Introduced all the way back in Android 2.1, Live Wallpapers provide animated, and often interactive, backgrounds that range from minimalist to downright busy.
As Android has evolved over the years and become more power-efficient, developers have created increasingly more robust Live Wallpapers.
Thanks to advances in the platform, these eye-catching backgrounds now also sip your battery charge instead of chugging.
I've put together a small collection of my favorite Live Wallpaper apps for Android, some of which are free. The apps mentioned here are uniquely different from each other and represent some of the best available for the platform today.
Place a steampunk-style starship, The Nebulander, on your Android home screen and watch as it sputters and stutters across the sky. Fun to just let run on its own, this one also reacts to your touch.
The free version provides basic features including adjusting the elevation, speed, and size; however, the paid version ($2.45) opens the door to much more customization. Why be content with one ship and one atmosphere when you can have multiple choices? Additionally, the full version includes more cloud colors, satellites, and a handful of planets that look stunning in the distance.
Stars, clouds, and planets look really sharp here and the physics certainly feel real as well. I've become quite fond of other Live Wallpapers from the developer, Gauli, as they have a distinct air about them. You'll find that each is highly detailed and features multiple layers and interactive features.
Nexus Triangles LWP
Designed to mimic the look of a standard Android 4.2 Jelly Bean wallpaper, Nexus Triangles LWP doesn't pull any punches when it comes to options.
Choose from a seemingly endless line of custom backgrounds and handpick the size, colors, animations, and responsiveness of the triangle shapes. If you don't want to spend the time tweaking and fine-tuning, just select one of the preset themes.
One of my favorite things about it is how the image can change based on battery level. By selecting this setup I can see whether my phone needs to be plugged in to recharge or if I have a decent amount of juice left.
Recent updates bring cloud-based backups, a 3D parallax effect, additional battery themes, and new triangle outlines. The free version provides only a taste of the overall experience; I definitely recommend spending the 99 cents for the full app.
Take a virtual peek behind your Android's display with this simple yet gorgeous Live Wallpaper. Watch as the home screen slowly changes with circuitry overtaking the background and then starting all over again. Completely random with each refresh, it's never the same thing twice.
There's no free version of Circuitry so you'll have to trust me when I say it's among the best $1.49 you'll put into customization. Not only can you change the color of the circuits and background, you can also adjust textures, shadows, density, and opacity.
This one really shines on tablets and smartphones with 720p or 1080p HD displays; however, a high resolution isn't a prerequisite.
3D Parallax Background
Do you know that 3D effect that iOS 7 has where the icons appear to be floating above the background? This is that. 3D Parallax Background provides that layered feel with a handful of other options.
Thanks to the gyroscope built into your Android phone, a twist of the wrist shows depth between the background photo and your icons and widgets. Use any image you'd like or try one of the preloaded designs; the Cracked Screen background is jarring and frightfully fun.
Photos provide varying degrees of 3D effect, so play around with the settings a bit. Hint: you don't need to put much space between the icons and the background to get the desired result.
Perhaps one of the most detailed Live Wallpapers I've seen thus far, Space Colony is heavy on polish and customization.
The city looks every bit like Coruscant (from "Star Wars") and features buildings that light up, space ships, a glowing aura, and more. Tweak the layout to your heart's content, with settings for nearly every aspect imaginable.
Those of you running Android 4.2 will certainly love setting Space Colony on your Daydream screen. Why stare at your news feeds or a clock when you can escape to a more civilized and futuristic society?
While there is no free version to download and play with, I suggest checking out some of developer Maxelus.net's other Live Wallpapers. You should be able to get a sense of the level of detail and customization from the portfolio and feel comfortable with the $1.95 purchase price.
Custom Beam LWP
Designed as a more detailed take on Android's Phase Beam Live Wallpaper, this free app provides numerous settings. For example, you can leave the stock blue and purple hues behind and pick the orange and red shades of the Google Edition phones.
In addition to choosing color themes, Custom Beam LWP permits adjusting speed, gradient angle, light beam angles, and opacity.
The free version is enough to satisfy the average person, but I recommend splurging $1 via the "premium upgrade" in the settings menu to unlock the additional options. For the money, you'll get the option to change the number of shapes, adjust circles and bars, and use the battery indicator. Like the aforementioned Nexus Triangles LWP, this app provides at-a-glance notification of your battery level.
Have your say
Of course, there are many other Live Wallpapers available for Android, many of which provide plenty of customization, with new wallpapers surfacing regularly.
Which Live Wallpapers do you use? Are there any paid apps in particular that you've found impressive? Please share your thoughts and favorites in the comments below.