Cinematic wallpapers on the Pixel Fold blew my mind

Using the Backdrops app in conjunction with Google's Cinematic Wallpaper function on the Pixel Fold
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Every month, Google Pixel phones get a little better. Sometimes it's just a security update that other phones might not get but, every few months, Google adds a "Pixel Feature Drop" into the mix.

The June Feature Drop added a bunch of awesome new features like person labels on the audio recorder app, vibration intensity changes, macro camera video, hands-free selfies, and even personal safety enhancements like Google Assistant check-in.

But there's one feature that got a bit buried in the changelog. One that you should definitely check out right now. It's called Cinematic Wallpaper and it's something that magically transforms your 2D images into 3D bliss, and it looks absolutely stunning.

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Good old Pixel AI magic

Using the Backdrops app in conjunction with Google's Cinematic Wallpaper function on the Pixel Fold

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Any time Google Pixel phones are brought up, one of the defining features is almost always "AI magic" or something similar. While there's some hyperbole in this saying and plenty of vague representation of what's happening under the hood, Cinematic Wallpaper is one of those functions that can genuinely be described as "AI magic."

Whether you're looking to add a bit of depth to that mountain landscape shot, enhance the visage of your significant other, or take a trip to the stars, cinematic wallpapers can transport your relatively simple wallpaper into something with personality and movement.

Cinematic Wallpaper uses AI and the Google Tensor processor in the Pixel to analyze any photo you give it and take it from a 2D image to a 3D masterpiece. Try using it on your favorite landscape photos for a bit of pop or use a photo taken with Google Camera's portrait mode for extra effect. 

AI magic is an overused term in modern tech, but Cinematic Wallpaper certainly feels like it fits the bill.

To get started, you'll need a Pixel and to be using the default Pixel launcher. Long-press on the home screen and select wallpaper & style, then hit change wallpaper.

Right now, it doesn't seem like this effect is allowed on any of the preinstalled wallpapers, so you'll need to select your own photo. You can use any photo you've taken with your Pixel (or any other device), or download wallpaper from your favorite wallpaper service.

Once you've selected your wallpaper of choice, tap that little sparkle icon in the top right of the preview screen, then tap the slider to turn it into a Cinematic Wallpaper.

Don't worry, I'll wait while you audibly gasp at the result. Yes, it's that stunning and continues to amaze me every time I use it!

Personally, I prefer the Backdrops app. I've been using Backdrops for years and there's always something amazing to find every single day.

Or maybe you'd rather make historical art come to life? I love using the Ukiyo-e wallpaper app to grab beautiful Japanese artwork.

The best part? While I might have used a Pixel Fold to show off the effect, you can use it on any modern Pixel phone that has the June 2023 Feature Drop. What are you waiting for? Get to making some amazing wallpapers!

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu