I want Google's Cinematic and Emoji wallpapers on every phone

Google’s Pixel phones are among my favorites, and they have been for a few years. Not only are they competitively priced and are the first in line to receive security updates directly from Google, but they also have speedy software that’s filled with exclusive features that are missed when I head over to other flagship phones. I’ve written previously about some of these features, but some of the newest are Cinematic and Emoji wallpapers, which were introduced in the June 2023 Feature Drop.

I usually don’t rush to be among the first to try updates, but I had a hunch that I would be all over this novelty feature. And I wasn’t wrong.

Liven up your boring homescreen with Cinematic goodness

The Cinematic wallpaper, in particular, is a great addition, and it’s classic AI magic that you can only expect from Google. Cinematic wallpaper, at its heart, is simple, allowing you to take any regular 2D image and turn it into dynamic 3D art for your phone’s homescreen. It takes advantage of the Tensor G2’s chip machine learning capabilities to analyze your image and separate the subject from its background, creating the illusion of depth. The result is a stunning moving wallpaper that is sure to make your existing wallpaper look a lot better.

The fact that it gives your old wallpapers a new lease on life is what makes it special. Finding a good wallpaper for your device, as you probably already know, can be quite the task, so being able to use existing ones you can immediately change unlocks more options. I personally had better luck with wallpapers that had a distinct subject and a background over, say, an abstract image with a bunch of lines and patterns. Backdrops, which has been my go-to wallpaper app for quite some time, has some great images that are perfect for creating cinematic wallpapers. Notably, the feature also works well on portrait shots that are in your gallery.

Here’s another one that I am currently using on my Pixel 7. I grabbed this particular wallpaper from Backdrops and added a cinematic effect. The GIF embedded below, honestly, doesn’t do justice to how it looks in real life.

Google’s Cinematic wallpaper has made me revisit a lot of my old wallpapers, and I absolutely love that. I just wish it was available for more devices because it would look that much better on phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Fold 5, and even the RedMagic 8S Pro, which have stunning displays.

Get creative in the Emoji workshop

If you fancy something a bit more personalized, then you might want to check out the Emoji wallpaper instead, which has become one of my favorite customization features. Unlike Cinematic wallpapers, Emoji wallpapers will let you put in the work to create a custom emoji collage. They’re fairly easy to create, too. Below are a few that I created on my Pixel 7 since the feature debuted in June. I am a huge fan of the “Randomize” button in the Emoji workshop, and I may or may not have generated a bunch of these using that:

The highlight of these Emoji wallpapers is that they’re interactive, so you can tap on them to make them move. It just adds a fun element to make your wallpaper stand out. And the fact that I can create a unique wallpaper with just a tap of a button makes it that much more convenient. It’s an excellent feature for those who crave new wallpapers for their homescreen but don’t want to put in too much effort to find and download one.

A growing list of Pixel-exclusive features

Google may not have the best hardware out there, but it’s simply unmatched when it comes to software features and customization. A lot of OEMs have caught up with their own Android skins, but it’s features like these that make it hard to ignore the Pixel devices. Google already has a solid list of Pixel-exclusive features, and I only see that list growing with new additions. Both Cinematic and Emoji wallpapers are Pixel exclusive, and you’ll need a Pixel 6 or newer device to use them. There is a way to get Emoji wallpapers running on other phones, but it’s not perfect, and the experience of using it is nowhere close to what you get on a Pixel phone.

I’ll leave a few links to buy some of the best Pixel phones below for you to check out. But if you don’t want to splurge on a new phone right now, then I suggest you stop by my homescreen customization guide to see how you can make your device look better with a bunch of free apps that are available on the Google Play Store right now.

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    Google Pixel 7

    $535 $599 Save $64

    The Google Pixel 7 is a refinement of the already excellent Pixel 6, making for a very polished phone with a great camera. 

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    Google Pixel 7 Pro

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    The Google Pixel 7 Pro comes with a 6.7-inch OLED display. It comes with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protection, but a screen protector will go a long way in keeping it in pristine condition.

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    Google Pixel 7a

    Google’s latest mid-ranger brings several improvements over last year’s model, making it a great option for the budget conscious. The Pixel 7a packs the flagship Tensor G2 chip, flagship-tier cameras, an improved 90Hz display, more RAM, better durability, and wireless charging support.