The Best Free Live Wallpapers for Android – January 2018
This year, Android will celebrate its tenth birthday, following a full decade of evolution, redesign, and growth in both visual design and in features. Despite its relatively-long legacy in the world of technology, one fast has stayed consistent about Android: it’s by far the best mobile operating system for those looking to change, tweak, and customize the appearance and functionality of their phone. It took four generations of iOS software updates to include wallpaper support for widget-like utilities. On Android, wallpapers have been there since the first version of the operating system shipped on the T-Mobile G1 in 2008, a software version that predated the usual dessert-themed naming scheme that would become synonymous with Android. Live wallpapers, featuring motion, movement, and reaction, have been on the platform nearly as long, with support first added in Android 2.0 Eclair in 2009, originally shipped on the first Motorola Droid.
Yes, live wallpapers have been around for a long time, and though early live wallpapers utilized large amounts of your phone’s resources, including CPU cycles, memory, and most importantly, battery life, most newer live wallpapers can function without any form of negative impact on your phone’s day to day usage unless they’re poorly coded. Live wallpapers aren’t quite as popular as they were in the early 2010s, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great live wallpaper apps on the Play Store. The key in looking for a live wallpaper app is to find applications that have plenty of options and settings to customize, instead of older wallpapers that are irregularly updated.
Unfortunately, looking through live wallpaper apps on Android is, to put it bluntly, a bit of a mess. There are tons of old apps that simply don’t work well on newer devices, and those apps can be a real pain when you’re trying to use your phone day-to-day. Luckily, we’ve gathered some of our favorite live wallpapers apps that are still available today. These run well on modern phones and tablets, and won’t interfere with daily usage of your device. Let’s take a look at some of the best live wallpaper apps on Android.
It’s difficult to choose the “best” application for free live wallpapers, specifically because wallpapers—and customization in general, for that matter—is so very subjective. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, after all, making it a difficult choice for us as critics and writers to decide what’s a good-looking wallpaper when others might disagree with an opinion. When it comes to picking how to customize and organize your phone, no one is right or wrong. For that very reason, this list is designed to include multiple designs and functions for live wallpaper, displaying a variation of artwork and styles instead of focusing solely on one or two types of live wallpapers.
With that said, however, one of our personal favorite styles of static wallpapers since the rollout of Android 5.0 back in 2014 has been material design-inspired wallpapers, which help to add a sense of style, fashion, and function to Android’s own flat, paper-esque design. Unfortunately, as nice as these wallpapers can be, static material wallpapers can get old and boring, lacking a sense of fun and creativity where other wallpapers can often lead to this. On this end, Circulux’s live wallpapers do a great job in defeating the monotony we’ve seen from material wallpapers, adding a fun sense of motion while still keeping the paper-based design of recent Android versions over the past few years.
Circulux is a pretty simple application. Upon picking it from the live wallpaper selection screen inside Android, you’ll be greeted with the standard Circulux design for their wallpaper. As the name implies, Circulux is a rotating, constantly moving circle design that looks great with the standard material design icons features on most Android phones. What makes these wallpapers so fantastic, though, isn’t just the design aesthetic, but the amount of settings and options available for its users. Most of the application settings are locked behind a $1.99 paywall for the pro version, but if you try the free application and like the general look and feel of the wallpaper, it’s more than worth a couple bucks. Once you’ve paid for the app, you can change the design of the wallpaper (with twenty-one included designs, only a few of which are available to free users), control the amount of background light included within the live wallpaper, change the rotation speed and zoom size of the circles on your device, and control the background color that fits behind the circular-design of your choice.
Though most users will be happy to stick to the settings we outlined above, there are a few additional controls that can be changed on the device. First, there’s a black and white mode that eliminates all color out of the circles and background. This might sound like a strange feature to include, but in our testing, it really helped the icons and text on our home screen display clearly and accurately, without the color of our wallpaper interfering with the usage of our device. Plus, on a subjective level, it looks really cool. You can also allow the background color of the wallpaper to change automatically, if you’re looking for a bit more randomness in your design.
