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Even though they're technically "backgrounds," wallpapers are an intricate part of our smartphone and a unique way for us to show our personality. They adorn our homescreens, greet us each time we unlock our phones, and try to stay hidden while still being enjoyable. Some of us like nothing but a black screen full of widgets and apps, others prefer a gradient or pattern to add a touch of color, and some like simple graphics while others use photographs. The least we could say is that wallpaper choice is a very personal one.
Searching for the perfect wallpaper can be a daunting task, especially if you don't know where to start. The keyword "wallpaper" on the Play Store yields hundreds upon hundreds of apps that claim to provide you with beautiful background images, and it can be a real challenge to check them out and see which ones stand up to the test and which are mediocre if not horrible. That's why I've scoured some of the best wallpaper apps on Android and came up with a list of ten options that are really worth checking out.
As with any of our previous roundups on Android Police, it's important to point out that we don't claim these as the best or the most beautiful or the top, or any other superlative you could think of. This is just a selection of apps we think are really good at what they do. You probably have other personal preferences and you likely know alternatives that we didn't test. That's OK, it's an upside of having such a huge selection of apps on the Play Store.
Please note that this roundup is limited to static wallpapers — live wallpapers have been excluded. We're working on a separate roundup for those.
Backdrops - Wallpapers
On a scale of 1 to pretty, Backdrops is gorgeous. It could easily be the best looking and the most enjoyable app in this list, and that already gives it a competitive edge. Scrolling through the wallpapers and switching tabs is a seamless experience. A ripple accompanies you as you tap to view an image, which expands to fill the entire width of the screen while a box slides from the bottom with all the details and the Save and Set buttons. At the end, a floating heart icon shows up to easily favorite the wallpaper. Tap to go back and the animations reverse to send you to the thumbnails list.
Although it has just been released, Backdrops already has a lot of high-quality original work from its two main designers: Chris Morales (kxnt) and Samer Zayer. Wallpapers are divided by categories, but the focus is on minimalistic images like patterns, abstract designs, material inspirations, and geometric shapes. The Pairs category might entice the lovebirds among you with his and her rings, and keys and locks combinations. There are a few rare photos too. But if the original art selection doesn't suit you, a Social tab contains wallpapers uploaded by other users and sortable by downloads or recency. Every wallpaper has a title with a short and sometimes amusing description. It shows the designer's name, number of downloads, resolution, and size. Thumbnails are cached, but wallpapers aren't, so beware of the data charges you might incur by setting wallpapers repeatedly.
Backdrops is free, but there are ads interspersed between the thumbnails. A $1.99 Pro Pack removes these ads, lets you save the app's original wallpapers to your device (the social ones can be saved for free), and gives you access to a new collection. Other premium collections either cost $0.99 or require you to view some ads. You can easily use the app without paying a dime, but you'd be hard pressed to find high quality artwork that is more deserving of a few bucks.
Brashpad is confusing, daunting, and a little weird. With those disadvantages acknowledged, it's time to explain what the app does. It's a wallpaper creation engine based on 4 main templates called Painters: gradient, lines, squares, and polygons. What you can do with those patterns though exceeds your imagination.
Choose one of these templates — or one of their descendants in the Gallery — and you can see the image front and center with a small toolbar at the bottom containing a few icons. That's where all the magic happens, that is if you can figure out how to work it. The icons aren't the easiest to grasp, so Brashpad will explain that one tap executes the action while a long tap tells you what that button actually does. And trust me, you'll be doing a lot of tapping and holding. But once you get the gist of it, you'll realize that each item has sub-sections and each template has different options to personalize. Sizes, colors, angles, shapes, rotations, shadows, literally every single thing can be modified to your heart's content. Once you're done, save the image to your device or directly apply it as a wallpaper, ta-da. No downloads, no data usage.
Brashpad isn't perfect. There's no way to easily undo one or several steps, no progress saving to add a new template to the gallery, and the saved image size is preset, albeit at a high 2304 x 1920 resolution. If you like patterns, geometry, and shapes, you're guaranteed to get lost for hours in Brashpad.
Facets - with Muzei
Among original wallpaper apps, Facets is notorious for the (deservedly) large press coverage it gets. The app was first released after the artist, Justin Maller, completed his "image per day" project for 365 days straight, focusing on Low poly designs. But it was recently updated to add more than 60 new free creations and some premium $0.99 packs.
Facets is elegantly simple. The app's interface disappears behind the vibrant imagery. You'll merely see a settings icon and a small drop-down, while the rest of the screen is dedicated to the beautifully shaped and colorful wallpapers. The 365 section can be browsed by month and then daily creation, but also by concept and mood. Once you tap an artwork, it opens up on the entire screen and you can swipe left and right to view other images, down to reveal the name and a save button, or up to set it as your wallpaper.
