With major software updates, developers add new wallpaper choices for users to try, while entire forums online are dedicated to creating and sharing the best-looking images for your phone’s lock screen. If you’re on Android, however, beware, because switching your wallpaper can force your apps to restart.
Android 12’s Material You is to blame
The issue seems to stem from Android 12’s new Material You design. This new UI update automatically changes the OS’ colour theme to match the colours of your chosen wallpaper. If your wallpaper is yellow, your phone’s UI turns different shades of yellow. If your wallpaper is blue, the UI switches to blue. It’s a neat design that adds an extra layer of depth to Android.
As cool as this feature is, however, it’s wreaking havoc with app memory. When you switch your wallpaper, Android forces all open apps to restart. If you switch your wallpaper on Android 12, it’ll seem like all of your apps have crashed, when in actuality they were made to by the OS.
That behaviour can have some dire consequences: If you’re in the middle of a game, you’ll lose your progress; if you’re writing a note in an app that doesn’t auto-save, your work will be lost. All because you innocently decided to change your wallpaper. If you use a setting that changes the wallpapers automatically, well, you might want to stop for now.
App crashing on Android 12 is no bug
The problem is, this behaviour is by design. Google confirmed as much, saying a wallpaper switch triggers all activities to restart, and app developers cannot opt out of this restart. That’s a stark contrast to how the system handles switching from light to dark mode. Switching between these themes also triggers apps to restart, but developers can simply opt out of that behaviour.
For now, switching wallpapers on Android 12 will restart any and all open apps on your phone. The best approach is to wait until you don’t need to use any of your apps to switch your wallpaper. For most of us, that’s probably fine, but it’s weird we have to worry about this issue at all.
Only Pixel devices are affected (for now)
The nature of Android has actually protected most users from this issue as it stands. The update is still only available for Google’s Pixel devices; if you’re using a Galaxy, OnePlus, LG, or other Android device, you don’t have to worry about a wallpaper change wiping all of the progress throughout your open apps.
Of course, Android 12 is on its way for other phones. Unless Google decides to do something about this software quirk, your phone will also suffer from the same issue when it comes time to update.