5 free Daydream apps that put your charging phone to work

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Last week, I turned on the Daydream feature for my Android phone.

Now, whenever I plug my phone in to charge, my screen is graced with an attractive but functionally useless screensaver of slowly pulsating colors. I chose the ‘Colors’ option when I set up Daydream.

This is partly my fault, as there are other, more useful options built into Daydream. Without tweaking a thing, you can choose to have your charging device display an analog or digital clock, or pictures in a frame or table format. Or you can hit the Google Play store and discover a world of beautiful, useful Daydream apps, and completely transform your device’s display (while charging) into a screen that works for you, even when it’s technically “off duty.”

I know what you’re thinking: let’s do that! Daydream isn’t a well-known feature, but that doesn’t mean it escaped developers’ radars. Just search for ‘Daydream’ in the Play Store, and you’ll find hundreds of apps to customize your charging screen. Here are five of the coolest.

DashClock

Daydream’s default Clock app is just that: A clock. Simple, boring, and useful for telling the time and not much else. DashClock, on the other hand, is a free, customizable Daydream app that displays an animated dashboard on your idle screen, complete with clock and weather info, as well as notifications.

dashclock daydream

DashClock isn’t super customizable, but you can choose to have your dashboard displayed in one of 10 colors (five of which are varying shades of gray), and you can pick an animation style. DashClock’s default animation slides your dashboard back and forth across the screen – it looks nifty, but it’s mostly so you don’t end up with a burned-in pixel. Unfortunately, you can’t customize what does (or doesn’t) show up on your dashboard, but expect a variety of notifications, including unread emails and text messages, and upcoming alarms.

DashClock is also a powerful lock screen widget, so that's a bonus.

Website Daydream

Website Daydream, which is also free, is exactly what it sounds like: An app that places a website on your phone’s charging screen. Unlike DashClock, Website Daydream is super-customizable. It’s basically got customization built in, since it allows you to choose any website you want. One of the coolest ways to use this app is with a news site or feed, because you can choose to have the page refresh at certain intervals (every 1, 5, 15, 30, or 60 minutes).

Have I mentioned that Greenbot is a fully responsive HTML5 site that works great on mobile?

website daydream

Flipboard

Flipboard is a news aggregation app first and foremost, but it’s also got a Daydream feature. Would you like your news, including Facebook and Twitter updates, to slide across your phone’s charging screen all sexy and Flipboard-like? Then choose Flipboard as your Daydream default: Headlines, Facebook status updates, and Tweets will show up on your phone’s screen, accompanied by large images.

flipboard daydream

Flipboard’s Daydream app is branded (the Flipboard logo will constantly show in the corner), but it’s still a pretty, elegant way to get your news. The Daydream app isn’t customizable, but you can customize your Flipboard feed from the actual Flipboard app, and the changes will carry over to Daydream mode.

Daydream Quotes

Daydream Quotes is a free app that turns your phone’s charging screen into an inspirational quote board. Quotes is a relatively simple app with just a couple of customization options: You can choose how often quotes rotate on the screen (30 seconds, 1 minute, or 5 minutes), and you can pick a text size. The quotes you’ll see are pretty generic (think Ghandi, Churchill, and Mark Twain), but it’s still a neat way to improve the look of your charging screen.

daydream quotes

National Geographic Daydream

Not sure if your camera roll is up to par? Instead of putting your own photos on Daydream, you can borrow some from National Geographic with the free National Geographic Daydream app. This app displays photos from the magazine’s various photo feeds (you can choose from Photo Of The Day, Animals, Adventure and Exploration, Black and White, History, Landscapes, Nature and Weather, People and Culture, Science and Space, Travel, and Underwater).

national geographic daydream

The app lets you customize the refresh frequency (from 1 to…infinity minutes, basically) and whether or not to crop the image on your screen. Because many of the images are quite large, this app works best if you’re using Daydream on a tablet – though it can also look great on a big-screen phone.

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