Facet integrates in Muzei Live Wallpaper so you can set your wallpaper to rotate periodically. Its only downside is that wallpapers are limited to a 1080 x 1920 resolution, making it more suited to 1080p displays than today's modern 2K screens.
PIXELS - Wallpapers HD
Pixels (no, I won't write the entire name capitalized) is the first "traditional" wallpaper app in this roundup, but it earned its spot thanks to a simple design and a focus on providing copyright-free CC0 licensed or public domain images.
Wallpapers are browsable by category and searchable by tags, with a Featured section to show some notable photos. Tapping on an image opens it in its full resolution and shows its name and artist (if applicable). There are options to download the image, see its details (basically the tags, which are tappable), share it, and favorite it.
You can't directly set images as wallpapers, you'll have to pass by Android's interface to crop and adjust before applying them. You're also left in the blind since you can't see the image's resolution and have to check it in your gallery once it's downloaded. That can be annoying if your device has a QHD screen where only high resolution photos look good. There isn't a lot more to Pixels and that's part of the charm and the limit of the app.
Tapet - Infinite Wallpapers
Tapet is the wallpaper app for those who like patterns, minimalism, and Material Design, but are too bored by regular wallpaper choices and too confused by Brashpad to meticulously craft their own. Instead, Tapet randomly mixes patterns and colors to give you a new unique wallpaper each time.
Tapet makes great use of gestures to generate its wallpapers. Swipe up to get a completely new wallpaper, down to go back to the previous one, right to keep the pattern but change colors, and left to get a different pattern with the same colors. If you're confused by these, you can lock the colors or pattern and just swipe up. At the bottom of the screen, a big checkmark directly sets the current image as a wallpaper, and two thumbs-up and down buttons let you like and dislike it. Besides applying images and liking them, you can save them to your device's storage and share them to other apps.
If you risk getting bored of one wallpaper, Tapet can automatically rotate patterns using its own setting or through Muzei integration. Other options include adding dark overlays or textures to wallpapers, and choosing the saved and shared images' sizes. That can go as high as 2400 x 1920. Tapet is free, but personalizing pattern and color frequency, accessing your history and liked images, and adding widgets are a $3 upgrade.
The Terra Collection
You know those earthview wallpapers that have shipped with Lollipop and Marshmallow? They're dope, aren't they? Each Android release has brought a couple of them, but if you like the idea and want a lot more options, you can either try to screenshot them yourself from satellite views or install The Terra Collection to get a selection of over a hundred images.
Terra uses a generic wallpaper app template by BigDX that you'll also find in other apps like Murum and Plastexo. Its design is nothing out of the ordinary with categories, image thumbnails, and a fullscreen image view decked with a floating button. The latter spawns three cascading FABs for directly applying the wallpaper, saving it to the device, or going back. There's no option to favorite certain images so you'll have to either download the ones you like or risk having to spend a few minutes to find them the next time.
Terra's selling points are Muzei support for automatic wallpaper switching and the high resolution of its earthviews. Most images are provided as 4800 x 4800, but there are a few in smaller and larger sizes. Unique creations include the Pixel Sorted category for digitally processed images and the Experiment section for earthviews trapped in X and P shapes, reminiscent of the Nexus 5X and 6P box packaging. The app and its content are free without ads, but there's a donation option if you appreciate the work.
Walloid: HD Stock Wallpapers
Oh that new Nexus 6P sure has a few cool wallpapers, and man, what was that nice lockscreen image on the Galaxy Note 5? If you're tired of hunting down the default wallpapers of newly released devices, sick of getting lost in forums and awkward download sites, Walloid should be the solution to your troubles. It's a repository of stock wallpapers from a variety of Android devices, all well organized and easy to navigate.
Walloid counts more than 5000 wallpapers over more than 250 devices, from 29 OEM brands and 8 custom ROMs. That's a lot. It is frequently updated too, so you'll even see the two wallpapers released by Google in its Marshmallow design special. Other special features include a Material Design section, a Google Now collection with all of the cityscape graphics in their different time-of-day states, and tags to quickly find newly added devices, featured ones, and 2015's flagships.
Walloid has everything you want from a wallpaper app. Thumbnails are tacked with the image's resolution right below the title so you'll always know if they're suited to your phone before opening them. Images can be quickly set as wallpapers or cropped beforehand. There are also options to download, favorite, share, and edit them. Muzei support is included, but I couldn't find a way to limit it to a certain folder or device. The app is free, but a paid version removes ads.
wallsplash | wallpaper app
If you grab your desktop wallpapers from unsplash or if you're a frequent visitor of the site, you'll love wallsplash. The app gives you access to over 7000 high quality, gorgeous, and free photographs from the site, and it does so in an elegant and animated interface that's sure to melt any Material fan's heart.
