Google wants to turn your phone into a smart display with Ambient Mode

(Image credit: Google)

If you have been thinking about getting a Google Nest Hub Max or an Amazon Echo Show, hold your horses for a bit because the next Android update may turn your Android phone into a smart display without spending a cent more or wasting resources.

The new update — there's no date in sight but it looks close from the promotion Google is giving it — basically transforms your Android phone into an always-on smart display every time you connect it to power. 

The Mountain View company calls it ”Ambient Mode: Android’s proactive Google Assistant” and this video shows how it works.

How does Ambient Mode work?

It’s pretty simple: every time you connect your phone to charge, either with a cable or wirelessly, the lock screen will turn into an assistant that shows you the weather, incoming calendar appointments, controls for your smart lights and appliances, and notifications.

It will also accept your “Hey Google!” the same way iPhones and iPads answer to “Hey Siri!” everytime they are connected to a wall’s power outlet.

This means that, if you have a supported Android phone — Google says in the video that it will only come to ’selected Android models’ with Android 8.0 — you will be able to leave it as a little digital helper that you can consult in a glance. That’s perfect to place it on a slanted wireless charger, turning your phone into your side table’s alarm clock but without the charming annoyance of the latter.

Some Android phones already support some kind of custom ambient modes. Xiaomi’s latest phones have an ambient mode too, although this one only displays the time like an Apple Watch.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.