The Best Wallpaper Apps for Android – December 2017
When it comes to choosing a smartphone platform, it can be a difficult choice. Both iOS and Android each have their own flaws, and their own strengths. One of the many attributes that makes Android the first choice for billions of users around the world is the ability to customize the app in a robust number of ways. From the ability to change your launcher to the option to add all sorts of crazy and unique icon designs to the screen, the ability to change the way your phone looks and feels throughout the day can’t be discounted for a certain type of phone owner. Everyone loves the feel of a new device in their hand, and with Android, you can customize your device so that it feels unique and different every single day of the week.
There’s all sorts of options available for customization, but the simplest is often the best. Wallpapers and, more specifically, wallpaper apps are most certainly a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean some apps aren’t better than others. Whether you’re looking for something with a bit more flair, of you want something with some seasonal glow to it, choosing a new wallpaper is a great first step through the land of Android customization. Of course, it can be difficult to find quality wallpapers for smartphones on the web, and that’s why we have a wide selection of wallpaper applications to choose from. Not every wallpaper app will be everyone’s cup of tea, but for a certain type of person, you can be sure that there’ll be something for you. There’s a whole new world of wallpapers available on the Play Store right now, so let’s dive into some of our favorite selections and check out what’s being offered with this list of the best wallpaper apps on Android today.
There’s a lot to love about Backdrops. The app is free to download, though it does include some paid packs. There’s a brand-new, exclusive wallpaper everyday (and they often look fantastic), and though the community portion of the app can be a bit hit or miss, you’ll often find some excellent content there. All of these is great for an application to stand out, but what makes Backdrops our top pick is the simplicity. When you load the app, you know immediately that you’ll find something you like. Other wallpaper applications often require you to ensure the app is designed for a device with a screen resolution matching yours, or won’t be able to take advantage of the way Android’s wallpapers slide along the background when switching between apps. Backdrops is different: it takes every single good idea we’ve seen with wallpaper apps on Android and combines them into one sleek package. By far, it’s our favorite wallpaper app on the Play Store; one that offers a great wallpaper selection for everyone. Let’s take a look.
Backdrops’ interface is material-influenced, making navigation through the app easy enough to slide and select wallpapers with one hand. The main display of the app, the “Explore” panel, features a new wallpaper every day, though occasionally, these updates come slower than expected. Previous selections for “Wall of the Day” are listed below the current selection, allowing you to view and select recent favorites. These wallpapers are often exclusive to Backdrops, and will alert you to their exclusiveness on the description page of the background. Once you select a wallpaper you like, you simply select its tile to view the full image and options. From here, you get a few options: you can favorite the wallpaper, adding the background to a list for easy viewing. You can save the wallpaper, though this only works on the “Explore” wallpapers if you’ve upgraded to the Pro in-app purchase. Finally, you can set the wallpaper directly from the app. One of the best things about Backdrops is the ability to quickly set a wallpaper as either lock screen wallpaper, home screen wallpaper, or both by simply pressing and holding the “set” button.
The selection page for each wallpaper offers a bit of additional information as well. You can view the original artist or photographer, the number of downloads, the size of the photo, and the resolution. The resolution display is especially helpful; although most wallpapers offered by Backdrops are big enough for modern phones and tablets, it’s always good to know you won’t have a pixelated or blurry image providing the background for you home and lock screens. As mentioned, you’ll also see a notice of whether the wallpaper is one of the Backdrop exclusives.
If all Backdrops offered was the “Explore” tab of wallpapers, we’d still say it’s a great choice for wallpaper selection. But Backdrops offers plenty of other selections in backgrounds as well, as evidenced by the additional tabs and categories within the app. Sliding from left to right on “Explore” reveals the “Community” tab, a collection of wallpapers from outside artists not employed by Backdrops, sorted either by most-recent or most-popular. Don’t let the non-exclusivity fool you—these are still some excellent wallpapers, and often provide a great alternative to the monotony of patterns and polka dots offered by Backdrops’ artists. In addition to some gorgeous photographs, we’ve also seen photos from different devices, including the iPhone X backdrop and the HTC U11 Plus wallpaper show up here, making it a great way to customize your phone.
