Animated Wallpaper for Cell Phones

Michael Kwan
Samsung Galaxy S4

There are many ways to personalize your smartphone, including choosing from a variety of wallpapers for your lock and home screens. In addition to standard static images, it is possible to have animated backgrounds on both iPhones and Android-powered devices. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a moving picture must be worth many more!

iPhone Animated Wallpapers

The Apple iPhone has been offering users the choice of installing their own custom wallpapers for several years, but these were restricted to static images until the arrival of iOS 7 in 2013.

Dynamic Wallpapers Included With iOS 7

Apple's iOS 7 brought a brand new aesthetic to iPhones, flattening and simplifying the app icons, as well as introducing bigger and bolder colors. Along with these changes, iOS 7 also came with a new feature called Dynamic Wallpapers.

Dynamic wallpapers breathe new life into both the home screen and the lock screen with a number of subtle animations. The main design for the default set of dynamic wallpapers in iOS 7 is fundamentally the same. Bubbles or orbs of different sizes float around on the screen, with the backdrop color of your choice. Moving the iPhone on the lock screen can generate a parallax effect with the bubbles as they move around the screen.

To select a dynamic wallpaper:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Choose Brightness & Wallpaper
  3. Select Dynamic
  4. Tap on your color choice
  5. Press the Set button
  6. Choose whether to set the dynamic wallpaper for the home screen, lock screen or both

iTunes App Store

You don't have to stick with the images included with the operating system. However, while there are many iPhone apps in the App Store that provide a great variety of lock screen and home screen wallpapers, the vast majority only offer static images. The major exception to this is 3D Wallpapers & Backgrounds by rise uP! Labs.

This free app offers several categories of iPhone wallpapers, including a section for animated wallpapers. The selection is updated regularly and the app is compatible with devices as old as iOS 4.

Live Wallpaper Apps on Cydia

To further expand your options for live wallpapers, you may consider Jailbreaking your iPhone. This will grant you access to the Cydia store, where many more iPhone apps are available. Jailbreaking can put your iPhone at increased risk for viruses and malware, though, so proceed at your own risk and discretion.

  • LiveWallpaper ($1.99): This standalone app adds an icon to the home screen and gives you the ability to create interactive live wallpapers, as well as parallax-enabled backgrounds to your iPhone. It supports iOS 5, 6, and 7.
  • Go Desk ($2.99): One of the most interesting features about this app is that not only does it allow for animated live wallpapers, but those wallpapers can be scrollable panoramas too. It does not allow for custom images at the moment, however.
  • iDynamic (free): Browse through the library of available dynamic wallpapers, organized in two groups. Some dynamic wallpapers are also interactive. Shaking the iPhone while using the Live London Ben Clock background will make a sound, for instance.
  • GIFPaper for iPhone ($1.00): While some of the other Cydia apps are compatible with older versions of iPhones, GIFPaper requires iOS 7 to operate. The main advantage here is that nearly any GIF image can be set as an animated background using this app.

Android Live Wallpapers

Whereas the iPhone has Dynamic Wallpapers, the Google Android ecosystem has what it calls Live Wallpapers. They generally lack the parallax effect found on their iOS counterparts, but the selection is generally larger and the types of animations can be more varied.

Pre-Installed on Android smartphones

Different versions of Android may come with different pre-installed Live Wallpapers, but they typically all come with a small selection right out of the box. Some common default Live Wallpapers include:

  • Nexus: Beams of different colored light fly across the screen both horizontally and vertically.
  • Magic Smoke: Puffs of cloud-like smoke float across the screen. Several color options are available.
  • Water: This live wallpaper mimics what it is like to look downward on a relatively still pond. Leaves float across its surface and touching the screen causes ripples.

Cell phone manufacturers oftentimes layer additional live wallpapers on their Android phones. Some may have animated backgrounds that mirror real-time weather forecasts. Others may have scenic backgrounds with animated elements, like flying birds and floating clouds.

The exact procedure to set a live wallpaper on Android can vary from version to version, model to model, but the most common steps are:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Choose Display (under the Device heading)
  3. Select Wallpaper
  4. Tap Live Wallpapers
  5. Choose the Live Wallpaper you'd like to use
  6. Tap Set Wallpaper

Live Wallpaper Apps in Google Play Store

A large variety of apps are available in the Google Play Store that provide different animated wallpapers for Android smartphones. Some of these background apps are free, but others may come with a fee or have paid upgrade options. Read their descriptions carefully.

  • Circuitry ($1.49): Offering a range of color options, the animated wallpaper here consists of what appears to be computer circuitry. The movements are smooth and slow.
  • 3D Parallax Background ($0.99): As its name suggests, this app mirrors the 3D parallax background effect found on compatible Apple iOS 7 devices. Create or download your own multi-layered images for unique 3D depth effects.
  • Androids! Live Wallpaper (free): The animated live wallpaper uses the Android character icon as its primary source of inspiration. From there, "millions of possible combinations" can be formed by adjusting the speed, color, texture, shapes, size effects, amount and more.

The Powerful Cost of Moving Pictures

From dynamic wallpapers to live wallpapers, animated backgrounds on smartphones can be a lot of fun and can add a great deal of whimsy to the ubiquitous mobile devices. However, in addition to the potential cost of buying these animated wallpapers, the impact on your phone's battery life should be considered.

Running the animations on these backgrounds can consume additional power and, thus, battery life on both iPhones and Android phones can suffer as a result. If you find that your battery life has reduced since installing a dynamic or live wallpaper, you may want to consider switching back to a static image instead.

Animated Wallpaper for Cell Phones