Our only sour note when it comes to Circulux is the lack of updates the app has seen since April of 2016, nearly two years ago. The app is fully-functional, without any noticeable bugs or problems throughout typical usage, but we still like to recommend apps in active development, and it’s unclear weather Circulux will ever receive a future update. That doesn’t stop the app from being one of our favorite minimalist live wallpapers, though. The amount of options available to users, specifically paid users, is a great addition to a good wallpaper, and small additions like a black and white mode make the app accessible to all users. To us, Circulux is a live wallpaper for those that don’t need complicated or overdone wallpapers, making it one of the most notable wallpapers on the Play Store—and one of our favorites.
BLW Music Visualizer Wallpapers is a bit of an antithesis to Circulux. Whereas Circulux focuses on being a simplistic live wallpaper with plenty of options and designs for customization, it still retains a minimal, flat aspect that makes it a bit different than any other live wallpaper you’re bound to see on Android. BLW (or Beautiful Live Wallpapers, making the name a bit more of a mouthful than it needs to be) is on an entire different spectrum of design than its minimal, material-inspired cousin. BLW takes its design language from older versions of Android—namely, the Holo-design days of Ice Cream Sandwich, Jellybean, and KitKat—to create a live wallpaper that, while a bit busy, adds some function to its design in the form of a music visualizer.
Just as we saw with Circulux, BLW is filled with different designs and options for users to choose from, and once again, some of these selections are locked behind a paywall—though, notably, not as many as with our top pick. The major function of BLW is to display a visualizer to go along with your music or audio playback, whether it be in the form of volume bars, wavelengths, or simple movements along the background. Not every version of their wallpapers can display music, but they helpfully display a music icon next to the ones that can when choosing a wallpaper version, along with a preview of the visualizer before your selection.
Once you’ve selected a wallpaper, you can control the more-advanced functions of each design by tapping on the app’s white pencil icon. Each design has additional settings, including controlling the shapes and colors of the background and visualizer. We were able to change the design of the Rainbow wallpaper from feature yellow, purple, and teal dots, to featuring a limited amount of small, pulsating rings colored red, purple and teal. Settings for size, visibility, numbers, and more are all available here, and there are plenty of other settings if you’re willing to drop some cash on changing the equalizer design or additional shapes and background figures.
The customization of your wallpaper doesn’t end there, though. There are a few more helpful settings you can find under the wrench icon on the wallpaper picker, including a display for a clock when music isn’t playing, the ability to display the song and artist information playing at a specific moment in time, and movement sliders for the equalizer display, clock (if applied) and song information (also if applied). All of these settings combined make for a wonderful experience when setting the app as our go-to live wallpaper, even if the 3D design is a bit dated when compared to something like Circulux or Minima’s live wallpaper further down this list.
As with Circulux, our biggest negative drawback is the lack of updates. In the case of BLW, the app hasn’t received any features, improvements, or bug fixes since June of 2015, two years ago as of this writing. We don’t expect to see BLW come back to life anytime soon, and if the continued development of an app is important to you when downloading from the Play Store, we’d advise you to steer clear of BLW. We were also disappointed in the usage of in-app purchases to pick certain settings and designs rather than a one-size-fits-all Pro version as we saw on Circulux. When an app’s been dead for two years, it’s hard to drop cash on an in-app purchase when you won’t be getting any additional features for your money, but it’s a requirement if you want to access any of the additional features offered by BLW.
Overall, though, we were really happy with BLW’s music-centric design, focused on allowing a visualization of your music or podcast playback without distracting from your home screen icons and layouts. It’s unfortunate that so much of BLW’s additional features are hidden behind in-app purchases, but there’s more than enough functionality in the free version to keep you from dropping a penny on expanding the application. If you’re a big music listener, and you don’t mind using a wallpaper that looks a bit dated on newer Android devices, BLW is definitely an app to check out.
