minima keeps things simple. Instead of constant movement, Minima uses the gyroscope in your device to move the wallpaper as you move, similar to the parallax experience seen on iPhone wallpapers. The three-dimensional aspect of each wallpaper also flattens upon being touched, creating a unique experience much like touching actual paper. It isn’t quite as lively as some users might want from a “live” wallpaper, but if you’re trying to avoid distractions on your home screen, Minima is perfect for you.
Muzei brings us close to stretching the definition of what a “live wallpaper” is, as nothing about Muzei’s actual wallpapers are very lively at all. Instead, Muzei’s live-liness is being able to change the wallpaper each and every day, cycling through famous works of art (thus the name Muzei). Muzei can even change both the blurriness and dimness of each of your wallpapers, allowing you to see clearly both the widgets and icons on your display. It’s a rather useful app, and what it lacks in options it makes up for in flexibility. Muzei is a widely-beloved app not just for its use of classic artwork, but also for the ability to use plugins from other wallpaper apps.
There are a ton of plugins for Muzei available on Google Play, from Reddit artwork to photos taken from NASA’s official photo service, all the way to compatibility with certain icon packs and even Minima—a live wallpaper we just covered above. Everything Muzei offers allows users to not just get their wallpapers sources straight from Muzei’s developers, but anyone who wants to build Muzei compatibility into an app. And let’s not underplay how great both the blurring and dimming effects of Muzei are—they make it easy to use bright and colorful wallpapers that text and icons have a habit of fading into. Overall, Muzei might not offer the most “lively” of wallpapers, but the subtle effect and bounty of options and plugins make this a great choice for Android enthusiasts anyway.
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.