TLDR: Android needs better stock live wallpapers
Android is often touted as the most flexible mobile platform available. The appearance of the UI is not only in the hands of the OEM that alters the source code, but also in the hands of the user, who can download launcher replacements, themes, widgets, and even flash custom builds of the software to their phone.
Since November 2008, Android’s official birth, the overall appearance of the platform has changed. It’s been improved and unified in almost every way. Gone are the days of multiple, conflicting accent colors, cheesy 3D buttons, and the actual sliding app drawer, which was pulled up from the bottom of the home screens.
The icons are new, the wallpapers are new, the app drawer is new … you get the idea. Even the entire design language is entirely new since Matias Duarte, the famed designer of webOS, joined the ranks at Google and got his hands dirty with the Android user experience. (Seriously, thank you, Matias.)
In all of this, however, through all the changes, refinements, and a top to bottom improvement, one area of the Android experience has been left on the back burner, shoved to the side and almost entirely forgotten.
Now, before you all jump down my throat and scream, “Live wallpapers are just a novelty that kills your battery!”, I would like to clarify that I don’t even remember the last time I used a live wallpaper. And, yes, there are literally thousands of third-party live wallpapers in Google Play. Likely tens of thousands.
But that’s not the point. The point is: Google has updated virtually everything about the Android experience and appearance … except the stock live wallpapers. It has added Phase Beam, which is … nice, I guess. But the brunt of the stock live wallpaper offerings – Bubbles, Holo Spiral, Magic Smoke, Nexus, Spectrum, and Water – are dated and cheesy. They no longer match the rest of the UX, which is much more polished than it once was. Just look at the Water live wallpaper on your phone. If that jerky and utterly cheesy animated wallpaper doesn’t propel you back into the days of Eclair, I’m not sure what will.
On top of all that, the only live wallpaper I’ve ever truly loved, Microbes, was killed, for whatever reason.
Frankly, even though I don’t use live wallpapers myself, I would love to have all memories of pre-Ice Cream Sandwich Android abolished forever, and every time I go to change my wallpaper and I see the Live Wallpaper category, all I can think about is Gingerbread or Froyo.
Live wallpapers, despite the battery life stigma, is still one of the unique Android features continually touted. But the longer it goes unkempt, the more it grows into an eyesore than anything else.