To the right of the “Explore” tab, you’ll find the wallpaper packs available for purchase within the app itself. Pro users unlock an exclusive pack with their purchase, which also gives the aforementioned ability to save exclusive wallpapers to the device and removes ads from the app. There are additional packs for sale as well, including packs based on triangles and packs for AMOLED displays that emphasize the dark blacks those screens are capable of providing. There are some free packs here as well, including a pack based on Android iconography and a pack of satellite images provided by Google Earth. Backdrops occasionally adds new packs, as they have throughout the year with their “Earth” wallpapers that appear quite similar to the Google Earth photos included with the Pixel line of devices.
In addition to those tabs, you can also shop for new wallpapers by diving into the sliding menu to the left of the application. From here, you can view by both tags and categories, the latter of which contains a drop-down menu. There are plenty of options here, from Abstract and Geometric to Material, Scenery, and Space. Each category lists the most popular of each style of wallpaper, though there are no options to view by a different sorting. I’d love to see that added in a future update. Categories work the same as the community tab, viewed in a long list of all available wallpapers for download. Similarly, the “tags” section offers a long list of wallpapers with similar characteristics: dark, minimal, material, monochrome, etc. You can also select a single color, such as blue, which will show all wallpapers that primarily display a single shade.
Overall, Backdrops is the ultimate package in looking for a wide variety of selection in your wallpaper app. Nearly everything offered here is sure to appeal to someone, and their wallpapers strike a good balance between design and clarity once applied to a home screen. Backdrops’ exclusive wallpapers are well-designed and great for simple, modern Android layouts, though those looking for complexity may want to look elsewhere. Backdrops has been on our test Android devices for months as a daily wallpaper app, allowing for a brand new look on both smartphones and tablets whenever one feels necessary. Though there are some excellent wallpaper apps on the market today, Backdrops allows users to save time browsing through hundreds of results by quickly highlighting new and good-looking backgrounds. Between the free offerings, daily picks, community market, and the paid pro-packs, Backdrops manages to offer something for everyone.
If Backdrops excels at choice, Google’s Wallpapers app excels at curation and simplicity. Originally bundled with their first-generation Pixel phones last October, Google has since made the Wallpapers app available to any Android user through the Play Store, offering most users a simple way to get some great-looking, modern wallpapers on their device. While it isn’t quite as feature-packed as an application like Backdrops, lacking user-uploaded images or a tag system, the fact remains that Google Wallpapers is still one of the best applications for any user looking for a new wallpaper without spending half their day browsing through content.
Unlike Backdrops, Wallpapers has a single display, breaking away from the typically-strict material design guidelines followed by Google with most of their applications. The top display shows the current selections for both your lock screen and your home screen, as well as the sources for each of the selections. If your current wallpaper is selected from an outside source, such as your camera roll or a different wallpaper app, it will just display the name of your source as “wallpaper.” Scrolling down the display will bring you to the “Select Wallpaper” display, which shows several different categories available to choose from. You can select from your gallery, the included wallpapers on your device, or choose from a category listed by Google themselves. The company occasionally adds new categories to the app, as they did earlier this year with Art and Solid Colors, and just a couple months ago with Seascapes. In addition to those three newer categories, you’ll also find Earth, Landscapes, City Scapes, Life, and Textures.
Tapping on a category reveals the best function of Wallpapers: a rotating selection daily wallpapers. Though you can select one single wallpaper to set as your background, you can also choose to turn on Google’s daily wallpaper function, which refreshes your wallpaper each morning so long as you’re on Wi-Fi. Unlike Backdrops, where this selection forces you to pick a single wallpaper each day through the push notification on your phone, you’re likely to find that Wallpapers makes it easy to allow your phone to choose the photo for itself. The only two downsides to this come in standard limitations: the daily wallpaper comes without a starting choice, meaning your wallpaper is likely to be randomized at all time, and you’re likely to find that the wallpaper only sets on your home screen, not your lock screen.