Minima is certainly a strange breed of live wallpaper when compared to some of our other elections, but it also features a pretty neat design we haven’t seen from any other live wallpaper app on the Play Store. There is a free version, but you’ll want to grab the pro version of the app for 99 cents. Not only is it a great deal for the amount of features available inside the app, but it’s also far more up to date than the free version, which hasn’t received an update since early 2016 (Minima Pro, by comparison, was last updated on June 7th, a day prior to this writing). Even the app icon is different, something we don’t see very often when it comes to free vs. paid apps. Minima’s main gimmick—besides focusing on material-esque live wallpapers, similar to Circulux—is a robust theme engine created by Minima users. Every theme has changeable colors, making it easy to customize and change a theme even if the colors aren’t for you. As far as the “live”-liness of the app, Minima features an altogether different live wallpaper experience than we’ve seen before. 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 similar to touching actual paper. It isn’t quite as lively as some might want from a “live” wallpaper, but if you’re interested in something that will look, act, and feel like a minimal take on the wallpaper, check this one out.
Blox is an older live wallpaper, dating back to the Android 4.4 KitKat days, and it does feel a bit outdated when compared to some of the newer live wallpapers available for download on the Play Store. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad wallpaper app, however; on the contrary, Blox’s settings and customization options, for a free download, are remarkable and good fun. The general idea of Blox is rather simple: your background is a series of rising and lowering 3D blocks. There isn’t much more to the app in terms of basic design, but the block themselves—how they raise, their color and appearance, the resolution, etc.—can be modified to your hearts content. 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 ue, 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 don’t look too bad, though the app does appear dated in general 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, very-customizable application. If you don’t mind the 3D design, check this one out.
Google first released a wallpaper app back in 2016 to coincide with the release of their first Google-branded smartphone, the Google Pixel. Following that release, the Google Wallpapers app was released for all Android phones on the Play Store, allowing any Android user to gain access to the app. It wasn’t until 2017, however, that Google released live wallpapers within the app to coincide with the release of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The live wallpapers released by Google are some of our favorites ever, featuring subtle movements as waves roll in on beach fronts or traffic moves around the bend of a road. These live wallpapers are gorgeous, easily the best addition to the app and to the slim market of live wallpapers in a long time, so naturally, Google has kept them to their Pixel 2 devices. Of course, it wouldn’t be Android if you didn’t have the ability to modify an application to run on an unsupported app, and that’s what we’re seeing here. A developer on the XDA forums, Pranav Pandey, was able to modify the existing Google Wallpaper application to include these selections on any device, and though they don’t run quite as well as they do on the native Pixels, you can still download the updated version using our link. If and when Google decides to roll these out to other devices, this app may be able to take the place of one of our two top picks, but until then, we mostly recommend it as a fun experiment for your phone.
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.
Before Joko Interactive made Minima Pro, they had an older app out for Android 4.x phones that matched their own Holo experience well. Light Grid and Light Grid Pro is yet another live wallpaper from the developer, similar to a two-dimensional version of what we previously saw with Blox Free and their cube-based design. Instead, Light Grid, along with its Pro version, available for just a dollar on the Play Store, focuses on directional movement, with the grids and boxes fading in and out, sliding left and right, replacing disappearing boxes with brand new ones of a color selection of your choice. As we saw with Minima, the newer live wallpaper app from Joko, there is a metric ton of choices and selections here, from a robust theme manager to color, shape, and animation settings. You can change how almost everything works here, something we really love seeing from our live wallpaper apps. The other main draw of this app is the limited interactivity you can have with the wallpaper itself—instead of shifting back and forth with the movement of your phone or tablet, the tiles flip and fade when you tap on an empty area of your display. It’s a fun distraction, and makes swiping back and forth on your homescreen feel a bit more creative than we’ve seen previously. There is one more notable ability with Light Grid: you can export your wallpaper as a still selection, available for use on any device you have at your disposal. Not a “live” wallpaper by any means, but still a neat feature we 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 basis of 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.