Here's an easy way to keep your phone screen looking fresh and inviting: install a live wallpaper. Live wallpapers are animated and typically interactive backgrounds that provide ever-changing screens to keep your phone dynamic.
A longtime Android feature, live wallpapers can change once in awhile or every time you power on the screen. Because Android has become more efficient over the years, these eye-catching backgrounds don't chug your phone's battery.
These six gorgeous live wallpaper apps for Android are my current, curated favorites.
Dream Night (Pro)
This dark and dreamy wallpaper displays a nighttime field with a moon, clouds, animals and trees. Oh, and then there's the occasional shooting star or swarm of fireflies to give the scene some life.
There are plenty of settings to play with in Dream Night Pro, all of which depend on how busy or random you like to have your background. For instance, you can set the moon to change its shaped based on the battery level. How often do you want to see deer come into frame? How fast do you want them to run?
One of the cooler features is the parallax setting, which lets you define how much depth there is to the scene. If you have multiple screens of shortcuts and widgets, you'll enjoy swiping from one to another. There's something soothing and cinematic with the way the various layers move.
There's quite a bit of customization for not much money, as the app costs $1.08 (that's AU$1.52or £0.86). A free version gives you a taste of the overall look and feel. It's enough to see the level of polish and detail for free, but I suspect you'll spring for the paid app.
This one from Gauli, one of my favorite live wallpaper developers, features 19 different designs with endless color combinations and movements.
These are some fantastic, always-spinning and evolving circle-like backgrounds. Different every time you look, it's a great set-it-and-forget wallpaper app that keeps your interest.
Although the app comes with some default settings with colors and layouts put together, the real fun comes in the tinkering. You can drill down and choose from a variety of options that freshen up the screen in new and inviting ways. The preset color palettes are sharp and look great on any size device.
Like to keep things muted or minimal? Circulux lets you dial down the number of colors, intensity and rotation speeds.
The free version provides some basic features and settings, but you'll want to drop a couple of bucks ($1.95, AU$2.75 or £1.67) to get the full experience. The only option I would like to see is a "random" button that completely shakes things up.
Minima Pro Live Wallpaper
Created with Google's Material Design principles in mind, Minima sets your background with layers of flat colors and shapes. Imagine cutting out a bunch of construction paper shapes and arranging them in patterns and you'll understand the effect.
With more than a dozen themes in the free version, it's a great way to get a feel for how the wallpapers work. You can set how much depth or movement there is between layers, and you can use the parallax effects to put things in motion by simply moving your device.
Once you have a sense for the app, I recommend unlocking its full potential in the Pro settings. Not only do you jump to more than 70 themes, but you can also create your own to return to later. It's also here that you can have a lot of fun merely by tapping the "random" button.
If you love the flat aesthetic, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more fitting live wallpaper.
Perhaps one of the most detailed Live Wallpapers I've seen so far, Space Colony ($1.95, AU$2.75 or £1.19) is heavy on polish and customization.
The city looks every bit like the Star Wars planet Coruscant and features buildings that light up, flying space ships, a glowing aura and more. How busy do you want your future skyline? It's up to you as you tweak the layout to your heart's content, with settings for nearly every aspect imaginable.
Space Colony also takes advantage of thescreen. Why stare at your news feeds or a clock when you can escape to a more civilized and futuristic society?
To say there are plenty of options to play with would be an understatement, and no screenshot can do this wallpaper app justice. There are innumerable settings to choose from -- including ships, city aura, location, camera movements and building lights.
While there's no free version, I suggest checking out some of developer Maxelus.net's other Live Wallpapers to download as a sort of preview to this one. You should be able to get a sense of the level of detail and customization from the portfolio and feel comfortable with your purchase price.
As one of the most flexible live wallpaper apps for Android, this one is heavy on customization. To be clear, Muzei isn't itself so much of a wallpaper, but it more of a client that works with other extensions, or sources of background images.
Thanks to a developer-friendly API, Muzei offers support for wallpapers from just about any corner of the Web. Be it Flickr, Nasa, Tumblr, 500px or somewhere else, somebody has created an extension to pull in these images.
Once you have your image sources set up, Muzei lets you define how often you'd like for them to rotate. This alone breathes new life into other wallpaper apps that only offer static images.
If you've got a bunch of accounts you like to follow on Instagram, you may enjoy having a new background image every few hours. Or you could show off your own filtered cat photos.
Awesome Land Pro
Similar to Dream Night, this wallpaper offers up a scenic, nearly static image. With nearly one dozen "themes" to choose from, the backgrounds feature a gorgeous color palette.
You can toggle various settings, including how often the image changes, whether there are occasional birds, or if there are floating particles. If you don't want to be distracted by too many animations, you'll still end up with a sharp and inviting layout.
I like to set Awesome Land Pro to sync to my phone's clock and change throughout the day. I also prefer to view random particles as they resemble fireflies or ashes from a fire.
There is a free version of Awesome Land available to test out so you can get a sense for the overall experience. Should you want to step up to the paid version you'll be looking at a few dollars ($2.65, AU$3.73 or £2.11).
What about you?
Of course, there are countless other live wallpapers for Android. Which do you use, and are there any paid apps you find particularly impressive? Please share your thoughts and favorites in the comments below.
This story originally published April 23, 2015 and updated March 22, 2016.