How to set up automatic wallpapers in iOS 16 and macOS Monterey


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Your iPhone or iPad can automatically change the wallpaper of your Home Screen or Lock Screen, and your Mac can do the same with your desktop background. Here’s how to do it.

Setting a wallpaper is a great way to customize and personalize your iPhone, but when it was first introduced back in 2007, you were only able to change your Lock Screen background. Four years of advancement brought iOS 4, and the ability to change your home screen background.

While you typically might set one image as your wallpaper, Apple allows you to set your devices to automatically change wallpapers when triggered by a certain action decided by the you. Through the features of macOS and Siri Shortcuts in iOS, Apple allows the ability to set multiple images as their wallpapers and have them change automatically as well.

Apple introduced Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12 in 2018. This application allows you to set up automations to happen automatically when a certain action triggers them.

Through this, you can configure an automation to happen that will randomly change their device’s wallpaper to change to a certain photo, or a photo from an album, that they preset.

How to create a photo album

Before setting up your automation, go into the Photos app and create an album with the photos you want to be set as your wallpapers. There is no limit to how many photos you can add.

  1. Going into Photos
  2. Tap the plus icon on the upper left of the screen
  3. Select “Add Album”
  4. Name your album
  5. Select the photos you want to add to the album

How to set up an automation

  1. Go into Siri Shortcuts
  2. Select Automation at the center bottom
  3. Tap the plus icon on the upper right of the screen
  4. Select “Create Personal Automation”
  5. Select how you would like the automation to be triggered. When selecting, you will see that different triggers will have different selections (example: Low power mode will have the option of choosing if the automation gets triggered when Low Power Mode is turned on or off)

  1. Hit Add Action
  2. Search for “Find Photos”
  3. Select the filter option and the category of “Recents” to the album you previously created with the photos you want to become your background
  4. In the “Sort By” section, select “Random” from the list. This will allow a random photo to be picked from your album and not in any particular order
  5. Make sure “Limit” is tuned ON and that it is set to 1 PHOTO. It will be preset to 5 photos, so make sure you change it. This allows one photo to be selected when the automation randomly picks it, because that’s how many you need for your background

Complete set up for finding the photos you want

How to set how your wallpaper image looks

  • Search for “Set Wallpaper”. When selected, all settings of where to find the photos will automatically be preset
  • You can select if you want just the Lock Screen, Home Screen, or both to be changed by this automation
  • Select the arrow next to the Photos icon and turn off “Show Preview”. This will allow no interruptions to be made when the automation is going off
  • You can decide if you want Perspective Zoom on or off
  • When done, you can select “Next” in the upper right of the screen or the “Play” button on the bottom right of the screen. Pressing “Play” will give a preview of the automation being done
  • Selecting “Next” will have Siri Shortcuts give you an overview of what is going to happen when the trigger you set goes off
  • TURN OFF “Ask Before Running”. This will allow the automation to run automatically without having to ask you for permission to run each time it is triggered. A warning message will come up stating that this automation will start AUTOMATICALLY without any interjection. Just select “Don’t Ask”
  • Hit “Done” on the upper right of the screen and your automation is complete
  • Completed set up for setting how the wallpaper changes

    By these actions, you will be able to have your device randomly select an image to be set as your wallpaper when triggered. Multiple automations can be designed to change your wallpaper due to different actions.

    What actions can trigger an automation?

    There are multiple selections to choose from that can trigger an automation.

    Automations can be triggered by:

    1. Time of Day
    2. Focus Mode is turned on or off
    3. Arriving or leaving a location
    4. When saying a specific phrase
    5. When low power mode is turned on or off
    6. When plugging in or disconnecting from a charger
    7. When hitting a specific battery percentage
    8. When joining a certain WiFi network
    9. When tapping a specific NFC tag
    10. When connecting to a specific Bluetooth device
    11. When a sound is recognized

    Each trigger must be set with a new automation.

    Desktop background selection on macOS

    Desktop Backgrounds on macOS

    People using Macs can also set their computer’s wallpaper to change automatically, but it is not as customizable as on iOS. Though, it is more straightforward.

    How to set your Mac’s background to change automatically

    1. Go into System Preference
    2. Select “Desktop & Screen Saver”
    3. Select Desktop on the center top of the application
    4. Select the folder or album you want your background to be
    5. Make sure “Change Picture” is selected at the bottom center of the application. You can choose if you want it in random order or not
    6. You can select how often you want the background to change. The time that the background changes can range from every 5 seconds to every day
    7. You can also set your wallpaper to change when either logging in or when waking your device up from Sleep Mode

    Both Apple’s provided photos and personal photos can be selected to change automatically.

    The small half-white/half-black circles at the bottom of each image indicate it conforms to light and dark mode settings

    Dynamic Wallpapers

    Though dynamic wallpapers can be set to change automatically, they also can automatically change the setting of the photo depending on the time of day or what mode your device is in.

    On iOS, some dynamic wallpapers – found in the “Stills” category – can change from a day-to-night layout depending on whether your device is in Light or Dark Mode. They will be marked with a “light and dark” icon on them.

    On macOS, dynamic wallpapers will change depending on if you are in light mode or dark mode, and have the same icon as on iOS, but will also change depending on the time of day. There are four appearances those wallpapers will appear throughout the day.

    Apple will allow more customization for the lock screen background in iOS 16 when it is released later this fall.

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