Each wallpaper in Wallpapers will present you with some basic information on where the image came from once you’ve selected it inside the app. The source of each design seems to depend on the category itself. For example, the Earth photos almost entirely spawn from Google’s own Earth app, and selecting “Explore” on their page opens up the ability to view the location in Google Maps on your phone. The Cityscape and Landscape categories spawn from photo sharing services like Flickr and EyeEm, with each “Explore” tab displaying the original source website. Likewise, the Art category primarily takes from Walli, itself a wallpaper app that we’ve used quite a bit in our testing. Wallpapers can also be used to select backgrounds from icon packs you’ve downloaded from the Play Store; these are found below the individual categories, though most of these simply launch the corresponding applications without actually a new type of functionality. For instance, Backdrops had its own category on my instance of Wallpapers; selecting it just launched the “Explore” page from the previous app. It’s a good way to view those respective wallpapers on your device if need be, but you’re better off ignore these options and using Wallpapers to stick to the pre-selected images above.
Like Backdrops, Wallpapers offers users the ability to select wallpapers for use on either their home or lock screens, or both. In our testing, we found have issues selecting the lock screen option for any device not running Nougat, so your mileage may vary here. Beyond these options, Wallpapers is light in terms of features compared to the bounty of categories and tags inside Backdrops. Largely, we think many may see this as a positive over Backdrops. Unless you have the time and energy to sort through dozens on dozens of designs and photos, you may not be interested in the immense choice offered by Backdrops. One final update to the application worth mentioning: Google rolled out a major update to the app this past October with the addition of live wallpapers, mainly based on their Earth or Landscape photos that move subtlety moves and animates in some way. 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 Pixel, you can still download the updated version here.
Unsurprisingly, Google Wallpapers offers a great way to get some beautiful designs on your phone. Unlike Backdrops, Wallpapers doesn’t offer the ability to upload user submissions, nor does it offer any kind of exclusive designs and art to save onto your device. Instead, Wallpapers offers a free, curated experience for those of us who don’t want to fuss around with modifying and tweaking every aspect of our phones. Though the app is slow to gain new wallpapers, the ability to refresh your background each day may be the deciding factor in choosing between Wallpapers and Backdrops. Overall, we consider both apps to be a great way to view fresh and well-designed wallpapers, guaranteed to be big enough for the high-resolution phone displays of 2017.
We don’t love everything about Muzei’s execution, but at its core, it’s a great idea. The general idea behind Muzei, beyond its art-inspired themes (Muzei, of course, being a play on the word “museum”), is the ability to both dim and blur backgrounds, ensuring that icons, text, and widgets appear clearly on every display. One of our biggest complaints about design-heavy wallpapers is the difficulty they can often cause in reading icon names or weather widgets, due to the complex and often oversaturated wallpapers offered through applications like Backdrops or Google Wallpapers. Here, Muzei offers a great alternative to those apps, displaying an entirely new way of highlighting wallpapers. In addition to its painting-friendly stock backgrounds, Muzei also offers plugin support with several apps on the Play Store, including Backdrops and Wallrox. Instead of being forced to use Muzei’s daily painting feature (which largely works like the daily wallpaper feature we’ve seen from Google’s own Wallpapers app), you can use these add-ons inside of Muzei to take advantage of the effects and filters provided by the app. Unfortunately, Muzei fails in an important aspect: its usabilility. The app lacks a certain level of user-friendliness that often leads to confusion or frustration. Sometimes, selecting an option, like the check mark icon in the app, will send you back to your device’s home screen, or apply a setting you didn’t expect. Customizing the blurriness or dimness of a wallpaper involves several button presses to get to the option, and it’s hidden under an Advanced menu. Despite often finding the app’s logic hard to follow, however, Muzei is still a great wallpaper app in its own right. It might not be perfect, but it’s one of the few options on the Play Store that can customize existing wallpapers to make them more usable, and for that, it gets a solid thumbs-up.
When comparing the features between apps, Wallrock is far more similar to an app like Backdrops than Google Wallpapers. The app opens on a Categories display, with a card-based system that displays nearly two dozen types of background to choose from, including mosaic, low-poly, and geometric-stylized wallpapers available from the main display. These papers load quickly upon selection, displaying a large selection of good-looking wallpapers. The selection display shows the wallpaper at full-resolution, and even gives you several choices for applying the paper: quick apply, crop and apply, save, and back. Crop and apply is the selection we used most often, launching a typical Android crop window that allows you to zoom and scale the wallpaper as necessary to fit your needs. Once you’ve cropped, selecting done will apply the wallpaper. Quick apply, meanwhile, skips over the crop display and lets you automatically set the wallpaper as it was originally intended to be. One major problem with the app: it doesn’t seem to set wallpapers to the lock screen of the device, only the home screen. If you want to set your lock screen wallpaper to it matches the home screen on your device, you’ll have to manually save the wallpaper to your device and use the standard wallpaper selector inside your gallery app. Since this feature is offered by both Backdrops and Wallpapers, we were dismayed to see it missing here as an option. Still, something cool: Wallrox offers direct Muzei integration, allowing for the app to directly sync with the blur and dim effects supplied by Muzei.
