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How to Change the Wallpaper on Your Smartphone

Use your own photo or an image that comes with your iPhone or Android device

spinner image a woman's hand holding a smartphone with leaves on it
Getty Images

You can’t look at that great picture of your spouse enough. Or that great picture of you and your spouse. Or that great picture of your grandkids and kids and spouse.

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You probably look at your smartphone more than anything else during the day. So why not set that great picture as the wallpaper for your home screen? 

It’s easy to change the wallpaper on an iPhone or an Android device. There are tons of options baked into both flavors of phone, and they often change when the manufacturers do software updates.

spinner image steps showing how to change wallpaper on an iphone
If you choose your own photo as your wallpaper on an iPhone, you can drag it around to get exactly the part of the image you want. You can also pinch the image to zoom in and out so that it fits your screen.

On an iPhone: Apple's pix or yours

Open SettingsWallpaper and you'll see preview windows of the wallpaper image that currently serves as the background for the locked screen that appears when the device first wakes up, as well as the home screens that appear when the device is unlocked. 

Apple gives users a few ways to change this selection. Swipe in either direction until you come to a New screen with a + or tap + Add New Wallpaper.

To choose an alternative wallpaper, tap the Set as Current button above any other preview wallpaper window. Or, tap either the + Add New Wallpaper button or the + in the New preview. 

Either method brings you to the Add New Wallpaper screen. 

To choose one of the wallpapers Apple supplies, tap an icon at the top of the screen such as Weather & Astronomy, Emoji, Collections or Color or scroll to the categories below and tap a wallpaper image within that category.

If you'd rather select a wallpaper from your own photo collection, tap icons for Photos, People or Photo Shuffle or scroll below to the Suggested Photos area.

If you go with the Photos or People options, tap the photo in your library you would like to use as wallpaper. If you tap Shuffle instead, you can choose what Apple says are dynamic "smart photo collections" from your library of people, pets, nature or cities that will shuffle throughout the day. 

Or you can pick photos manually. The first time you do this, you'll have to wait for the iPhone to process the photo library in your device.

With the iOS 16 software update, Apple also lets you customize the wallpaper you use as your Lock Screen, with filters, widgets and different photo styles. From the Lock Screen, touch and hold the screen and tap Customize or the + that will again take you to the Add New Wallpaper screen. Or you can swipe in either direction to see other wallpapers that you previously set up and may want to revert to.

If you tapped Customize, you can customize the wallpaper on the Lock Screen or Home Screen. Tap the one you want. If you choose the Lock Screen, rectangles appear around the date and time, letting you know you can change the font and color. 

Here, you'll see a + Add Widgets rectangle. Tap that rectangle to add widgets to the Lock Screen, such as battery level indicators, reminders and the current temperature. 

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You can customize the Lock Screen even further. For example, tap the circled three dots at the bottom right corner of the screen to go with a multilayered Depth Effect wallpaper option that's available for certain images and iPhone models, in which the subjects in a photo may appear in front of or behind widgets or other elements in the picture.

You can also crop a photo or swipe right or left to change the color or photo style.

Whenever you choose your own photo as wallpaper, you can drag it  around with your finger to the part of the image you want to use as your wallpaper, or pinch the image to zoom in and out so that it fits your screen. Be aware that you might not be able to do this with every image.

Tap Done if you're satisfied with the way you laid things out or Cancel to start over.

With any of your choices, you get to decide whether to use wallpaper on both the Lock Screen and Home Screen; if so tap Set as Wallpaper Pair.

spinner image how to change the wallpaper on an android phone step by step screenshots
Remember that the steps on Android phones can differ with manufacturers. These instructions are for a Google Pixel 6 Pro.

On an Android: steps can differ

As always, remember that the steps on Android phones can differ with manufacturers. These instructions are specifically for a Google Pixel 7 Pro.

For the home screen on your smartphone, press and hold on any open spot. A menu will appear. Tap Wallpaper & styleChange wallpaper to get an array of image themes. (That's if your phone runs on the Android 12 or 13 operating systema; older versions may skip the "change wallpaper" step and go right to the themes.) 

Choose one of the themes — options include My Photos, Living Universe, Landscapes, and Textures — by tapping the corresponding icon. Choose the wallpaper style or photo you want and tap on it.

You’ll then see a preview of what the wallpaper will look like on your home screen. If you’re happy with the choice, tap on the check mark at the bottom right, then choose whether you want that wallpaper for your home screen, lock screen or both.

Among your other customization options, Google lets you go with a Dark Theme appearance, and also change the way apps are laid out in front of your wallpaper selections.

This story, originally published May 2, 2022, was updated to reflect new ways of changing the wallpaper on iOS and Android.

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