A quick search through Google Play for the word “wallpapers” reveals roughly a zillion apps (or “over 1000” as Google put it), all clamoring to provide you with awesome mobile-friendly wallpapers. And claim storage space and memory on your device, and show you ads, or maybe take your money.
When it comes to live wallpapers, this makes sense – if you like your wallpaper animated, by all means, you should go with an app. But when it comes to static, desktop-like wallpapers, I think it’s high time someone asked “do we really need an app for that?” I say, no, we definitely don’t. All you need to find, download, and install stunning free wallpapers on your Android device is just a garden-variety Web browser, and a simple, quick workflow.
The instructions in this post are for Android 4.0 and Chrome, but the basic concept applies to any Android phone with any browser. Try this simple workflow once, and you’ll never install another wallpaper app again.
Find Awesome Wallpapers
First things first: To set a new wallpaper, you need to find it. Mobile apps often claim to have “thousands of wallpapers” – that sounds impressive, but when you stop to consider the fact that there are millions of free wallpapers online, it suddenly doesn’t seem all that amazing. When using this method, you’ll find the wallpaper for your phone wherever you find wallpapers for your desktop. Some quick ideas:
- Wallbase: This huge wallpaper repository has everything of everything.
- Socwall: A clean, uncluttered wallpaper collection with a ranking system.
- Simple Desktops: My personal favorite. delightfully minimalistic vector wallpapers that leave lots of space for your icons. Best wallpapers ever, basically.
- 4walled: A social wallpaper website recommended by Craig on 2 Sites To Find The Best “Socially-Selected” Desktop Wallpaper.
- 10 Best Sites To Get Free Backgrounds For Your Mobile Phone and 7 Sources To Download Quality Android Homescreen Wallpapers, two posts that showcase sources for mobile-specific wallpapers (even though resolution is not all that important, as you will soon see).
- Our own wallpaper posts, showcasing lovely themed pieces with full, accurate source attribution.
In other words, the sky is the limit. Don’t constrain yourself to just one collection – the Internet is your playground here. For this quick demo, I’ll be using Simple Desktops. Using your phone’s browser, simply browse to the website you’d like to search. Even if it doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version, it should look okay on your Android phone:
You can see I’m using Chrome for Android, but this should really work with any modern browser.
Download and Set
Using whatever interface your site of choice offered, grab the image file for the wallpaper. Don’t search for something in your phone’s particular resolution – just grab the same file you’d get if you were using a computer. Yes, there will be some cropping, but it doesn’t really matter for the vast majority of wallpapers. I always try to go for something that leaves space for icons, but that’s a matter of personal taste.
On Simple Desktops, every wallpaper gets its own page:
And tapping the wallpaper again grabs the source image, which causes the phone to pop up a context dialog:
I’d like to complete the action using Chrome, the browser I’m already using. No problem, here’s the image:
Now let’s save the image. Long-tap it, and tap “Save image”:
Your phone will store the image in the Downloads folder, and pop up a notification telling you about it:
Now tap the notification and open the image using the Gallery app. Tap Menu, and pick “Set picture as”:
Next, pick “Wallpaper”:
Now’s the time to crop the image. By default, only a tiny portion of the image would make it into the final wallpaper, as shown here:
Obviously, we don’t want that, so drag the frame around and resize it as large as it would go:
Now tap Crop, and… you’re done:
Forever Free of Wallpaper Apps
Now you see why I think wallpaper apps are really a form of bloatware after all. What do you think? Did you try this quick method? How did it work out for you?