If you’re not one for the standard, humdrum wallpapers we’ve seen from apps like Backdrops or Wallrox, you’ll probably fall in love with Tapet. Unlike nearly every app on this list, Tapet doesn’t come included with different wallpapers to choose from; instead, they put the emphasis on creativity and unique design by allowing an algorithm built into the app to create a new wallpaper for you each time you tap on the display. You can select from a number of options and patterns, then use gestures to switch between colors, shapes, and more to create a wallpaper that suits you personally. Tappet advertises their application as a machine-learning tool, allowing it to give users more accurate recommendations as time goes on. There are a number of paid patterns, but the app is usable in the free tier, allowing you to cycle through patterns, swipe to the right to change the color scheme, and swipe to bring back past patterns. Once you find a pattern you love, just hit the checkmark icon, and both your wallpaper and your lock screen will be set to the same pattern. If there’s one complaint we have about the app, it’s the automatic shortcuts for randomize, colors, and patterns it adds to your home screen. While it’s nice to see these shortcuts are an option (and they do work well), we’d rather have these shortcuts be opt-in rather than opt-out. Still, Tapet’s customization engine is perfect for folks who like a bit more originality in their wallpapers; it’s certainly a unique app, and it’s designed to fit similarly unique individuals.
Zedge is not strictly a wallpaper application, and it can be quite hit or miss in general use. In addition to the alarm, ringtone, and notification settings available on the platform, the app also has a huge library of wallpapers submitted by both professional designers and users. The wallpapers supplied by Zedge don’t have nearly the same level of design expertise as apps like Backdrops or Wallrox, but they will absolutely appeal to some users on Android. A large majority of the featured wallpapers, as of writing, are holiday-themed, with everything from snowflakes and snowmen to large photos of the Jim Carrey-version of the Grinch. Some of these wallpapers are better than others; for instance, one of the main featured wallpapers, “stars” by abej666, is relatively gorgeous, if not perfect for using with large portions of text on your device. The app doesn’t provide display resolution for each paper, unfortunately, which makes it difficult to select a wallpaper from the list while knowing for sure it’s good for your device. For anyone looking for copyrighted material, like the aforementioned image of the Grinch, Zedge is where you’ll find it. While you have to know what you’re looking for before searching, if you desire a Pokemon or Persona 5 wallpaper, you’re bound to find it on Zedge over other wallpaper apps. There’s plenty of more “traditional” wallpapers, including photos of models and cars, but in general, holiday and copyrighted materials seem to be Zedge’s specialty. If you’re looking for a way to deck your phone out with content from your favorite show, game, or movie, this is the app for you. For those looking for a basic pattern, however, you’re better off elsewhere.
While we do try to avoid including dead applications in our Best of lists, because their lack of development can often lead to problematic bugs or security issues, not to mention problems with newer versions of Android, we have to include Tholotis on this list. While it hasn’t been updated since November of 2014, over three years ago, it’s a must-have wallpaper utility. Even if development on the app has ceased, Tholotis represents the solution to our minor qualms with Muzei. The app itself doesn’t offer any new wallpapers, instead opting to use your current wallpaper or an image from your device (included downloaded wallpapers from other devices), and allows you to both blur and dim the image with an easy to use slider. You can save the image to your device and apply it directly to your home or lock screen, allowing you to bypass the bugginess we saw with Muzei. Tholotis only has one major issue with its general use: the app doesn’t allow you to set the lock screen as a combination or separately from the home screen, presumably because the app hasn’t been updated for newer versions of Android. Instead, to set both the lock and home screens, you’ll have to save the image to your device and use the system wallpaper settings to display your image. It’s a small complaint for what amounts to a great app, though, and despite the death of development on the project, it’s still a great utility to keep on your phone.