Images expand when tapped to overlay the screen and a matching colored box drops down with the photographer's name and the upload date. One FAB appears and spawns two smaller ones for downloading, sharing, and applying the wallpaper. The reverse animation happens when you go back. Even scrolling through the different images comes with its own animation where new thumbnails pop up at the bottom of the screen. A circle pulsates around the heart icon when you favorite an image. It's all very pretty without being overwhelming.
Whether you're browsing featured images or a specific category, you can shuffle the selection to get new photos. However, a search function would have been welcome to find specific wallpapers. And although wallsplash doesn't specify the exact resolution or size of the images, chances are they're suited even for QHD screens because unsplash is known for its high-resolution photography. Oh and there's Muzei integration too and no ads as far as I could tell.
After wallbase's development stagnation, some enthusiastic users decided to make an alternative community and site that wouldn't be abandoned as easily, and that was the birth of wallhaven. Wally is one of several Android apps that tap into wallhaven's database of images and wallpapers, but after testing some of them, I settled on it as the better app of the bunch (however, it only edged Wallmax by a little).
Forget about categories, wallhaven — and thus Wally — uses tags instead. That's why the app starts by displaying featured wallpapers, but you can switch to check the most recently uploaded ones or a random selection. Wally's strength is in its search, which finds all wallpapers tagged with a specific word and also lets you filter the results by resolution, aspect ratio, and rating (SFW and not so much safe for work).
Wally's interface is clean with thumbnails overlaid by the image's resolution and a favorite button in a color-matched box. Once opened, images show their uploader, dimensions, ratings, and tags. Those are clickable so they'll immediately take you to other similar images. You can save the image and share it, but setting it as a wallpaper requires passing by Android's cropping and adjusting interface first. There's Muzei support too if you want to rotate your wallpaper and I didn't see any ads while using the app.
One of the annoyances of all nature wallpapers is that they're almost always perfectly adapted to landscape screens. Our phones and tablets, however, are often used in portrait mode. That's why whenever you go to apply a photo as a wallpaper, you find that you can never get the cropping right to show the most interesting part on your homescreen. Wonderwall addresses that problem.
The app has nothing but nature landscapes cropped in portrait 2:3 aspect ratio. It displays them as a list of thumbnails with color-matched overlays of the number of times each photo was starred and a quick star icon. You can browse photos by category (mountains, waterfall, sea, bridge, road, fog, urban), view popular photos, and access your favorites and history. Images show their title and photographer, with camera information when available. The app supports both a "quickset" to apply the wallpaper directly and a "set as" to crop and adjust beforehand. However, there's no way to save the image or to see its resolution. Both of those options should be there to complete the experience.
Wonderwall doesn't support Muzei, but it has a built-in autoset feature that rotates images periodically and can be limited to random or top images, and all categories or a specific one. The app is free without any ads popping up for the duration of my test.
As I said at the beginning of the article, there are many, many, maaaaaaaaany wallpaper applications on Android. The ten above are great and unique in their own ways, but here are a few more worth checking out:
- Backdroid: Android-themed wallpapers.
- Backgrounds HD: the largest collection of wallpapers on the Play Store, in a decent interface too.
- Evolve Wallpapers: good quality and original wallpapers, but paid.
- Flat Wallpapers: as the name says, these are flat wallpapers divided in categories and with Muzei support.
- HD Stock Wallpapers: a nicer looking alternative to Walloid, but with less supported devices and no easy way to see the resolution.
- Material Wallpapers Infinite: a Material wallpaper generator with automatic rotation.
- Material Wallpapers: these are conveniently categorized by the dominant color.
- Murum: by the same developer as Terra, these feature minimalistic, pattern, and simple wallpapers.
- Nautilus: abstract wallpapers sub-categorized and with Muzei support.
- NowPaper: Google Now-inspired graphics of different cityscapes across morning, noon, afternoon, and night (works best with Muzei).
- Plastexo: abstract and Material wallpapers.
- Superhero Wallpaper: wallpapers of various categorized superheroes and villains.
- Wallmax: a wallhaven app very similar to Wally with Google+ login to save favorites. However, it doesn't display an image's tags and doesn't support Muzei.
- Wallrox: a big collection of mostly minimalistic wallpapers, all in QHD or UHD resolutions, but without a favorite or star option.
- Wallsies: a limited selection of offline wallpapers that are immediately available within the app — perfect for those on limited bandwidth.
- Zyden: an assorted set of photography, earthview, Material, and 3D wallpapers.
Now is your turn. What's your wallpaper strategy and which app do you use to get those beautiful images that sit behind your icons and widgets?