Live wallpapers were introduced to Android with the Nexus One and v2.1 of the OS, back in 2010 – so we’ve had four years of data to work with in clearing up a few misconceptions and also delivering a top 5 that will bring a natural, earth-loving smile to your face each day. Technology can take our minds off the fresh air around us, so why not bring a little of the outside world to your Android homescreens?
Before heading into the ‘top 5’ though, one of the biggest worries for the billion Android users across the globe is whether live wallpapers (in general) are a bad idea in terms of battery life? After all, keeping our phones going all day is a challenge for many of us – having something extra that’s purely ‘cosmetic’ dipping into those vital milliAmp-hours is definitely not going to be a good idea.
Live wallpapers are essentially standard Android applications that have been declared (by the developer) to the OS as suitable for use instead of other, existing wallpaper. There may be a normal application component, used for configuration, or there may not – many live wallpapers simply appear in the main live wallpaper selection lists. And, like any Android application, they can be well – or badly – programmed.
Given how mature the world of Android is these days, the vast majority of live wallpapers won’t affect your phone’s battery in any significant way. They only run when you’re looking at your homescreens and they don’t burn processor cycles in the background. I wanted to prove this, so I picked one of my favourites from the top 5 below (‘Sunset Beach’) and recorded the battery status through a (deliberately) light day (so that other intensive tasks didn’t skew the results), then compared these to the same with a traditional ‘static’ wallpaper (i.e. an image):
As the caption states, these two discharge lines are essentially identical – any phone’s reporting of battery life left is just a guess, derived from actual voltage, time and some magic sauce within the OS, and the data here is all well within any margins of error of this status reporting. There’s certainly no overarching trend and the use of live wallpaper in this example (in a Galaxy S4) has no discernable effect on battery life. And, in case you were wondering, I repeated the test with the other four of my five picks with largely similar results.
Having said – and proved – that, there are extra factors that might be considered if you pick a live wallpaper that accesses data online (for example, pulling out weather or stocks information) – in these cases, there will be background activity and use of the phone’s Internet connection – so bear this in mind, even though the actual impact is likely to be small. After all, your phone’s online most of the day anyway, surely?
Plus there will be some badly behaved live wallpapers still – those which are, simply, programmed badly – read the reviews in the Play Store before installing and you won’t go far wrong. Note that quite a number of the more recent live wallpapers are programmed with adverts – while these are an annoyance in applications, they’re a positive menace in what’s supposed to be a homescreen wallpaper – just say ‘no’ and move on. A particularly fancy live wallpaper is quite justified in a commercial price (say, a dollar or two), but advertisements are a complete non starter.
Which is all the more reason why you should pay attention to curated lists of recommendations like the one below – In this case curated to bring the peace and tranquility of nature to your busy smartphone and life. I sorted through hundreds of live wallpapers (to save you the trouble) and here’s my top 5 – all are free apart from the number 1 – and it’s worth it.
Imagine the calm and tranquility from being beneath the waves, with sunlight gently rippling through…. The animation is subtle and soothing:
There are many ‘aquarium’ live wallpapers on Android, as I discovered, but the one shown above right is the best in terms of realistic fish movement, calmness and atmosphere….
3. Winter Snow
Almost a cue for a stirring carol, the gently falling snow onto the never ending forest road takes you away from the stress of life and into a much calmer ‘oh well’ place:
2. Sunset Beach
Which of us hasn’t got, as a pipe dream, being able to watch the sun go down on a beach front every day of our lives. Just the sea rolling in gently and the gorgeous colours in the sky. These are delivered in a soothing video loop by Sunset Beach, shown above, right.
The only commercial live wallpaper here, but this is number one for a reason. At its heart is a country scene, complete with birds, tree and even deer. But the wallpaper (essentially an application) checks the time of day and adjusts the lighting and sky appropriately. Thus the wallpaper can follow you through an entire 24 hour cycle, presenting a number of alternative scenes. Even better, flocks of birds queue up in the sky to greet you at each stage (if you enable this) – tap them to make them fly away and resume their random flapping.
Plus you can tweak just about every other aspect of this live wallpaper – this is as sophisticated and beautiful as this software genre gets.