“Ambient Display” is basically Lollipop’s equivalent to Moto Display

by: Andrew GrushOctober 20, 2014

Nexus-6 9 lollipop

It seems that the Nexus 6 borrows a lot more from the Moto X than just its overall aesthetics. As it turns out, Android 5.0 Lollipop will add a new “Ambient mode” feature for the Nexus 6 and other compatible Android devices that works a bit like Motorola’s active display (aka Moto Display) technology.

If enabled, the feature makes it so your device will wake up as soon as it is picked up or new notifications arrive. Google’s official Android.com Lollipop page makes mention of a similar feature though it doesn’t call it by name, stating that “where supported by the hardware, your device will wake up as soon as you pick it up or tap the screen twice.” From the sounds of it, that means certain devices may also support a sort of Knock-on-like functionality as well.


While Google hasn’t clarified on how it will work, from the sounds of it, Lollipop devices with AMOLED displays like the Nexus 6 should allow notifications to show up in a manner very similar to the Moto X. Other devices without support (IE, devices with a LCD display) will still benefit from things like the ability to wake through lifting or taping, etc. Before you rush out to try and see if the feature can be turned on from the latest Developer Preview, we’ll save you some time: no, it doesn’t. The feature will only be found in the final build.

Based on what we know, what do you think of the new “ambient mode” feature, excited to see it become part of the stock Android experience?

  • That guy

    I need double tap to wake so bad on my N5!

    • Sadly, the hardware in the N5 doesn’t support it. You can get the same functionality with a custom kernel but since the hardware doesn’t support it, it will eat up a lot of your battery

      • Dario · 753 a.C. .

        do you know if moto g support dt2w?

  • Ralph Bretz

    Awesomeness… I was really hoping there’d be some sort of Moto Display.

  • Ej Gmore

    Good.. It seems Google is finally taking all the goodies from the flagships that use its code & implementing them into stock Android.

    • VAVA Mk2

      Yep. They incorporated Knox from Samsung too. Lollipop is looking like a fantastic build

  • Julian Casio Santana King

    Didnt realize I how much I use double tap to wake until I started using my n4 and n7 again . i hardly ever touch the power button

    • jimv1983

      I’m curious what that does to battery life and how much better battery life would be with that feature off. Having the touch digitizer always running and waiting to detect a double tap has to use more power than the digitizer being off until the screen is turned on.

      • Xue Yao

        Double tap to wake (dt2w) is if im not wrong, implemented into phones with synaptics touch layer. This means that the hardware is optimised and supports it. Quite a few phones have hardware support but lacks the manufacturer support, so third party kernel is created to enable them (note 3). Hopefully lollipop has universal drivers in the kernels to take advantage of those phones which support this function. Phones without supported hardware however will drain a fair amount of battery. Try out the Nexus kernels with dt2w, they drain because they have to keep a wakelock to maintain the digitiser.

  • Anonymousfella

    ” Lollipop devices with AMOLED displays like the Nexus 6 should allow notifications to show up in a manner very similar to the Moto X.” All devices with Amoled getting this feature? Even S5 and S4? Thats awesome!

    • Somebody

      S5 and S4? Are you talking about samsung devices? If so, its up to samsung or whoever builds your preferred custom system image.

  • jimv1983

    I’m curious how the phone tells the difference between picking it up or just moving around in your pocket. I’d hate to have my screen constantly turning on and off in my pocket burning battery. Battery life is bad enough as it is.

    • Bradley Uffner

      My guess is that sitting on a table the accelerometer is very stable, without a lot of noise. When it’s picked up it suddenly gets very noisy and goes through at least half a rotation on 1 or 2 axis. Even when you are trying to stand very still with the phone in your pocket it is VERY hard to keep a steady accelerometer , just give it a try with one of the sensor apps.

      • jimv1983

        Yeah, that makes sense. I always forget just how sensitive accelerometers are.

        • León Lüke

          Proximity sensor..

    • marhensa

      PROXIMITY SENSOR is the answer.
      not only the accelerometer sensor.

      proximity sensor tells how far an object from phone screen.
      it also used to turn off screen when we pick up the call and rest it in our cheek, to avoid unwanted screen touch.

      when it’s on pocket, the proximity sensor detects that some object is too close.

      it also helps Oneplus One user to avoid unwanted touch-to-wake feature, when it’s on pocket even we accidentaly touch it, it won’t wake.

    • chrisjenx

      They have motion coprocessors and proximity sensors, these are polled separately to the cpu. they can in turn wake the device whilst not really using any extra battery. I moved from HTC One M7 to Moto X, which has the same battery. I still get way better battery life with active notifications on, due to better hardware and the dedicated chips in the device not waking the cpu to do a sensor check.

    • attabot

      you can use acdisplay app rather for ambient display. no root is required. and it doesnt drains your battery, and gives more customization opyions. try it.



    Well the other question is.. Is this feature replacing the typical Nexus LED notification light?

  • Paulo Bettencourt Santos

    CarbonRom and OmniRom use this feature already,i have it on my S3 :P

    • VAVA Mk2

      Well now everyone can enjoy it.

