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Android Wallpaper Help

"Why can't I see my entire background image?  Why do I need to crop my picture? What happens when I rotate the phone/tablet?  Why can't I fit my entire picture on the screen all the time?"

These are all questions asked from frustration when applying wallpaper on Android devices.  In particular, they are asked when attempting to apply images taken from the camera, gallery, or website downloads to customize your phone's wallpaper (whether live or static wallpaper).

I will attempt to explain some of the issues that arise when applying images to wallpaper on Android devices, and some of the ways those challenges are handled.  In particular, how I have chosen to handle them with my Live Wallpapers.

FIRST:  It is important to understand that Android devices can be rotated.  This means that the dimensions of the display change from a portrait view (higher than it is wide) to a landscape view (wider than it is high).


This is what they might look like overlayed on an image.  Each orientation will display a portion of the image not present in the other:

SECOND: Since pictures come in various shapes and sizes, a single image cannot fit entirely on BOTH display without some sort of compromise.  This can be achieved in several ways, but the most common are by cropping the image, distorting the image, or shrinking/enlarging the image symmetrically to make it fit (but possibly leaving borders, like standard television on an HD screen).  For instance, take the following image that is inherently in "landscape" view.  It fits very nicely when the device is turned sideways (landscape), but must be handled differently when in a portrait orientation.

Original Image

Viewed in LANDSCAPE:

Cropped to fit:                         Distorted to fit:                      Shrink symmetrically to fit:


Viewed in PORTRAIT:

Cropped to fit:       Distorted to fit:        Shrink symmetrically to fit:


As you can see, "distorting" the image (or "stretching to fit the screen") does not always result in a nice picture.  I am sure you have already come across this phenomenon is several apps.  "Shrinking" the image to fit entirely on the screen has mixed results depending on the original dimensions of the image.  "Cropping" the image will always fill the screen, but you may chop off a head, lose some limbs, etc.  As I mentioned, there needs to be a compromise somewhere.  One option not discussed here is to rotate the "working" image when the phone is rotated.  In this case, the LANDSCAPE image could be rotated when the phone is turned to PORTRAIT, resulting in a nicely proportioned, albeit sideways image.  This would result in an image requiring you to tilt your head sideways to see it, like you might do with a sideways image being viewed on your computer screen.

THIRD: What this means for you when applying wallpaper to your Android device is that your ability to display what you want on your screen is partly dependent on the way Android works, and partly dependent on the way the developer has chosen to handle the rotation problems mentioned above.  Every Android Application will be slightly different!

FOURTH:  Here are the options I have chosen to incorporate in my applications (some are still being upgraded):

CROP TO FIT:  I believe this is the best of both worlds.  It is also the way Android software works natively.  Just go to "Menu," "Gallery," and select an image to see an example of this.  It will have you choose an image from your phone and "crop" it to fit the displays.  This interaction has shown much improvement over time, so your particular crop feature will vary based on Android version and phone/tablet model.  Here is how I am currently dealing with CROP:

Original Image:

SQUARE CROP:  The orange square is what you can drag to enclose whatever portion of the image you want to display.  You can enlarge or shrink it.  The yellow (portrait) and blue (landscape) lines are for reference only in this discussion.  In this case, I chose to increase the size of the box to the edge of the image to get as much as possible.  The resulting images are different, but they will fill the screen, and display the main focus of the image.


The resulting image in LANDSCAPE:                          The resulting image in PORTRAIT:

If the application allows for "scrolling" or "swiping" between home screens, then the square crop would look something like this as you swipe between screens:

screen1    screen2    screen3    screen4    screen5

This method allows you to see the entire square cropped image, but not all at one time.  

SHRINK TO FIT:  This method allows you to shrink any image down to fit the entire image on your screen.  However, if your image is inherently tall then it will be much smaller in landscape orientation (borders on edges).  The same holds true for a wide image when in portrait orientation.  A square picture will have borders in both orientations.  Here are some examples of each:

Original:                                  Landscape:                                Portrait:

Original:                Landscape:                                Portrait:


Original:                                Landscape:                            Portrait:


NOTE: One thing I have added to this approach is the user's ability to change the color (any color from a color wheel) of the border that spills out when fitting an image.  For example:

Since it is possible that none of these options will be acceptable to some users, I have also included the ability to use your phone/tablet's wallpaper that you have already selected or cropped with another application.  This means that you can load any wallpaper you wish to see and get it "just right" on your phone.  Once it is set and you are happy with it, go into the "Live Wallpaper" menu and choose the Live Wallpaper you wish to use.  Under the background options there will be an option to "Use current phone/tablet background."  Choosing this will overlay the "live" portion of the wallpaper on top of your own, previously set image.


I hope this has helped clarify some of the issues surrounding Landscape/Portrait rotation on Android devices, as well as how to use the option included in my Live Wallpapers (or those of other developer's, as applicable).  As always, if you have any special requests, or if you just have more questions, please feel free to contact me at: hitechpilot@gmail.com.

Thank you!