  • analogboy

    How is that feature different from the LG G2/G3? Isn’t that the knock-on? or there is a difference?

    • VAVA Mk2

      The screen turns on when you have new notifications or if you pick it up off the table. The Nexus 9 as the knock to unlock feature. This uses an AMOLED display (Nexus 5 used IPS LCD like an iPhone or LG G3) so this will allow for only the pixels on the screen to light up for notifications while most of the pixels on screen stay black (unlit). Advantage of AMOLED over LCD.

      • hhhh

        I heard that some Nokia model use IPS but still have feature “Glance Screen” which is like Moto Display. I don’t know how Nokia do it anyway maybe memory on display which some later have doesn’t have this feature because it doesn’t have memory on display??

  • crutchcorn

    That’s pretty snazzy. I can appreciate that

  • VAVA Mk2

    All they need is OK Google with the screen off and this phone will be perfect

    • Chris McLaughlin

      From the Android 5.0 page (under see all features): https://android.com/versions/lollipop-5-0/

      Even if your screen is off, you can say “OK Google” on devices with digital signal processing support such as Nexus 6 and Nexus 9

      • VAVA Mk2


      • Simon Belmont

        Yeah. That also means the Nexus 5 will get it, too.

        They might not explicitly mention it there, but that’s likely because the N6 and N9 are the Lollipop launch devices and Google didn’t want to confuse people by putting the N5, too. The Nexus 5 has the DSP core to pull off always listening, too.

  • Rick_Deckard

    My biggest fear is the camera (my favorite feature)… The front camera only 2 mega.. And the 13 mega pixel…. Everybody knows the weakest point of the Nexus series always has been the camera… Also, no finger scanner, display should not be as good as the Note 4, no heart scan, Camera, no S Pen and no microSD expansion…

    Sadly enough, the Nexus 6 comes with Sony IMX214 image sensor, the same one found in the OnePlus One, I wanted to see something better, a new updated sensor model… “…image quality is average at best and depending on the lighting, you may end up with a very noisy picture with muddy details.” CNET review… http://www.cnet.com/products/oneplus-one/2/?_escaped_fragment_=

    Not to mention, the Note 4 camera is now considered as the Best Samsung Cellphone Camera..

    My biggest frustration is that the Nexus used to be the cellphone free from all carriers… Not anymore… People will need to save money with the 2 year contract to get the Nexus 6 cheaper… So… Can you imagine all the bloatware from carriers that you can’t uninstall?? And also, future updates?

    I can only buy cellphones at the full price… And spending $649 + tax (32 gb) or $699 + tax (64 gb)… Makes me wonder if the Note 4 International model (SM-910U or SM-910F) could be a better choice…

    I really hope Google may adjust it for a fair price… Nexus 32 gb for $499 and Nexus 64 Gb for $549…. And I wouldn’t need to wait..

    Right now… I dont know which one I will buy it… Note 4 or Nexus 6… Although, the Note 4 seems to be the right choice… I will wait for the Nexus 6 reviews though…


    • VAVA Mk2

      The new camera app on Lollipop, though allows for RAW photo files to then be processed instead of JPEGS being process. Actually I think it is the new camera APIs. This should allow for dramatic improvement in third party camera apps’ processing power and likely a REALLY improved Google Camera app down the road. The possible improvements to the Nexus 5 camera are startling


      • Rick_Deckard

        True… Is it possible for the Note 4 do the same too? I mean the lumia 1020 you can shoot with RAW as well..

        • VAVA Mk2

          Well these are APIs being added to Android with Lollipop so I think future versions of the Samsung camera app on Samsung phones with Lollipop will be able to take advantage of processing RAW files. We should see some dramatic improvements in picture quality across the board with RAW picture file APIs in Lollipop. This truly is a huge update of an OS.

          • Rick_Deckard

            Well… I will wait for the reviews for sure… for my final decision :-)

          • VAVA Mk2

            Exciting times indeed :D

          • Rick_Deckard

            Indeed :-D

        • Kidder

          Yeah, but you will need to wait the note 4 gets the update to lollipop :D, after the update pretty sure that the note 4 camera will blow up all flagships in the camera department :)

          • Rick_Deckard

            Yeah.. So far the Note 4 has the best camera of this year… I can’t even imagine when this update comes to the Note 4…

  • coleslaw

    Will this be available to all nexus devices or just the 6

  • CascadesWA

    The Nexus 6 literally seems to be superior in every aspect.

    But I get it, most Apple customers buy it for the name. xD

    • Ismail Akram

      Most buy for name, rest buy for experience :) iOS have its own unique experience. People around me all buy for name. BTW If you saying nexus is superior just cuz of specs then it might not be whole truth. Nexus 6 have just more PPI and RAM. but not superior display, nor superior processor even. You talking about Nexus 6 so iPhone 6+ would be its direct rival. Nexus uses pentile matrix so even more PPI don’t add a lot more pixels then iPhone 6+ full HD display.

  • Ismail Akram

    Its very limited, it just blink 4 times in first two minutes and then off. so no affect if you pick up the phone or take out the phone. its better in look and function than moto display but not in function,